In spite of the fact that the old welfare program that was reformed in 1996 is now a mere shadow of its former self, government aid reaches more people than ever before. CNNMoney.com
More than one in three Americans lived in households that received Medicaid, food stamps or other means-based government assistance in mid-2010, according to a new report.
And when Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits are included, nearly half of the nation lived in a household that received a government check, according to the analysis of third-quarter 2010 Census data done by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a libertarian-leaning think tank. That's more than 148 million Americans.
Those numbers are on their way up thanks to the Great Recession and its aftermath, which have pushed record numbers of people onto public assistance programs. In particular, the stubbornly high unemployment rate has left millions of Americans in dire straits.
In 2008, one-quarter of people lived in households receiving a government lifeline and about 45 percent a government check, according to the Census Bureau. . . .
. . . . The federal government sent a record $2 trillion to individuals in fiscal 2010, up nearly 75% from 10 years earlier. . . .
. . . . Some 26% of Americans lived in households where someone received Medicaid, while the figure was 15% for food stamps. Those programs were by far the largest of the safety net.
Meanwhile, 16% of people lived in households collecting Social Security and 15% receiving Medicare benefits. These entitlements have been expanding as the Baby Boom generation retires.
The rapid growth of the nation's government assistance programs has concerned many on both sides of the political aisle.
"Whether we like it or not, we know it's not fiscally sustainable," said Veronique de Rugy, senior research fellow at Mercatus. "The bigger these programs, the bigger the voting block is against reform."