More Americans On Government Entitlement Than Working Full Time


There are more Americans receiving some form of means-tested government benefit than there are full time workers, according to Census Bureau data released recently.

Well, actually the data is for 2011 – but there’s every reason to believe the gap has only widened since the reporting period two year ago.

From CNS News:

There were 108,592,000 people in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2011 who were recipients of one or more means-tested government benefit programs, the Census Bureau said in data released this week. Meanwhile, according to the Census Bureau, there were 101,716,000 people who worked full-time year round in 2011. That included both private-sector and government workers.

That means there were about 1.07 people getting some form of means-tested government benefit for every 1 person working full-time year round.

What are “means-tested” benefits? Any government entitlement that is contingent on a person’s income or demographic qualifications. In many cases, means testing is applied to scale the amount of money higher-income Americans must pay the government (chiefly in taxes) in order to offset the meager or nonexistent amount that benefit recipients must pay to cover the overall cost of entitlement programs.

Food Stamps (SNAP) is a means-tested entitlement. So are Medicaid, SSI, WIC and TANF. In fact, simply being a recipient of one of these programs is now adequate proof, so far as the government is concerned, that you qualify for other means-tested entitlements you may not yet be receiving.

CNS breaks down the 2011 numbers further:

Among the 108,592,000 people who fit the Census Bureau’s description of a means-tested benefit recipient in the fourth quarter of 2011 were 82,457,000 people in households receiving Medicaid, 49,073,000 beneficiaries of food stamps, 20,223,000 on Supplemental Security Income, 23,228,000 in the Women, Infants and Children program, 13,433,000 in public or subsidized rental housing, and 5,854,000 in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Also among the 108,592,000 means-tested benefit recipients counted by the Census Bureau were people getting free or reduced-price lunch or breakfast, state-administered supplemental security income and means-tested veterans pensions.

Back in 2011, American Enterprise Institute scholar Andrew Biggs wrote a lengthy piece outlining the regressive and intrusive character of means testing as a way of calculating (and, indeed, justifying) entitlement benefits. Agree with his conclusions or not, the piece offers a thorough explanation of means testing, as well as the financial stakes of propping up and expanding government entitlements at a time when American is on the cusp of a historic surge in the drawdowns on its number-one means-tested benefit – Medicaid.

Read Biggs’ full piece here.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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