The 96 Percent

According to a survey conducted by the Cornell Survey Research Institute, virtually all Americans have relied on government assistance in one form or another at some point in their lives.

via The NY Times

What the data reveal is striking: nearly all Americans — 96 percent — have relied on the federal government to assist them. Young adults, who are not yet eligible for many policies, account for most of the remaining 4 percent.

On average, people reported that they had used five social policies at some point in their lives. An individual typically had received two direct social benefits in the form of checks, goods or services paid for by government, like Social Security or unemployment insurance. Most had also benefited from three policies in which government’s role was “submerged,” meaning that it was channeled through the tax code or private organizations, like the home mortgage-interest deduction and the tax-free status of the employer contribution to employees’ health insurance. The design of these policies camouflages the fact that they are social benefits, too, just like the direct benefits that help Americans pay for housing, health care, retirement and college.

And as Suzanne Mettler at the Times points out, this figure does not include the indirect benefits of government such as the interstate highway system, the Food and Drug Administration, or the Department of Agriculture.

Even the richest of the rich have benefited from government assistance or government subsidies, and even if you make the claim that they could have managed without, that certainly wouldn’t be true for the overwhelming majority of the country. It also wouldn’t account for the services rendered by government agencies such as the FAA, which ensures them a safe trip aboard their private jets.

The Mitt Romneys of the world may have transcended the nuances and burdens of citizenship, but they didn’t get there without help and they haven’t stopped taking advantage of the benefits either.

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  • trgahan

    ‘What the data reveal is striking:”

    It has been obvious to me for years (and likely most people who read this blog), and I’m not that smart a person. I’m waiting for the Randian D-bag explaination for this.