One of the major criticisms that many cite against increased spending on "social safety nets" in America is that individuals in other countries are much worse off than even the poorest in America. While I have always been very supportive of policies that increase social mobility and economic opportunity, I have often found troubling countering this argument. While one could invoke such principles as equality or special compassion for fellow Americans, I can't seem to invoke another argument for why we should care so much about the plight of poor Americans. Does such an argument exist? Or are we forced to rely on those aforementioned principles, which not everyone may accept?

The proposition that countries with safety nets have poorer poor people than those without is generally false, but even were it true there would need to be some connection between the safety net and the level of poverty before it could be concluded that this was a relevant issue. It would have to be argued that safety nets are bad for the economy and so bad for poor people. This might be true but even if it is that does not mean that there is no way of devising a safety net in America which would avoid the link.

We should care for poor people because they are people and they are poor, in the same way that we should care for sick people because they are people and they are sick. The issue is not whether we should care for them but what is the best way of going about it.

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