Ezra Klein had an excellent summary of Suzane Mettler's new book, The Submerged State. This line from Ezra's post caught my eye:
The more a government social program benefits wealthier Americans, the less obtrusive it is. We design policies for the poor in ways that make it hard to escape the knowledge that the government is providing help. But richer Americans rely on programs that are “submerged.”
This is of particular interest to me because an increasing pet peeve of mine is the inability of most non-poor Americans to recognize that they're recipients of government programs. Very often the sentiment is that, "if they want my tax-payer money, they have to do..." things such as drug testing, jump through hoops, etc. Yet the same people don't recognize that they themselves receive financial assistance as well from the government.
The largest housing subsidy program is the home mortgage interest deduction. What do you think the reaction would be if millions of homeowners were forced to pee in a cup for drug testing?
For her book “The Submerged State,” she asked a scientifically selected sample of 1,400 Americans whether they had ever used a government social program. Only 43 percent copped to having done so. Then she read off 21 social programs, such as Medicare and the home-mortgage interest deduction, and asked the same question again: Have you ever used a government social program? This time, 96 percent said yes, in fact, they had.