None Dare Call It Welfare

-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

Suzanne Mettler, professor at Cornell, has written an article in Perspectives on Politics that highlights the public ignorance regarding the benefits people receive from the state. Different government programs operate indirectly have made the extent of the US welfare state invisible. These government social programs are rarely stigmatized by equating them to welfare. Welfare, it’s not just for the poor.

The table, below the fold, is amazing.

The following table shows the government program and the percentage of people who use that program but claim that they ‘have not used a government social program.’

H/T: The Monkey Cage.

39 thoughts on “None Dare Call It Welfare”

  1. You’re being raped and the rapist and his many supporters are trying to make out that you forced him to rape you and if he doesn’t things will get worse.

    But hey, that’s capitalism.

  2. Wootsy

    I don’t know what you mean. . Are you saying Pres. Bush received SS payments that he was not entitled to?


    I believe I heard it on talk radio, but in 2 minutes I located:

    “Social Security expenditures are expected to exceed tax receipts this year for the first time since 1983.“

  3. Mahtso,

    Thanks for the source. I’m a bit suspicious, they seem a little disingenuous.

    For instance, did you catch that slight of hand at the end? They just decide to go from percentage of personal income to percentage of national income.

    I have a problem with the idea that taxes “ultimately get passed on to consumers.” Anyone will remember from Econ 101, how much tax gets eaten by the consumer and how much gets eaten by the company is dependent on the elasticity of the supply, and the demand. Then they expect us to just “trust them” that when you factor in the cost of regulations (I wonder if they also factor in the benefits of regulations, reduced medical costs, etc.) it adds up to 50% of our income.

  4. I believe it is an error to say SS does not affect the deficit. For years the deficit has been under-reported because the SS taxes collected have been used for other purposes. And, the news shows that this year the SS tax will not cover outlays, which means that the money will come from other sources (most likely increased borrowing, but alternatively from money that could be used to pay down the national debt.)

  5. The site that shows that SS tax is not included is

    I did not try to verify it, but it seems to make sense because the figures I’ve read on this issue show that the taxes are now between 9 and 10 % of income.

    For most of us SS and Medicare were at about 8% of income (until Pres. Obama pushed through the cut for this year) plus another 8% from our employers. I understand that the SS/Medicare tax ends on income somewhere over $100K, which affects few of us, so I find it hard to believe that that would be enough to matter. There was also a question of whether state and local taxes are included as seen by,808280,808280,quote=1

    which is more recent and does include state and local, but notably does not mention SS or Medicare. It also appears to focus on GDP not income.

    The second link includes a quote that in essence says its nuts to say taxes are too high. I am sure students of formal logic have a name for this, but to me the problem with that statement is that it is considering a total rather than our individual burdens.

    I freely admit that I don’t think I am under-taxed. But I like to remind people that you can pay more if you feel you are under taxed.

  6. Mike S.:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I don’t have the wide exposure to the poor that you do. But I have met a few (mostly white) and they were more often than not, quite happy to subsist as they did. Granted it wasn’t a ghetto and it wasn’t public housing. But they just wanted to do the bare minimum to get by, they were not motivated and they were not old and burned out.

    From my limited personal experience, I would say the one thing that allows people to rise out of poverty is intelligence and someone telling them they can do it.

    I don’t know the facts but I would tend to agree with you that welfare should be applied so as to incentivize work and savings.
    Savings is so very important to being able to have capital to rise out of poverty.

    As far as the cost of consumer goods in poor areas, I would probably say it is the risk of doing business in those areas.

    Unfortunately we are always going to have poor people, the idea, at least in my mind, is to have such a robust economy that anyone who can work has access to a job. I believe that capitalism rather than a centrally planned system is the best method for creating wealth.

    As far as corporate welfare goes? That is fascism and should be eliminated with all haste.

  7. Chan,

    You should pay very close attention to what Mike is saying. If you do? Be careful.

    You just might wake up.

  8. “I do agree there needs to be a safety net but a good many people use that safety net to avoid working for a living.”

