This point cannot be made enough times. Not just ‘welfare recipients’, we are all benefiting from state support. And the sooner we come to understand that the sooner we stop hating people who, in our mind, represent any kind of dependency to us.
From The Economist:
Pooling risk in this way is arguably the most important function of the modern welfare state, which began to emerge in America in the 1930s in response to the Great Depression. In times of crisis, social insurance functions as a kind of disaster relief. Private insurers have neither deep enough pockets nor the administrative apparatus to insure the population as a whole against disruptions on this scale. And while it’s easy to say our neighbours should be responsible for themselves, it’s hard on society when a large number of citizens fall sick or lose their jobs. Keeping the general population healthy and able to provide for itself is clearly a public good in the sense that it increases productivity, lowers crime, and so on.
But Americans have a poor understanding of how this core business works, and how they benefit. Instead of thinking about entitlement programmes as insurance against economic hardship, they think of them as a kind of charity that goes to other people. They are quick to scold others for taking “handouts”, unaware that they are stretching out their own hands. In 2008 a Cornell Survey Research Institute poll found that 57% of Americans said that they had never used a “government social program”. But when those respondents were asked about specific programmes—like Social Security, unemployment insurance, student loans and the home-mortgage interest deduction—94% had used at least one. On average, in fact, they had used four different social programmes over the course of their lifetimes. A more recent Census Bureau survey found that nearly half of Americans received direct benefits in 2011.