The regressive/conservative option:
We fund our social safety net with taxes which disproportionately target the poor and give some of that money back. We eliminate income taxes. We have lower payroll tax rates for the wealthy as opposed to the middle class. Capital gains have a lower rate than other forms of income. Most of that money goes towards military and police, little goes to proven systems which actually make people’s lives better. In order to get assistance people need to fill out their own tax forms using byzantine forms with impossible to remember numbers, with rigorous qualifications and it is on the tax payer to know what they are qualified for.
The moderate position:
If someone makes below a certain amount of money per year they are automatically enrolled in programs which they are qualified for. Nothing else changes.
A slightly liberal option:
While people are automatically enrolled in programs they are qualified for the program phases out instead of having a level which the program is simply turned off. Nothing else changes.
A Bernie Sanders like option:
We finance an expanded social safety net (with Byzantine forms) with progressive taxes, but we keep our regressive taxes.
A progressive option:
People are automatically enrolled in programs they are qualified for, with gradual phase outs for each system. Our tax code has lower taxes on the poor, and finances programs with taxes on the wealthy.
For comparison, someone who makes $20,000 in Washington State today will pay $2,290 in federal taxes (leaving out property, sales, and B&O taxes Washington State will levy) which leaves a tax burden of 11% before accounting for State taxes. Before giving that person $1000 in food stamps we should cut their taxes so they see more of their paycheck because there is a real cost of the government holding their money for them for no interest.
The progressive option is to change our system so that programs which benefit poor people are financed by taxes on rich people. We should eliminate taxes on low income households (because at the end of the day they are counter productive), and increase eligibility for programs which successfully reduce inequality, increase mobility, and increase human capital. We should use science to determine how much funding each program needs to maximize the overall benefit to society by looking at the marginal benefit and marginal cost of each program, maximizing the benefit of society by adding money to whichever program will increase marginal benefit the most in the short run.
That is the progressive stance.