Myth v. Fact: Is America becoming a nation of takers?

By Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI

Myth 1:   Few nonseniors receive government benefits.

Fact: Although almost all families with seniors use government benefits, over a third of families without any seniors were on at least one government benefit program — even before the Great Recession. Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic (Templeton Press, 2012), 33.


Myth 2: Because of means testing, welfare transfers help only the truly needy.

Fact: In 2010, over 34 percent of American households received means-tested benefits — households which included nearly half of America’s children. Yet the poverty rate was only 15.1 percent.  Source: Eberstadt, 128; Census data.

Myth 3: The number of families receiving government benefits has been largely stable over time.

Fact: In 1983, fewer than 30 percent of households received one or more government benefits. By 2011, this number had skyrocketed to 49 percent. Source: Eberstadt, 31-32.

Myth 4: Democrats are the party of entitlements. Republicans have tried to pare down spending.

Fact: The growth in entitlement spending is a bipartisan phenomenon. In fact, for the last half-century, entitlement spending has grown faster under Republican presidents than under Democratic presidents. Source: Eberstadt, 23.

Myth 5: Transfers are just a small part of what the government does.

Fact: From 1940 to 1960, entitlement transfers accounted for under a third of federal spending. Today over two-thirds of federal spending goes to entitlements. In 2010 alone, governments at all levels oversaw a transfer of $2.2 trillion — three times as much as all military and defense spending that same year. Source: Eberstadt, 10.

This exerts from  the news book by Nicholas Eberstadt Is America becoming a nation of takers? appeared on AEI website.

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