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Nearly half of all U.S. households receiving government assistance

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 6th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It was a discouraging sign of the current U.S. economic slowdown. According to the 2010 Census, nearly half of all American households are reliant on some form of government assistance. According to 2010 data, 48.5 percent of the population lived in a household that received some type of government benefit. Those numbers have risen even higher since the middle of the recession when 44.4 percent lived households receiving benefits in the third quarter of 2008. The current figure is an all-time high.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The number of households relying on assistance is partially due to the deep recession and meager recovery. The high numbers are also due to the expansion of government programs over the years.

Means-tested programs, which are intended to help the needy accounted for the largest share of recipients last year. Some 34.2 percent of Americans lived in a household that received benefits such as food stamps, subsidized housing, cash welfare or Medicaid, which is the federal-state health care program for the poor.

Another 14.5 percent lived in homes where someone was on Medicare, which is the health care program for the elderly. Nearly 16 percent lived in households receiving Social Security.

High unemployment coupled the increased need on government programs has also shrunk the nation's share of taxpayers. Some 46.4 percent of households will pay no federal income tax this year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That's up from 39.9 percent in 2007, the year the recession began.

Most of those households are still hit by payroll taxes. Only 18.1 percent of households pay neither payroll nor federal income taxes, typically the nation's elderly and poorest families.

These figures have been a cause of alarm among some policymakers and presidential hopefuls.

Political figures wishing to tackle the nation's budget deficit have scrutinized benefits programs. President Barack Obama and members of Congress considered changes to Social Security and Medicare as part of a grand bargain, which ultimately fell apart to raise the debt ceiling earlier this year.

Republican presidential hopefuls have latched onto the fact that nearly half of households pay no federal income tax, saying too many Americans aren't paying their fair share.

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