As USA Today reports, the proportion of Americans who find themselves relying on government assistance to get by these days has grown to historic levels. More than 50 million Americans (an astounding one out of every six Americans) are now enrolled in government anti-poverty programs--that up at least 17% since the economic recession began in December 2007.
President Obama's stimulus package also welcomed more people onto government assistance at the beginning last year. With Congress' help, unemployment benefits have been extended on eight different occasions--from 26 weeks to the current 99-week entitlement.
But perhaps most alarming is that these latest figures do not include the estimated 16 million additional Americans who will be added to the public assistance rolls in 2014 as part of ObamaCare's health reform.
And, as usual, there are two sides to every issue:
Conservatives fear expanded safety-net programs won't contract after the economy recovers. "They're much harder to unwind in the long term," says Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Other anti-poverty experts say the record caseloads are a necessary response to economic hardship. "We should be there to support people when the economy can't," says LaDonna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning think tank.