The social safety net explained
Sep 21, 2021
Episode 522

The social safety net explained

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Plus, economists weigh in on the fight over reproductive rights

Congressional Democrats are working on a $3.5 trillion bill that would vastly expand the social safety net. But what exactly is this thing we call the social safety net? 

“We’re talking about things like the earned income tax credit, child tax credits, a cash transfer program called TANF, or Temporary Assistance [for] Needy Families … but if you think about how long it might take you to get on your feet, it is a relatively meager and challenging system to subsist on.” said Tina Sacks, associate professor of social welfare at the University of California, Berkeley.

The idea that the government should help catch Americans if they fall on hard times started during the Great Depression, for obvious reasons. But Sacks says today that net doesn’t work as well as it should. There are a lot of gaps in the system, and at the end of the day our programs are pretty meager compared to those in other developed nations.

On the show today, Sacks walks us through the ins and outs of the social safety net. What it looks like in practice and whether the Democrats’ plan could make a real difference.

Later, we’ll talk about the next legal fight over reproductive rights, hear from a listener who makes us smart about toaster ovens and a callout for all your Duo voice memos!

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week we’ll explain so-called name, image and likeness compensation deals and how they’re changing the game for student athletes, along with the origin of potato chips. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

Here’s everything we talked about today:

Read the transcript here.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer