The True Nature of America’s Welfare State

The New York Review of Books has an excellent article on poverty in America. It was written by a Princeton sociology professor. The subtitle is “The American government gives the most help to those who need it least. This is the true nature of our welfare state”. Here’s a summary:

  • The federal government did a great job reducing poverty during the pandemic. Child poverty was cut in half. But that assistance was mainly temporary.
  • The usual critics complained that the extra financial assistance made people not want to work.
  • Weโ€™ve been trained since the earliest days of capitalism to see the poor as idle and unmotivated.
  • Most welfare recipients are white and don’t live in big cities.
  • Researchers have concluded that welfare doesn’t create dependency so much as it helps deal with temporary misfortune.
  • The biggest beneficiaries of federal aid are the affluent who take advantage of tax breaks, not the poor or unemployed. Tax breaks amount to twice the military budget.
  • We have chosen to subsidize affluence rather than alleviate poverty. We make up stories about poor peopleโ€™s dependence on the government, while wrongly claiming it would cost too much to deal with the problem.