Are We A Country Of Moochers?

Invictus, a frequent contributor to Barry Ritholtz’ blog had a post up that dissected some stats about how many people are receiving some form of government assistance. In referencing a news story he pointed out that there are 108 million receiving some form of help, they may be working or not, but receiving something. The 108 million is slightly higher than the number of people working and getting no assistance.

Invictus then goes on to tackle the idea that we have become a country of moochers.

Of interest to me is the plight of fast food workers cited in the the post who simply do not earn enough to stay above the poverty line. This is something we have addressed before in terms of people taking on second jobs to make ends meet.

Part of the equation here is income inequality which I believe is a huge negative for society (this is the liberal side of my brain). The country has been able to wriggle out of the consequences from other seemingly terrible economic dilemmas so no one should be surprised if we wriggle out of this one but I think this is a serious threat.

The conservative side of my brain however tells me that front line fast food jobs aren’t intended to be careers are they? My younger sister started working at a chain when she was very young making minimum wage or close to it and was able to move into managing a store. She did not make a lot of money from this but she made career level money that was well above poverty line levels which when combined with her husband’s income was decent–not wealthy but decent.

I do not have all the answers of course but there are jobs that simply were never intended to become long term careers. Doing something for four or five years at minimum wage as a stepping stone would be considered paying your dues not having a career.

Not having the answers is about not knowing how to reconcile the fact that some folks have no interest in putting in the extra effort to make themselves more marketable (to their current employers or other employers) in an effort to improve their lot in life (assuming a minimum wage worker).

Invictus concludes that the GOP can’t have it both ways in terms of not raising the minimum wage and reducing/eliminating assistance programs. The flip side of that is when forced, people will take steps to work more when their assistance is taken from them. For some people that would absolutely be true but sadly and inconceivable to me most would not.

This really is a dilemma.


  1. Hi Roger, nice post. Parallel to observing that so many people are living off government largess are the questions about how much of the non-government ways to make a living might also be undeserved. About 18% of the GNP is health care in the US, versus around 11% in Switzerland. I read that the financial sector profits are nearing a third of all corporate profits, and finance is over 8% of GDP. So, top-down, there seem to be lots of things out of whack in our economy. But knowing these things doesn’t help in choosing the backup plan for a job to supplement income in retirement, your other question.

  2. Many live off the government because they can. The disutility of labor, plus media that glorifies drug and gang culture, plus a general lack of discipline and personal responsibility

  3. Wonder what percentage of the “108 million receiving some form of help” votes and which party they vote for? The party receiving the majority (and we all know which party receives the vast majority) of those votes has an incentive to make that number go higher and negative incentive to reduce it.

  4. There are always unintended consequences. Sure, we want to help the down and out….but perhaps “families” receiving food stamps (not current term)should not even be having children. Somehow these people “think” it is their right to have children (sometimes many)and the government supports this rationale…to the detriment of everyone.

  5. Although I recognize that increasing numbers of assisted persons may indicate a problem in the economy, I do not like use of a term like “moochers.” This is one of those words that generates images, emotions, etc. — like St. Ronald’s “welfare queens.” Verbally assaulting the people who either legitimately rely on some benefit or who illegitimately claim it really doesn’t address the real problems, although it obviously has a feel good result.My assumption is that the vast majority on assistance need it and qualify for it. The problem is not them, it is the economy and the way financial reward is allocated within it. Any problems with “moochers” is a problem with administration and quality control of assistance programs. God, I hate using that word!–Jim L.


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