Big gap between those using government social programs and those thinking they don’t

14 Feb

Brochure from 1961 with basic advice about Soc...

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Ignorance is a truly sad thing. A new report related in a New York Times Blog reveals that people utilizing many government programs like Social Security and Medicare don’t believe they have used a government social program.

Here is a summary from the NYT, but be sure and take a close look for yourself.   For example, 53.3 percent of the people with student loans say they have not used a government social program.  Thirty-nine percent of people with Medicare have not used a government social program nor have forty-four percent of the people collecting a Social Security benefit.  What do these people think a social program (otherwise known as an entitlement) is? 

My first reaction was that I have not used any government social program, that is until I turned age 66.  Then I looked at the list.  Umm, I have several 529 plans for grandchildren, the GI Bill paid for much of my college costs, my kids had student loans and I certainly deducted a lot of mortgage interest over the years.  Whatdauknown!

That is the insidious nature of entitlements, they become ingrained in our lives until we take them for granted without giving a thought to what they really are, what they cost or who is paying for them, especially if we are the ones benefiting.  Many Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries believe they have or are paying for their benefits.  That not true of course.  For example with Medicare most beneficiaries are paying only twenty-five percent of the cost of Part B which represents a very small portion of the total cost.  Even if you count the Medicare tax paid over a typical working life the total is less than $22,000 for the average person.  That is not enough to cover a week in the hospital and related medical care.  When it comes to Social Security most people receive all their contributions back in the form of benefits within a few years of starting to collect.  

Mr. Bartlett produces the following chart, from a recent paper by the Cornell political scientist Suzanne Mettler, showing how many recipients of government benefits somehow don’t believe they’ve  received any benefits:

Percentage of Program Beneficiaries Who Report They “Have Not Used a Government Social Program”
Program “No, Have Not Used a Government Social Program”
529 or Coverdell 64.3
Home Mortgage Interest Deduction 60.0
Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit 59.6
Student Loans 53.3
Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit 51.7
Earned Income Tax Credit 47.1
Social Security—Retirement & Survivors 44.1
Pell Grants 43.1
Unemployment Insurance 43.0
Veterans Benefits (other than G.I. Bill) 41.7
G.I. Bill 40.3
Medicare 39.8
Head Start 37.2
Social Security Disability 28.7
Supplemental Security Income 28.2
Medicaid 27.8
Welfare/Public Assistance 27.4
Government Subsidized Housing 27.4
Food Stamps 25.4
Source: Suzanne Mettler, “Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenge of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era,” Perspectives on Politics (September 2010): 809.

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