A review of Sr. Maria Riley’s paper: “Can We Talk about Social Protection?”

A review of a paper by Sr. Maria Riley, O.P. of the Global Women’s Project of the Center of Concern, Washington, D.C.

Once again Sr. Maria Riley, O.P., from the Center of Concern’s Global Women’s Project brings a thoughtful, forceful paper for our reflection and response.  In “Can We Talk about Social Protection?” she discusses how to improve our current social safety net system so that a true and viable social protection system exists for all citizens.  This paper is a follow-up to last month’s “Shredding the Social Safety Net.”

In this paper, Sr. Maria points out that these are difficult times in the United States.  Vulnerable people in our society are plagued by unemployment, growing poverty – extreme poverty in some 1.4 million households – as well as hunger and food insecurity.  The society is also witnessing a growing crisis of care-giving across the generations from child care to chronically ill and disabled care to elder care and the growing inequality both in levels of income and in access to services.

At the same time it seems public concern and political commitment to care for those most in need is diminishing. The will to ease the suffering of the most vulnerable through social welfare that was ushered in from the Great Depression through the 1970s has gone sour. Social welfare has changed from being considered a social good to being attacked as a negative burden supporting the “lazy and undeserving.” The concept of entitlement as a right or need has shifted to being seen as a privilege that many do not merit. And the responsibility of government “to promote the general
welfare” as stated in the Constitution has been degraded to accusations of intrusion by “big government.”

Changes in attitude have many roots in our culture, from an extreme sense of individualism, to the ascent of economics as the prime political and social concern, to politics and ideology and to lack of information or misinformation.

To read Sr. Maria Riley’s entire paper, go here.

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