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Americans Have No Idea How Much Welfare They're Getting

Maybe American protesters denouncing government welfare programs wouldn't be so conservative if they actually knew how much welfare they got.

The rise of the anti-big government Tea Party movement in America has also seen a rise in the number of citizens publicly decrying both taxes and the social welfare programs for which those taxes provide. A recent study shows, however, that many Americans actually have no idea that they're on the dole, calling into question the validity of their attacks on government handouts.

The graphic above uses information from Suzanne Mettler's newest piece in Perspectives on Politics, and the data is simple: Those numbers are the percentages of people who benefit from the specified government program while also saying in a government survey that they "have not used a government social program." Besides these numbers, more than 25 percent of people on food stamps think they don't take government assistance, and nearly 30 percent of people getting Social Security disability benefits.

Mettler's basic argument is that because the US welfare state is 'submerged' and sliced up among a variety of different programs, many of which operate indirectly rather than directly, it is mostly invisible to US citizens.


Just as it doesn't comprehend the country's wealth distribution, the American public simply doesn't get how very reliant it is on social welfare programs, not to mention the taxes that make them possible. Statistics like these make one wonder how frequently people are holding up a Tea Party sign with one hand while taking and spending a government check with the other.

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