Feature

Facing up to the welfare state

If you doubt America is a welfare state, consider the numbers.

Robert SamuelsonThe Washington Post 

If you doubt America is a welfare state, said Robert Samuelson, consider the numbers. Last year, “payments for individuals”—programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, and food stamps—made up 65 percent of federal spending, up from 21 percent in 1955. More than half the country is receiving government benefits. “That’s the welfare state.” It will grow larger under Obamacare, with families of four making up to $91,000 qualifying for insurance subsidies. Yet the subject is “virtually taboo.” Americans hate to admit they’re getting handouts, so we call them entitlements or assistance instead. The welfare state has alleviated poverty and cushioned recessions, but its programs have “strayed from their original purpose.” Social Security, for example, was created to keep the elderly from going hungry; now it also provides $50,000 a year to affluent seniors to subsidize their latest trip to Europe. To reduce our potentially ruinous $1 trillion annual deficit, we must get the welfare state under control. But to do that, “first we need to admit it exists.”

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