Whether they like it or not, nearly everyone in the United States reaps the benefits of government.
When asked about participating in specific government social programs, 97 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats say they have taken part in a government program of some kind, according to a 2008 survey run by the Cornell Survey Research Institute. Not just one or two either; the survey found that people had used around five social policies on average.
The thing is, more than half the country denies having used a government program at all.
Those findings are of particular interest now, after a Mitt Romney fundraising video leaked, one in which he called the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes “dependent on government.” This survey’s findings show that those Americans who pay income taxes are also benefitting from government assistance in some form, even if they are not fully aware of it.
The confusion may come from what some call “submerged” government policies, those distributed via the tax code or through private organizations. It’s these types of benefits that explain comments like those of one man who in 2009 told his local congressman to “keep your government hands off my Medicare” at a town hall meeting, the NYT reports. Around a quarter of Medicare benefits were distributed through private insurance companies in 2010.
All that said, the demographics of Americans relying on government benefits are changing. A separate study found that the portion of benefits going to the poorest fifth of Americans has decreased by almost 20 percent between 1979 and 2007, according to the NYT.
(h/t The New York Times)