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Feeding from the Public Trough

June 21, 2012 by Matthew Denhart

This week the American Spectator hosted a dinner in New York City. The dinner included many prominent policy scholars and journalists, and the discussion focused on the U.S. economy. Herb London, President Emeritus of the Hudson Institute, cited several statisitics showing the large share of Americans who are beneficiaries of government transfer programs. The numbers are quite startling. We asked London to discuss the data a bit further:

Although communism appears to be dead, leviathan prevails as the government plays an ever more active role in the lives of Americans. It might well be asked if the number of Americans seduced by government activity is not larger than those who do not feed from the public trough. Consider for the sake of argument the fact that 45 million Americans are on food stamps (1.8 million in New York City with a total population of 8 million); 50.5 million receive Medicaid; 46.5 million are on Medicare; 52 million receive Social Security benefits (with a large but unknown number who never contributed to the system); 26 million are receiving earned income credit; 49 percent of Americans do not pay personal income tax; more than 20 million live in Section 8 housing and 17 percent of the American population or about 62 million Americans receive benefits from the federal government.   All told these expenditures account for over 70 percent of the federal budget and, despite discussion on both sides of the aisle about limitations, they are not likely to occur in the near horizon.

Author

Matthew Denhart
Matthew Denhart

Matthew Denhart is an expert on immigration policy and is the author of the Bush Institute’s America's Advantage: A Handbook of Vital Immigration and Economic Growth Statistics, now in its third edition. He currently serves as executive director of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation and is a founder of the Coolidge Scholars Program which provides full-ride merit scholarships to America's most promising college students. A summa cum laude graduate of Ohio University, Denhart has written and spoken widely on a variety of policy topics including the economics of higher education, labor, and taxes. He has contributed articles to numerous national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes.com, CNN Opinion, and Bloomberg View. 

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