The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life 评价人数不足
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When the reporters interviewed low-income residents of Chicago County in Minnesota, many interviewees said they were angry. Why? Because the government was wasting money and giving it to people who didn’t deserve it. Even though these were many of the same people who were actually getting the money through programs such as Medicare, Social Security, and free school lunches for their children.
What is the real problem for the residents of Chicago? Americans have the idea that government benefits are only for the poor and the lazy.
In the self-portrait that America paints, society is perceived as fair and just, and a failure to make it on your own is shameful, but in reality the cards are stacked against the poor and the middle class. The result is a system everyone hates.
A lot of money is spent supporting the middle class, but the stigma associated with that support makes it hard to appreciate, or even acknowledge, what’s being provided. Instead people understandably resent the system and the support, because society makes you feel ashamed about it. The only way out is to vote against it, even though that ends up being a vote against policies that have actually been helping the person who’s casting the vote.
To make matters worse, Americans have perfected the questionable art of “the submerged state”, making government policies invisible by administering them through private companies, or through the tax code, instead of just sending recipients government checks. In reality tax deductions, credits, and exemptions are government support for specific groups of people, in the form of tax dollars not collected, just as cash benefits are. However, many people don’t perceive or acknowledge that reality, and wrongly assume that they’re not benefiting from the government at all, even when they are. Taxes in America are extraordinarily and unusually complicated, and very few people are capable of truly understanding them and grasping how much each break has helped them in real dollars.
These perception problems are exacerbated by the fact that people tend to consider taxes as money taken from them, and tax breaks as a rightful, if inadequate, correction of the situation. Cash benefits, by contrast, are seen as money received. There is no difference in reality, but the difference in perception is enormous. consider an example from Finland: When the Finnish government sends every single Finnish family in the country a payment of more than a hundred dollars every month for each child, the families are clearly aware of the support they are receiving. But when the US offers families with children the Earned Income Tax Credit—if they qualify—or the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, many recipients fail to understand that they are receiving a direct cash benefit from the government.
This sort of misunderstanding is pervasive in America. In a study Suzanne Mettler asked 1,400 Americans whether they had used a government social program. 57% said they had not. Then she asked if they had used one of 21 specific federal policies, including child-care tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, employer-sponsored and thus tax0exempted health insurance, Medicare, Social Security, unemployment insurance, mortgage-interest deductions, and student loans. It turned out that 96% percent of those who had denied using government programs had in fact used at least one, and the average responder had used four. This clear disconnect between Americans’ perceptions of who benefits from government programs and the reality makes it easier to keep demonising the “welfare state”.
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