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.
  • We’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 people’s dependence on the government, while wrongly claiming it would cost too much to deal with the problem.