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Social services are a safety net that society pays for through taxpayer funds. Governments often look to these programs when a budget isn’t balancing as a way to create some spending space. 

When you cut funds to social services provided by the government, then the money saved can go elsewhere. It may even be useful in shoring up a budget deficit. The result often places at-risk families and individuals in harm’s way because they don’t receive the same help that they did before.

Shouldn’t People Be Able to Pay Their Own Way?

The idea of capitalism is that one either puts up their talents and skills to pay their own way, or they get left behind by society.

What most people don’t realize is that the vast majority of people who receive social services have already paid to receive them.

In the United States, 55% of the money that gets paid out to individuals through social services goes to eldercare needs. That includes programs like Medicare and Social Security. Another 8% goes to active-duty military personnel and veterans, while 5% goes to unemployment insurance.

That means only $0.29 out of every $1 in social services funding goes toward low-income target programs. 

It also shows that most of the money that goes to the average American is something that they’ve already paid for during their lifetime.

Contributions to Social Services Is on the Rise

Although the focus is on making cuts to social services as a way to balance budgets, the contributions to these programs are up significantly over the past 50 years.

Payments into American social insurance programs represented 37% of all federal receipts in 2011, totaling $807 billion annually. In 1981, this figure represented 31% of revenues, and it was only 17% of them in 1961.

When the figures get adjusted for inflation, taxpayers are contributing eight times more money today to social services than they were in the past. That’s why it is challenging to prove that lots of people are trying to live off of the government or that non-disabled adults aren’t trying to work.

Social services provided by the government are a lot like nutritional products from brands like Cardiovascular Research, Kal, or Zhou Nutrition. It’s an affordable way to make life better.

Out of the $0.29 that goes to low-income programs, most of the benefits offered are not paid in cash. Medicaid, food programs, tax breaks, and housing come together to make up 90% of the spending in this area.

That means direct cash assistance represents just $0.029 of every $1 – and that is the figure that most people want to cut.

It may be time to look at other areas of government spending to see if there are ways to balance a budget.

Scott Larson