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Rugged Socialist Individualists

Remember “Keep your government hands off my Medicare“? Well, the craziness is much more common than even that. According to a paper from Cornell University, around half the people who have benefitted from government social programs believe that they “have not used a government social program”.

Do you think you’ve never gotten money from a government social program? Really? Did you ever get a student loan, a Pell grant, or set up an Education Savings Account to help pay for college? How about used the mortgage interest deduction to help you buy a home? Child care tax credit? Social security? Unemployment insurance? Veteran’s benefits? Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that tax breaks for housing or subsidized loans for education are not social programs, but that’s exactly what they are. That’s right tea partiers, you too might be one of the socialist parasites you are trying to rip from the suckling teat of the taxpayers.

Even beneficiaries of our most well-known social programs are significantly delusional. 44% of recipients of Social Security benefits and 40% of Medicare beneficiaries claim that they haven’t used a government social program. Even more amazing, 27% of welfare recipients and 25% of people who receive food stamps don’t think they are the recipient of government assistance.



  1. starluna wrote:

    What I find most interesting is that this “misunderstanding” is highest among those who have benefited from tax breaks and federal student loans.

    This kind of delusion is very dangerous.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  2. Years and years ago, I was talking with my mother about politics, and she was advocating getting rid of all the social programs.

    This is a woman who lived on her dead husband’s social security, with just a bit of money she could make on the side. So I asked her what she would do for a living if there wasn’t social security.

    She looked at me, so self-assured, and said, “Live off my kids, what else?”

    (I was a poor student in a graduate program at the time, without a full stipend: she expected me to drop my life, return to her apartment, and get a job to pay for her to live. As the youngest daughter, that was always supposed to be my role in life, didn’t I know?)

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  3. jonah wrote:

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  4. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Well, always thinking of different points of view: I think there is a big difference between social programs that we contribute to, ie. social security and medicare (although they are ponzi schemes), those we’ll be paying back like student loans, and life long welfare programs. Even unemployment is ultimately paid by taxes that an individual and their employer contributed to while working. As far as education IRA’s that’s all my money, all my risk, and I’ve paid tax on it already, there will just be no tax on the gain when used for higher education. There is a difference IMO of government run self contribution programs and social programs that require no contribution.
    Then there is a big difference between how people use benefits, specifically how long. I would be the first to admit that a civil society needs a social safety net for those that fall upon misfortune and those whom God decided to create with special needs. I myself was once on unemployment, for 4 months while I was finishing some Microsoft certification courses. That’s what it’s for, emergencies, extraordinary events or circumstances, not a way of life.

    Yes, everyone has or will likely benefit from some social program at some point in there life and they’ll go on to re-contribute back into those programs, but shouldn’t be benefitting for most of their life. Point being, my mother in law, whom I support 100%, came to this country some 20 years ago to visit her daughter, my wife. About 10 years ago she was naturalized and became a citizen at 75. She never contributed to social security, so she can’t withdrawal any. The state did rush in to offer Medicaid, but she was covered under my insurance. We pay all her expenses, she lives with us and receives about $50 month retirement from her country of origin, which she contributes to the care of an indigent son, along with money our family and my wife’s siblings contribute for his care monthly.
    If we want to go down the road with veterans benefits or any benefit proveided by the government, then every government employee receives social benefit from the president all the way down. Every disabled person who works because the gov gives a tax break, anyone who gets a tax refund, illegals who get a free plane ride back to country of origin, half the countries on earth and probably the other half at some time in their existence, because we could have provided military social support.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  5. That Guy wrote:

    PatriotSGT you make a lot of good points regarding paying into the system vs exploiting and living off of it, what little safety net this country provides certainly requires reform. Though I don’t think those exploiting the system are usually living very large on it.

    In any case, I think the bigger point here is that some of the vitriol against the state welfare aparatus, be it actual welfare, foodstamps or medicare, is actually coming from people who ARE living because of it. In this regard, whether or not you agree with the existence of these programs takes a back seat to realizing that some of the hatred of government programs is extremely hypocritical. And that these folks who oppose and benefit from social programs are, in some cases, the ones making a clearly undue amount of noise about how awful the government is.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Patricia wrote:

    I am sure there are all sorts of technical reasons why corporate welfare is O.K. and social welfare is not, but I doubt if there are very many moral ones! Yet you hear very little about what Agribusiness gets that was intended for individual small farmers or the wear and tear of heavy trucks on roads that taxpayers pay for, etc., etc., etc.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    Good point Patricia. I didn’t mention corporate welfare.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  8. Do you think if employers paid more than the Federal Poverty level, then there would be no need to have people use food stamps and medical? Sis you ever think that if employers did not lay people off there would be no need for unemployment? People can not live on $8-10 an hour job. Employers know what they are doing by pay a wage that is low enough to have the employee supplement it with government programs. Perhaps we need a federal minimum wage that is equal to 110% of the poverty level.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 11:11 pm | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Concern Citizen, I’m glad you brought up the minimum wage issue. Minimum wage was never intended to be a wage for raising a family. It IS intended to prevent abuses of first time employees entering the job market. It’s ideal for school kids, part time summer help, etc. I earned min wage for about 4 months when I was 16 and started working, then I got a raise and have never looked back, or gone back. Allowing employers to hire part time, temporary or first time workers for min wage helps keep retail costs down. If you raise min wage to 110% poverty level, then $10 double cheeseburgers will likely follow at Mickey D’s.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink
  10. starluna wrote:

    The focus of the survey was whether people realized they were receiving benefits that were provided by the government. The chart shows that the vast majority of people who receive so-called social welfare benefits (welfare, public housing, food stamps, etc) recognize that they are beneficiaries of government programs. But the majority of those who receive tax breaks (whether it be on interest income or the home mortgage deduction) or government backed guarantees do not.

