Moral Low Ground

Economy

Half of US Population Lives in Household Receiving Government Benefits

As the United States continues to avoid adequately dealing with a gargantuan $15,700,000,000,000 national debt, some alarming new figures have emerged from the Census Bureau.

Shockingly, nearly half of the US population lived in a household receiving some sort of government benefit during the first quarter of 2011. The exact figure is 49.1%. In the early 1980s, that figure was 30%.

The mainstream corporate media have thus far been avoiding this disturbing development, but the Wall Street Journal did publish a short article about it on Saturday.

A breakdown of the types of government assistance reveals that 26% of US residents lived in a household where someone was receiving Medicaid and 15% of US residents lived in a household where someone was enrolled in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps. In February 2011, Moral Low Ground reported that 43.6 million Americans were on food stamps, with more than one out of every five residents of Mississippi and Washington, DC receiving them.

The Census data also revealed that 15% of US residents live in a household where someone is receiving Medicare. Two percent had at least one member getting unemployment benefits.

Reducing the number of people on food stamps will be a formidable challenge, since one out of every six Americans is living in poverty and a similar number don’t have enough to eat.

Reducing Medicaid rolls will be even more of a challenge, since to even suggest cutting Medicaid funding is touching the third rail of American politics. According to the Wall Street Journal, fully 56% of respondents to a 2011 Gallup poll opposed making any substantial changes to either Social Security or Medicare.

The inexorable demographic march of Baby Boomers into their Social Security and Medicare years will also make cuts  to these entitlements an extremely fraught proposition.

There is, of course, the option of raising taxes to offset the pain of what many see as inevitable cuts to entitlement programs. But just last week, the Congressional Budget Office warned that this combination of tax increases and spending cuts would likely cause a recession in the first half of 2013.

In other economic news, Zillow reports that although home prices rose 0.7% from March to April, nearly one third of US mortgage holders were underwater, meaning they owed more than their homes were worth.

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