This past week, President Donald Trump and House Republicans took initial steps to cut back the social safety net. Both have argued that such spending is wasteful and counterproductive, and that eligibility must be tightened for programmes including food stamps and Medicaid. Mr Trump and House Republicans have also asserted that welfare benefits are far too generous, and work requirements much too lax.
Yet as is so often the case, the reality is much different from what the political rhetoric says. The United States has the weakest safety net among the Western industrialised nations, devoting far fewer resources as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) to welfare programmes than do other wealthy countries.