Recovery? Half of American Households Living on Government Benefits

Kate Hicks

5/26/2012 12:43:00 PM - Kate Hicks

Some astoundingly grim news on the "economic recovery" front: half of American households are receiving government funds to support themselves. No matter which way you slice it, this number isn't good news for the Obama administration -- they can spin the jobs numbers by ignoring the number of people who dropped out of the workforce, but this statistic is pretty straightforward.

The 49.1% of the population in a household that gets benefits is up from 30% in the early 1980s and 44.4% as recently as the third quarter of 2008.

The increase in recent years is likely due in large part to the lingering effects of the recession. As of early 2011, 15% of people lived in a household that received food stamps, 26% had someone enrolled in Medicaid and 2% had a member receiving unemployment benefits. Families doubling up to save money or pool expenses also is likely leading to more multigenerational households. But even without the effects of the recession, there would be a larger reliance on government.

The Census data show that 16% of the population lives in a household where at least one member receives Social Security and 15% receive or live with someone who gets Medicare. There is likely a lot of overlap, since Social Security and Medicare tend to go hand in hand, but those percentages also are likely to increase as the Baby Boom generation ages.

It seems that Newt Gingrich's nickname for President Obama rings true: he really is the "food stamp president." More people than ever are relying on the state to support their families, and that's a major indictment on Obama's first term.

Furthermore, this puts even more pressure on the economic aspect of the presidential election. There's no way to cut the deficit until fewer people are on the government payroll -- unless, of course, Congress imposes massive (and sure to be massively unpopular) tax hikes.

Really, if this is the direction we're headed, how many people want to keep going "forward?"