There is little doubt that our nation’s social safety net is straining under the weight of long-term unemployment and rising poverty. But this tenuous condition cannot be blamed on the Great Recession. Our entire system is in jeopardy due to years of reckless spending by our elected officials.
The safety net is sagging precisely at the moment we most need it because of irresponsible choices at the state and federal level. During six years of steady economic growth between recessions, surpluses were squandered rather than saved; programs expanded rather than scaled back.
Enrollment in food stamps hit 41 million people in June of this year, up 50 percent since the economy went into recession. But few people realize that average participation increased 52 percent between 2001 and 2007. Reckless spending during times of plenty was the norm and now we’re paying the price.