According to a new report to Congress, a record 72.6 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid for at least a month in 2012. That's just shy of one-in-four of the 314.3 million total population as reported by the Census Bureau.
Other reports indicate that 47.3 million – 15% of the population – are on food stamps. In 2012 alone, food stamps usage increased 15%. While those statistics cause some to raise their eyebrows, progressives argue that food assistance programs are still woefully inadequate with "50 million food insecure households" still in need in America, or so says the International Human Rights Clinic of the NYU Law School. If true, that would be more than 42% of all households in America according to Census Bureau data.
Another 8.8 million Americans receive Social Security Disability Insurance payments. That number has doubled since 1995 and continues to soar. Medicaid and SNAP (the food stamp program) tend to be used temporarily, but once begun disability payments are typically permanent.
To be sure, changing demographics and the prolonged economic recession explain some of the increased utilization of some of these programs. But, when added to the stubbornly high numbers of people on unemployment benefits, the looming explosion of social security beneficiaries from the baby boomer generation, and the plethora of other government programs – well, at least the question has to be asked.