Washington Post - "The Submerged State in One Graph"

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johnkarls
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Washington Post - "The Submerged State in One Graph"

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The Washington Post –


Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 02/11/2011
The submerged state in one graph
By Ezra Klein
"The submerged state" is Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler's term for the slew of government policies that most Americans don't know exist or don't realize are government policies. As part of her paper -- gated, sadly -- exploring how these invisible programs affect the politics of social policy, she designed a study asking people first whether they'd ever used a government program and then later whether they had ever taken advantage of 19 specific programs. The percentage of people who didn't think they used government programs and then admitted using government programs is shockingly large. This graph tells the tale. For each program, it shows the percentage of people who said they used it but had originally said they hadn't used any government programs:

[Unfortunately, the graph wouldn't copy, so you need to click here to view it -
RL-y512-WashingtonPostReSubmergedState.doc
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Of course, it's not as if these folks really don't know they're taking advantage of these programs. Try eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, or the tax break for employer-sponsored coverage, and you'll find that out real fast. But Americans tend to distinguish between benefits they feel they've earned -- Social Security, say -- and benefits they consider giveaways. It's not a very useful distinction, but it's a convenient, and thus a powerful, one. We have a vast welfare state for the middle and upper classes, but the politics of it are entirely different.
For instance: Among the more mind-blowing facts about the health-care system is that the tax break we give to employer-provided insurance dwarfs the cost of the entire Affordable Care Act -- and, if you want to take the concept a bit further, this means those of us who don't get insurance from our employers are being forced, even mandated, to pay for those of us who are. But this break is largely uncontroversial in American politics, while subsidies to help people who can't afford health insurance are extremely controversial.
By Ezra Klein | February 11, 2011; 12:37 PM ET
Categories: Charts and Graphs, Political Science

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