Working Papers

“Keep Government Out of My Medicare”

The Elusive Search for Popular Support of Taxes and Social Spending

The financial crisis and attendant job losses, as well as the aging of the population, have intensified pressure on social insurance, work supports, and other government benefits that spread risk and supplement the imperfect income security provided by wages. Reliance on these programs extends well beyond the poor, and in recent years has spread further into higher income groups. Despite the broad reach of what is often referred to as the “social safety net,” Americans continue to have conflicted and contradictory attitudes about the relationship between tax burdens and social welfare benefits. In a front-page New York Times article on February 11, 2012, Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff chronicled a series of interviews with people-sometimes-anguished-who spoke out against taxes and government spending and wanted to reduce the role of government in their own lives, and yet acknowledged they depended significantly on public pension, disability, or medical benefits to meet their basic needs.