Combatting Inequality: When Is Enough, Enough?

Those in the bottom 20 percent of households had 2.3 percent of all market income, such as wages and private pensions, but received more than a third of all Social Security and Medicare benefits and almost half of other transfers like Medicaid and unemployment compensation. The effect of these programs is to quadruple the share of post-tax and transfer income going to those in the lowest quintile.

New data from the Census Bureau show that a rising share of Americans benefits from government transfer programs. Between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2011, the percentage of Americans participating in transfer programs rose to 49.2 percent from 45.3 percent. Key drivers were a 40 percent increase in the number of people receiving food stamps in what is now called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, and a 14 percent increase in those receiving Medicaid, a health program for the poor.

Bruce Bartlett.

Comments (11)

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  1. Vicki says:

    We’ve gone well past the point where enough is enough.

  2. Joe S. says:

    Agree with Vicki. We have gone way past enough.

  3. Dr. Mike says:

    There is not enough money in the known universe to solve poverty through wealth transfer. Accept that fact and you will start to see solutions to poverty becoming closer to what is really needed. But the liberal progressives will never accept that fact and so the only outcome possible is revolution. Revolution that the recipients of the transfer will start when there is nothing left to transfer. Every other scenario is illogical.

  4. Ken says:

    I agree with Mike. The more we subsidize poverty, the more poverty we get.

  5. JB McMunn says:

    Maybe when the Fed is done transferring wealth from savers and retirees we won’t have to spend so much money transferring it back.

  6. Jimbino says:

    It’s worse than that: A man who marries and after 10 years divorces a series of 5 women, who give him 50 children, will see all of them sharing in his SS and Medicare benefits even though none of the women had ever worked for a day’s wage.

  7. Lee Waaks says:

    Bartlett: “Still, I don’t think very many Americans would want to live in a survival-of-the-fittest economy in which those who can’t work are left to starve. In fact, even some conservatives now believe that the shredding of the social safety net in the name of deficit reduction has gone too far.”

    Let them eat strawmen.

  8. Lee Waaks says:

    Social democracy — large or small — is paid for by the workers in the form of lower real wages. The poor and elderly supported by taxes are actually supported by other workers, not the wealthy. George Reisman explains this very cogently in his book, Capitalism, pp.300ff.

  9. Herman says:

    I don’t understand this obsession with equality. How about we focus on equal opportunity? That is what will make a society prosper.

  10. Murphy says:

    When more than 50% of Americans do not pay any taxes, that is when enough is enough.