17 Percent of America in Anti-Poverty Programs

More

onesixth american govt assistance ui food stamp medicaid.pngOne out of every six Americans are in government anti-poverty programs, according to USA TODAY. More than 50 million Americans are in Medicaid. Forty million receive food stamps and 10 million receive unemployment benefits.

The long and deep recession has increased federal assistance by about $200 billion a year.

As caseloads for all the programs have soared, so have costs. The federal price tag for Medicaid has jumped 36% in two years, to $273 billion. Jobless benefits have soared from $43 billion to $160 billion. The food stamps program has risen 80%, to $70 billion. Welfare is up 24%, to $22 billion.

This is one of those Rorschach statistics where one's gut reaction to the article is a projection of our broader belief in the role of government. Conservatives will worry that government programs won't contract after the recession and that we're creating a sticky dependency to government assistance.

The way I see it, it's the recession that's bad and sticky. Counter-cyclical spending to catch families who fall off payrolls and juice demand for goods is the baseline for any decent reaction to a recession. The Obama government isn't redefining the definition of government, or relationship between Washington and individuals. It's more like an umbrella manufacturer in a town that has a rare monsoon.



Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Ghost Trains of America

Can a band of locomotive experts save vintage railcars from ruin?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Video

How Is Social Media Changing Journalism?

How new platforms are transforming radio, TV, print, and digital

Video

The Place Where Silent Movies Sing

How an antique, wind-powered pipe organ brings films to life

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In