Thursday, February 16, 2012

Politics:  Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It

The share of benefits flowing to the least affluent households, the bottom fifth, has declined from 54% in 1979 to 36% in 2007, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis published last year.
In 2000, federal and state governments spent about 37 cents on the safety net from every dollar they collected in revenue, according to a New York Times analysis. A decade later, after one Medicare expansion, two recessions and three rounds of tax cuts, spending on the safety net consumed nearly 66 cents of every dollar of revenue.
One of the oldest criticisms of democracy is that the people will inevitably drain the treasury by demanding more spending than taxes. The theory is that citizens who get more than they pay for will vote for politicians who promise to increase spending.

But Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.

Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.

For much more, see Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It by Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff, February 11, 2012 at NYTimes.com.

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