According to the U.S. Census, in the first quarter of 2010, nearly half of the population (48.5%) lived in a household that had at least one member who received some kind of government benefit. This record-high represents a 9% increase since the third quarter of 2008, amidst the global financial crisis. This data highlights not only the severity of the collapse, but also the increase in government benefits over the decades that have served to fill only a partial economic gap that has been created due trade policies that have impoverished tens of millions, as of jobs have been outsourced.
Washington distributes tax dollars based on a variety of mechanisms. By far, the most common and largest benefits arise from the various means-tested programs specifically designed to help the needy. In 2010, needs-based programs accounted for the largest share of recipients, with approximately 34.2% of Americans living in households that received benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid. An additional 14.5% lived in homes where someone was on Medicare. And nearly 16% lived in households receiving Social Security.
Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare comprise the nation’s entitlement programs, and are thus paid for by taxes as a form of social insurance. However, the chronically high unemployment rate has decreased the percentage of Americans who pay taxes. This is making the solvency of each program worse.
Based on estimates from the Tax Policy Center, 46.4% of households will pay no federal income tax in 2011, up from 39.9% in 2007, when the recession began.
Some 70% of the 19 million households (over 40 million Americans) that relied on food stamps last year had no earned income. Nearly half of all food-stamp recipients (47%) were children under the age of 18. Another 8% of recipients were age 60 or older. Whites made up the largest share of food stamp households, 35.7%. Some 22% of households receiving food stamps were counted as African American and 10% were Hispanic. U.S. born citizens made up the majority, 94%, of food stamp households.
Nearly 21% of households on food stamps also received Supplemental Security Income, assistance for the aged and blind. Some 21.4% received Social Security benefits. Just 8% of households also received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or the cash welfare program.
But 20% of households had no cash income of any kind last year (up from 15% in 2007, and 7% in 1990) because they were also unemployed. Just 21.8% of them had jobs in 2010, while 19.8% were jobless and looking for work. More than half of household heads who received food stamps, 51.1%, weren’t in the labor force and weren’t searching for work. On average, food stamp households brought home $731 per month in gross income. Their food assistance averaged $287 a month.
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