How effective is America’s social safety net? How should we reform entitlement programs so that they’re more effective and fiscally viable? The AAPSS recently invited experts to contribute to a special issue of The ANNALS focused on answering these questions. The result is a comprehensive, critical look at the nation’s safety-net programs, with an eye toward fundamental reforms.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Brookings Institution, and AAPSS co-sponsored an event at AEI in Washington, D.C., on November 21 to mark the release of this important ANNALS issue. A group of experts was convened to discuss the nation’s entitlement programs, moderated by AEI’s Robert Doar.

To frame the discussion, AAPSS Executive Director Tom Kecskemethy gave an overview of the¬†ANNALS¬†volume. Then James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky, the volume’s co-editor, illustrated spending trends for in-kind, cash, and near-cash transfer benefits, after which Robert A. Moffitt of Johns Hopkins University, the volume’s other co-editor, spoke about the impact of programs such as the earned income tax credit and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution detailed the political challenges associated with scaling down Social Security benefits. Next, Harvard University’s Amitabh Chandra spoke about the fiscal challenges facing Medicare and opportunities for progressive, innovative reform. Harvard University’s Nicole Maestas focused specifically on the disabled population receiving Social Security benefits and how best to balance assistance with work.

Harvard University’s Karen Dynan provided a broader perspective on potential reforms, demonstrating how interest rates, gross domestic product growth, and federal debt affect the safety net. Finally, AEI’s Angela Rachidi impressed the importance of work, family structure, and early childhood poverty interventions to ease the demand on safety-net programs.

The event concluded with a panel discussion with Moffitt, Chandra, Dynan, Maestas, and Rachidi, led by AEI President Robert Doar.

You can watch a recording of the event here.


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