    Chan L.,
    I’m glad you agree that there should be a safety net for those in need, since it indicates that you do have some compassion for your fellow human beings. However, you have fallen for the propaganda that most people on welfare are happy to stay there. I worked for and with what is the NYC Welfare Dept. (NYC Human Resources Administration) for 32 years. The first ten of those years were spent as a caseworker traveling out to see clients in their homes in what were considered to be the poorest parts of NYC. Being on welfare is very hard way to exist and the overwhelming majority of those I worked with would have done anything to get off of it. The system itself was set up to keep people on it and most of those rules came from the right wing end of the spectrum.

    The system split families apart by demanding that the male leave the household, forbidding any outside work, not allowing people to save and forcing them to live in execrable housing. The furniture and clothing allowances were so low that people were forced to buy items that quickly fell apart. The markets in welfare neighborhood charged exorbitant prices, for poor quality food. Yet many people were able to overcome these handicaps and make something of themselves. Others were too beaten down by the system, that despite average or above average skill sets, they felt depressed and trapped.

    Ronnie Reagan should have a special place in hell reserved for him due to his spreading the “welfare queen” meme. I never met one and I worked in the field. What people who dislike government “handouts” usually fail to see is that the handouts to the wealthy and to corporations far surpass those of welfare recipients.

    There’s another bubble that I’d like to burst and that one is about Social Security. Yes it has become a regressive tax and no there isn’t any “Lockbox.” The reason for this is a deal forged between the Reagan executives and Pat Moynihan (a massively overrated person both as a senator and as a human being)that increased Social Security rates and put the money into the Governments General Fund, thereby allowing it to be used for Reagan’s massive arms buildup. That arms buildup was welfare for the military-industrial complex. The cutoff point was set low enough so as not to disturb any of our wealthier citizens, while bleeding the middle-class.

    Now I became disabled in 2005 and without my (401k free) pension and my Social Security Disability, my wife and I would have wound up penniless on the streets. I would no doubt be dead by now. For someone like me who worked very hard, often with two jobs, that would have been harsh treatment, that given my contributions to society, I didn’t deserve.

    The topic of this thread is an area that I know far more about than almost all of the commentators here, both from personal and working experience. Most of those in politics and public life who talk about welfare know little or nothing about it, save to disparage people they think are beneath them, usually with ethnicity or color as their subtext.

  9. Rich/rafflaw:

    are you in mutual funds? They suck and I would agree with you both on that score. While I don’t invest at this time, I have watched the market for a few years (a hobby) and have found that if you invest in good companies which pay a dividend, you can create wealth over a long period of time. I also know that once you get near retirement age, it is time to move your money into safer investments.

    I would not have money in mutual funds for the simple reason that I would want to buy what I want to buy. Not what someone else thinks is good. I know you guys have more life experience than I do, but the market has risen pretty reliably over the last 70 years. If you remember it was around a 1,000 in 1980 if my sources are correct.

    I read about Enron and that was a really bad thing to do, Ken Lay got what he deserved for screwing all those people. But the first rule of investing is not to put all your eggs in one basket. Had I worked for that company, I would have told them to go fuck themselves and reported them to the SEC. But with that being said, the stock was going up and people were making money until it came tumbling down. So there is some responsibility on the part of the employees. Especially the ones that should have known better. Pigs usually get slaughtered in the market.

    I do agree there needs to be a safety net but a good many people use that safety net to avoid working for a living. That is wrong in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with helping a person who is down on their luck for a couple of years but society does not owe them a living. That is what I object to.

  10. “I just think you could have a better deal if you could deal with a private company.” Like 401ks that haven’t recovered from the real estate bubble. Or 401ks that could only be invested in the company’s stock like Enron.

  11. Chan,
    You do realize that Social Security does not have any impact on the budget deficits, don’t you? Chan, you are not old enough to remember past recessions, but do you realize what happens to people who are in the stock market when the crashes hit like they did in 2008? They don’t have the time to recover or recoup their savings in order to retire. The whole reason for Social Security is make sure that there is a guaranteed amount of dollars to allow people to retire with some security and dignity. Congress already allows us to invest our IRA’s and Roth IRA’s in the market, why not just leave it at that? The answer is the greed of Wall Street wants those Social Security funds in order to make billions more of our backs.
    While I agree that the recession and lower spending by consumers has an impact on those taxes, the result is lower taxes as a percentage of the economy. When the economy comes back fully, we can review where we are at that point. I do not find any support for your claim about social Security Taxes. If you have a citation, I would like to see it.

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