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RALEIGH: I have two favorite quotes from Ronald Reagan about the world of work. The first shows his mastery of an indispensable political tool: self-deprecating humor. “True, hard work never killed no one,” he quipped, “but I figure, why take a chance?”

Another favorite Reagan quote of mine makes a serious point. “I think the best social program is work.” He was right, as mountains of empirical evidence later showed. Government actors can raise the real incomes of low-income people through a variety of means, including cash welfare and non-cash benefits such as housing assistance and Medicaid. American governments have done this to a great extent over the past five decades, helping to reduce the real poverty rate from 31% in 1960 to less than 2% in 2021.


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