Welfare State Encompasses 56% of Americans

welfareDon’t think the government is ubiquitous? Consider the following data published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2012, 109.6 million Americans were on some form of means-tested welfare, including Medicaid, food stamps and public housing. Another 43.7 million were on Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and other government programs.

Add to that another 21.9 million government employees working at the federal, state, and local level according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, and you wind up with a grand total of 175.2 million people dependent on the government one way or another — more than 56 percent of the population.

That’s a clear majority.

But what about the voting age population?

There’s about 50 million children on Medicaid, food stamps and other welfare programs.

Meaning, when they’re subtracted out of the total, there’s still about 125.2 million adults that are government-dependent in some way, shape, or form.

That’s still about 53 percent of the 235.6 million voting age population who at least nominally have a majoritarian interest in the continued expansion of government.

Many commentators comfort themselves and their readers by not including government workers or seniors in these government dependency indexes, but that is as every bit misleading as excluding others who financially benefit from the government treasury.

For example, the Census figures do not include the many millions more who qualify for things like student financial aid, student loans, home loans financed by Government Sponsored Enterprises Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, a multitude of tax credits, or the employees of subsidized industries and of private contractors that work for the government.

This seemingly benign intrusion into almost every aspect of our lives has one assured impact: it creates a perpetual incentive for more and more government.

The point is not to belittle or besmirch those who are on the take, nor to overlook those who paid taxes into these vast programs. The fact is, it is virtually impossible to get through modern life without taking advantage of them.

All you have to do is live to the age of 65, and you are guaranteed enrollment in the dependency state. That is, whether you wanted to pay the payroll taxes or not. Whether you thought you would have invested that money better yourself or not. Whether you like it or not.

For, there is no choice in the matter.

In the Federalist No. 10, James Madison warned that in democracies, “governments are too unstable, [and] the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”

Madison and the Framers thought that through the scheme of elected representatives, state legislatures appointing senators, plus having a large, geographically wide republic and constitutional limits on the powers of government, a tyranny of the majority would not appear.

But did it work?

The American experiment with constitutionalism was supposed to have cured what Madison called the “mischiefs of faction.” Yet, as the limits on government have been peeled away by successive administrations and Congresses over decades, and tens of millions have become enrolled in the dependency state, sadly, it would appear it was as effective as every failed experiment that came before it.


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Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government (ALG) News Bureau. Americans for Limited Government is a non- partisan, nationwide network committed to advancing free market reforms,private property rights and core American liberties.
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