    My first reaction was that I could understand why certain people do not see the connection to the government when it came to things like Social Security or the Coverdell program because they pay into it in some way or another. So the misunderstanding is in some ways explainable.

    Upon further reflection, though, what I think is missing in this view that is really important is that, without government intervention, these programs would not exist. Take student loans, for example. If there were no government subsidized student loans, there would definitely be a significant number of people who would no longer be able to attend college. In the mid-1990s, Congress made changes to the subsidy program that made student loans less risky and very profitable for private lenders. Prior to this, banks were largely not interested in student loans because the risk of default is actually pretty high. Most of us who went to college in the 1980s through the mid-1990s received our loans through the federal Direct Loan program. Of course, as banks seem to be wont to do, they abused the programs that supported private lending and recent regulations to prevent this have made private student loans less attractive to banks. More colleges and universities are returning to the Direct Loan program also (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were kick-back scandals between universities and private lenders).

    The point being that student loans for college would not be available were it not for a government guarantee and subsidy that either provided the loans directly or reduced or eliminated the risk for private lenders. If the government stopped doing any of this, there would be significantly fewer students in college, and particularly in our more expensive universities. Yes, you pay it back with interest. But it wouldn’t have even been available were it not for these government programs. I wonder how many physicians, who for years benefited from very generous government student loan forgiveness programs, also feel like they were never the beneficiary of a government social program.

    The same could be said about the Coverdell savings account. Yes, you have been taxed in the principal that goes into it, but you would otherwise owe taxes on the new income generated from the interest were it not for the government program that removes the tax.

    Further, plenty of analysis has shown that a significant number (I do not remember if it is a majority so I won’t claim that) receive more from Social Security than they paid into it. This is particularly true for women who did not work. Spouses were not initially intended to be beneficiaries of Social Security. Widows were added to survivor’s benefits 4 years after the passage, but it took an additional 40 years for spouses, mainly women, to receive full benefits.

    What I find problematic about this thinking is that many Americans have no idea that much of what they enjoy that makes this country great, from the electricity that powers all of the electronic devices in their home to the safety of their drinking water to the highways they use to go to work every day to the ability to get a mortgage with only a 10% down payment, are often paid for or made available by the government. These would not be things that the private market would provide and that most people would not likely be able to afford on their own. It is both dangerous and sad that many people do not see these subsidies as the public goods they really are.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  11. russell wrote:

    Did you ever get a student loan: No, worked my way through 2 degrees.

    A Pell grant: No.

    Education Savings Account to help pay for college: Not one that has received ANY government assistance.

    Mortgage interest deduction to help you buy a home: No.

    Child care tax credit: Nope, momma stayed home I got walloped by filing jointly.

    Social security: No, but they take 15% of my gross income and at 50, I’ll never see it.

    Unemployment insurance: No. I pay into it, but try to collect unemployment when you’re self-employed.

    Veteran’s benefits: No, but agree they should receive them. A neglected cost of foolish wars.

    Medicare: No, but have seen doctors spend millions on anything it covers. My dad had terminal Alzheimer’s. Medicare paid for a pacemaker and a hip replacement less than a year before he died.

    Food Stamps. No, although I probably qualified when dad was sick.

    My water comes from a private utility district. My roads are paid for by fuel and excise taxes.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    Russell, by definition an Education Savings Account receives government assistance because the interest it earns is tax exempt.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  13. starluna wrote:

    Russell – fuel taxes haven’t covered the cost of road maintenance in quite some time. In short, the cost of road maintenance that is being done (there is quite of bit of deferred maintenance happening everywhere) is more than the fuel taxes bring in. And that’s just at the federal level. At the state level, there isn’t a single state in the nation that doesn’t have years, sometimes decades, of deferred maintenance.


    More to the point, road maintenance is a public good, which means that it is not something the private, for-profit market would generally provide. There was a time when there were things like private roads and users would pay a toll (and I understand that this still exists in a handful of places in the US – there’s a controversy over one in Michigan right now). But for a variety of reasons (price gouging, discrimination, abetting of criminal activity, etc) many state and local governments did away with most private roadways. Of course, I am not talking about the street that you might live on. There are definitely plenty of those left. But if you’ve ever taken a public roadway to meet a client, you’ve likely paid significantly less than the cost of building or maintaining that roadway. And if was owned by a private company, you’d likely be paying quite a bit more to get to your clients than you do in your fuel and excise taxes.

    Monday, July 11, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink
  14. russell wrote:

    IK – My kid’s accounts don’t, but at current interest, it’s not too important.

    Luna – You may be right. Fuel taxes are a huge revenue stream (state and federal), but I haven’t tracked where it goes. I know the interstates were originally funded as civil defense.

    ALL – My kid got a state scholarship today, so count me in as a recipient.

    Russell in BubbaLand

    Monday, July 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink