It has become one of the great paradoxes of American life that those who depend the most on government assistance are also the ones most likely to call for reduced government spending. A long, but compelling story in The New York Times on Sunday looked at several people who take advantage of government programs, but still wish those programs weren't there.
Perhaps it's more a desire to not have to use the government safety net that drives those concerns. The people profiled in the story are not painted as hypocrites, but instead are conflicted (and occasionally ashamed) about taking handouts. Yet, they have to take them in order to survive. According to the Times, nearly half of all American households received some sort of government benefits in 2010. Also, the share of benefits being paid to the poorest Americans is shrinking, as more and more middle class families get caught in that net. One of the men mentioned in the story, says he's concerned that America is destroying itself financially, but admits that he couldn't survive without its benefits. (He receives the earned-income tax credit and his three children are enrolled in federal school lunch programs.)