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. jILL:

    cut the shit out of it. In fact get rid of the department of homeland security altogether. It scares me.

  2. The idea that taxes are lower than when Pres. Truman was in office appears to have some problems.

    I’ve read that the calculation showing that taxes are lower than when Pres. Truman was in office did not consider social security taxes to be taxes. When social security (which is regressive) is added, the tax burden is more now than when Pres. Truman was in office.

    And, it is (purportedly) based on the average percentage of income from all people, but the system has been tinkered with to shift the burden off low income people (i.e., those who actually pay taxes are paying more than they would have in Pres. Truman’s day). Finally, it appears to be a result of the recession and the reduced spending (i.e., it is a temporary phenomenon, that will end when the effects of recession end.)

  3. Chan L.,

    What is your opinion on cutting military, surveillance and homeland security spending?

  4. rafflaw,

    Check this out from Simon Johnson: “One view of executives at our largest banks in the run-up to the crisis of 2008 is that they were hapless fools. Not aware of how financial innovation had created toxic products and made the system fundamentally unstable, they blithely piled on more debt and inadvertently took on greater risks.

    The alternative view is that these people were more knaves than fools. They understood to a large degree what they and their firms were doing, and they kept at it up to the last minute – and in some cases beyond – because of the incentives they faced.

    New evidence in favor of the second interpretation has just become available, thanks to the efforts of Sanjai Bhagat and Brian Bolton.” (find the rest at the baseline senario)

  5. Rafflaw:

    I have nothing against Social Security, unemployment insurance, etc. I just think you could have a better deal if you could deal with a private company. But the amount of unemployment insurance taken out is not really enough to sustain someone for 2 years.

    Had Social Security been truly put in a lock box and only used for social security payments, it would have been a very good idea. Especially if it could have been invested in things like real estate, gold, silver, stocks. A 5%-8% return on the money would have been easy and secure. The stock market has risen quite a bit since the 1930’s.

    The system is broken and current levels of spending and taxation are unsustainable. A new model for government entitlement spending must be found. To help the people that need the help you cannot cut off the source of the funds required to pay the tab. The private sector not government, produces goods and services the government consumes. To have consumption you must have production.

    How do you want to define volume? In terms of the amount of money or in terms of buying power? The federal budget was only a few hundred million dollars in Truman’s day.

  6. Chan,
    If I understand you correctly, you would agree that unemployment compensation which is derived from workers taxes and taxes on the employer to benefit the worker if he or she is laid off, would not be welfare.
    One more thing. We are currently paying less Federal taxes now than we were during the Truman administration, so that large “volume of taxes” that you refer to is in error.

  7. I might point out that if people did not have to pay as large a volume of taxes to the government, these programs would probably not be necessary.

    Also the money does not belong to government, it belongs to the people who have earned it. So please tell me how money taken from someone by force and then given back to them is “welfare”? It seems to me it is reparations.

    good article:

  8. Jill,
    Some think that the Right wants us to hate the poor and the unemployed because they are at war with the middle class. While I agree that there are some criminals in the financial industry, I do not think almost all are criminals. But I agree with the spirit of your statement. If it was running the Justice Department, I would recommend that the banksters need to be lawyering up.

  9. This is a good chart NAL. Another question is, why do we hate people who are poor in the US? Many other nations seem to have a better understanding that anyone can fall on hard times and that is when a good society is happy to help people out.

    If we want to go after the lazy, shiftless and criminal class, we need immediate prosecution of almost everyone in the financial industry!

  10. I should have added that there are other things on the list that I would not consider welfare:

    Veteran’s benefits, I assume are part of the payment we agree to when Vets start their service; and similarly, Social Security benefits are part of a contract (albeit of adhesion) that we enter when we earn wages and the Gov’t taxes our wages.

  11. I would care to correct you…You really work for the state…The only reason that you have a pay check is that the State says you can….So be happy with the reverse social welfare system….

    The State can take everything you own….they can even take all of your property and leave you destitute….

  12. I’ve been banging on about this for years. America is one of the biggest social democracies the world has ever seen. Public investment in people isn’t an optional extra, it’s a sustainer of communities and the engine of future success.

  13. I appreciate the sentiment expressed in this post, but as a philosophical matter, I cannot consider tax deductions to be social programs because I start with the premise that the money I earn is my own.

  14. O.T. but important: “Obama Assertion: FBI Can Get Phone Records Without Oversight
    by Marisa Taylor

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s Justice Department has asserted that the FBI can obtain telephone records of international calls made from the U.S. without any formal legal process or court oversight, according to a document obtained by McClatchy.

    That assertion was revealed — perhaps inadvertently — by the department in its response to a McClatchy request for a copy of a secret Justice Department memo.

    Critics say the legal position is flawed and creates a potential loophole that could lead to a repeat of FBI abuses that were supposed to have been stopped in 2006.” (common dreams, McClatchy)

  15. If people kept more informed….well…if you drive on a road…I guess you are using a form of government assistance…..oh yeah….thank goodness for running water and lights….all governmental assisted entities….

  16. Great post, Nal.


    Thanks for the link. Love when the “haves” belittle the “have-nots” as elitists, while drinking their tea with their pinky sticking up. Oh, the irony …

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