There are two types of government benefits that are disbursed to citizens, but the recipients of each of these are treated differently depending on their income level. Welfare recipients are often observed with more scrutiny, as if they are expected to not use their benefits properly. The other group of recipients, that is those receiving Pell grants or mortgage loans, are paid less attention to because these types of benefits are part of what TCF fellow Suzanne Mettler calls the "submerged state."
Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.
Find out more about the "submerged state" from this Washington Post article.
There is much more to the welfare state than meets the eye. A recent New York Times article details the five key lessons pinpointed by scholars that can be taken from past social welfare policy. TCF fellow Suzanne Mettler is cited in the article saying that welfare can be combatted by just blocking changes to current policy, such as what might happen with today's Republican controlled Congress.
Rather than directly assaulting the welfare state, those seeking to remake the American political economy have mostly outflanked it, relying heavily on tactics of gridlock-inducing policy drift to produce major changes in taxes, industrial relations, corporate governance, and financial regulation that have been highly beneficial to the most affluent.
Here is the entire article.
The question of big government versus small government is a significant one, with both good and bad side effects. In a New York Times article that addresses levels of government spending and social benefits, TCF fellow Suzanne Mettler argues against downsizing, saying:
"...it has helped cement the image of a government that most Americans wrongly consider largely irrelevant to their lives. 'I see it as a case of smoke and mirrors'".
The full article can be read here.
TCF policy associate Clio Chang reminds us of just how many parties will be affected by the Supreme Court's ruling of the King v. Burwell case.READ MORE
As supporters of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrate its fifth anniversary, TCF president Mark Zuckerman and policy associate Clio Chang review the various arguments made by opponents of the ACA and see how they are holding up.READ MORE
The "social safety net" has been a complicated concept since the 1960's, since many of its programs benefit the poor, but need funding support from the whole population. TCF fellow Edward Kleinbard offers one solution that is highlighted in his book, "We Are Better Than This," which is to "raise[ing] top tax rates to where they were in the Clinton era and pare[ing] some personal tax deductions that benefit the better off."
As demands on Social Security and Medicare grow over time, pressure will be enormous to cut benefits, mostly at the top. If Mr. Cohen was right, this will drain political support from the only universal programs we have left. They may become poor programs too.
Read the NY Times piece featuring Kleinbard.
Compared to other advanced nations, America’s retirement security and health care systems offer weaker protections against risks we all face. The Century Foundation’s work focuses on ideas for strengthening Social Security, pensions, and health care – including steps for building on the Affordable Care Act.
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