Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We have met the enemy

And it is us. Why will reducing our national deficit be so hard? 

"Americans depend on big government for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat, Robert Samuelson writes. "Few Americans realize the extent of their dependency."
The Census Bureau reports that in 2009 almost half (46.2 percent) of the 300 million Americans received at least one federal benefit: 46.5 million, Social Security; 42.6 million, Medicare; 42.4 million, Medicaid; 36.1 million, food stamps; 3.2 million, veterans' benefits; 12.4 million, housing subsidies. The Census list doesn't include tax breaks. Counting those, perhaps three-quarters or more of Americans receive some sizable government benefit. For example, about 22 percent of taxpayers benefit from the home mortgage interest deduction and 43 percent from the preferential treatment of employer-provided health insurance, says the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. 
"The trouble," Samuelson says, "is that, despite superficial support for "deficit reduction" or "tax reform," few Americans would surrender their own benefits, subsidies and tax breaks -- a precondition for success."

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