Maintaining the Safety Net: Income Redistribution Programs in the Reagan Administration

Maintaining the Safety Net: Income Redistribution Programs in the Reagan Administration

Maintaining the Safety Net: Income Redistribution Programs in the Reagan Administration

Maintaining the Safety Net: Income Redistribution Programs in the Reagan Administration

Excerpt

One of the most controversial areas of public policy during the Reagan administration has been its changes in the income security and redistribution programs. The administration has sought to restrain the growth, and in some cases to reduce the level, of expenditures in these programs. It has argued that this can be done while still preserving "the social safety net" that provides for the poor in this country. Critics, however, have charged that the administration's actions "reflect an abandonment of notions of social obligation." In this election year of 1984, further discussion and sharp debate are certainly likely.

Serious discussion of the changes in the income security programs, however, is hampered by their complexity and diversity. Income maintenance programs range from broad entitlement programs, such as food stamps, to those with limited participation, such as public housing; from programs that provide direct cash assistance, such as welfare, to those that help the poor buy only a single good or service, such as home heating fuel or vocational rehabilitation. The programs were originally enacted at different times to serve different purposes, and the differences persist.

To contribute to informed and dispassionate discussion of these recent policy changes, the American Enterprise Institute asked a group of experts to review and evaluate the changes that have occurred in their particular areas of interest. All the authors have previously studied extensively and written widely about the program areas they discuss here. Several have served in administrative and policy development positions in the federal government, where they were responsible for some of these programs. They use their knowledge and experience to describe the budgetary and programmatic changes that have occurred, beginning with the Reagan administration's original proposals of early 1981 and continuing through its submission of the fiscal year 1985 budget in February of this year. Each author thus has written a chronicle of the changes within a major component of the income security system of the United States during the last three years.

The papers are necessarily limited in scope. They attempt to provide a comprehensive view of the legislative and administrative . . .

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