Why We Need Newspapers

Heaven help us if newspapers ever stop being the dominant source of newsgathering in America. Exhibit A: The New York Times in today’s (Sunday) edition ran a fascinating piece, complete with charts and graphs, on the gap between the public’s perception of the government safety net and the reality. A majority of those polled, for instance, believe that they will not receive in benefits as much as they paid in taxes. It’s hard for me to see how, with a multi-trillion dollar deficit, people can think they are being shortchanged, but that’s the perception. In fact, tax collections fall short of payouts, and as the deficit grows, federal, state and local programs continue to pay out more than they take in. People were mistaken about where the money goes, too, with a plurality of those polled thinking that programs for the poor like Medicaid and food stamps make up the bulk of the deficit, when Social Security and Medicare make up the lion’s share. This mistaken notion, of course, feeds the Tea Party paranoia that their taxes go to pay for programs for those who somehow don’t deserve them–namely the poor and minorities–as opposed to those who are entitled to them–namely the Tea Party folks–who somehow believe that they are paying more than their fair share to support the freeloaders. All of this feeds the growing contempt for government among the middle class, even as it relies more and more on government programs to survive. As the story points out, the poor are actually receiving a smaller and smaller share of benefits as the middle class becomes more and more dependent on government for support. I don’t think you’ll see this story, in this much depth, on Fox News or CNN.

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