My favorite 'government social program': Keeping some of the money I earn

Most “recipients of government benefits somehow don’t believe they’ve  received any benefits,” according to Catherine Rampell of the New York Times. In a recent blog post, she cites a Bruce Bartlett column and a Cornell poli-sci paper in order to make a favorite liberal argument: most Americans who complain about government just don't realize how much they're benefitting from government.

The top two “government social programs” from which people unwittingly benefit, according to this chart? 529 college savings plans and the tax deduction for mortgage interest. 

Got that?

Bruce Bartlett, Cornell, and the Times' Rampell consider it a “government social program” if the government takes less of your money through force. These aren't even tax credits. These are tax deductions. This seems to reflect the same mindset that allows journalists to equate tax cuts with spending — the unstated belief that all wealth belongs to the state originally.

Tax deductions or credits make up five of the top six “government social programs” from which people benefit while saying they don't benefit from such programs. 

But, of course, this chart doesn't take in the costs. Yes, I benefited from federal subsidies for my college loans, but those subsidies also applied an upward pressure on my tuition.

Rampell and Bartlett have a point, of course. It's striking if 25.4 percent of food stamp recipients say they don't use government social programs. But to argue that tax deductions are “government social programs” is absurd.

And going back to the costs of these programs, let's consider the home mortgage interest deduction. Government, through the deduction, Fannie Mae, FHA, and more, drove up the costs of homes. Then the federal government takes 15%, 25%, or 35% of your marginal dollar, while Maryland takes 4.75 percent and Montgomery County takes 3.2 percent. So, you deduct the interest on your government-inflated house in order to protect some portion of your income from government confiscation, and, GOTCHA!: you're a welfare recipient!

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