Mapping the Safety Net

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New York Times reporter Binyamin Appelbaum talks about his examination of where federal benefits are going that shows more use by the middle class and "red states."

Check out the article and interactive map.

Comments [22]

Jonathan Dowell

Like Jennifer (comment posted on 2/15/12 at 7:29 AM), I was dismayed at Mr. Appelbaum's choice of language. My grandfather, who worked as an industrial chemist for many years, said that the worst thing to happen to America was the Ph.D. I am extending his comment to include anyone who is very smart (as Mr. Applebaum clearly is), and yet manages to purvey information that is as useless as it is wrong. I am a big fan of the Brian Lehrer show, but there is a tendency, unfortunately, to invite these know-it-all nincompoops on the show. For the record, my half-brother is a retired foreign correspondent. So, I am not a person who hates or distrusts journalists (a la Sarah Palin and her ilk). I just think that journalists need to be as careful about interpreting the information they gather as they are about gathering it in the first place. Appelbaum is just too sure of himself for his own (or our) good.

Feb. 15 2012 12:22 PM

Even the so-called Freelancer's Union's, for-profit (THAT'S RIGHT - 4PROFIT!) "insurance™) is unaffordable and ultimately USELESS!!!


Feb. 15 2012 11:28 AM
Robert from NYC

Well then I hope that congressman does take away his benefits! What a jerk. How stupid can some folks be.

Feb. 15 2012 11:27 AM
cmk from Westchester

Let's talk about who provides these benefits. It's not "the government". It's all of us who are paying. Now we can argue that it's the right thing to do. But it's your neighbors who are paying for you. And that "earned" income tax credit just burns me up. It's just wealth redistribution. Government aid? Taking from your neighbor...

Feb. 15 2012 11:24 AM


We are college educated - advanced degrees. Professionals also teaching as adjunct professors at Columbia and MIT graduate departments.

Universities only hire adjunct, these days.

Feb. 15 2012 11:24 AM

why dont you do a show on the REAL COST ($$ US DOLLARS of Health Care!
the montly/yearly costs r extremly high!!
i cant afford it! real choices have to be made between health care vs.... (fill in the blank)
Why r HEALTH CARE costs so HIGH??

Feb. 15 2012 11:23 AM
Tray from Brooklyn

Taking benefits when one is capable is an affront to those who truly, desperately need them. The mean, middle class standard is too high. Too many recipients of unemployment benefits have smart phones.

Feb. 15 2012 11:23 AM

A reporter that doesn't know that the benefits go to the new "former middle-class" who haven't had a wage increase in years, lost one or more jobs in the family, etc.

The NYT has another candidate for the Judith Miller mis-information prize.

Feb. 15 2012 11:22 AM
Valerie Seckler from Manhattan, N.Y.

For more than a year, ending recenlty, I received a federal government benefit that vastly reduced the cost of my health care insurance, following a layoff from my longtime job as a journalist. My COBRA health insurance coverage was slashed by roughly 66%, or several hundred dollars per month.

I am thankful for President Obama's leadership in passage of legislation securing this unemployment benefit and for notification by Wage Works Inc. that I was eligible to receive it. I do not believe my middle-class status should have disqualified me for this health care benefit, following a layoff.

Feb. 15 2012 11:21 AM

Can you explain the qualifications for food stamps?

Feb. 15 2012 11:20 AM
John from Fanwood

My dad needed nursing home care last March, and we were told he might qualify for Medicaid. The fee at the facility was $13,300 per month, and I was sure we couldn’t afford that. I went through my parents records and was shocked to find out they had more than $250K in savings. They were living on small pensions and Social Security. The nursing home advised us to consult an elder law attorney. We got a good attorney who set up a promissory note. I borrowed most of my parent’s money with a complicated pay-back schedule. There’s no look back on promissory notes. Unfortunately my Dad died three days after we filed the Medicaid application.

Feb. 15 2012 11:20 AM
Robert from NYC

Gee, I'm biting my tongue here but I can't any longer. That gentleman who is a 9?11 survivor just really has it wrong. I just don't see how he can say the Rs are the folks who got him the support in the programs he's in. I don't see it.

Feb. 15 2012 11:19 AM

Healthcare is our primary expense and primary concern.

We have one adult not insured and still pay more for "insurance" than we do for RENT!!

AmeriKa™ - an incredible kountry®!!

Feb. 15 2012 11:18 AM

I (we) used to be amongst the affluent middle class - not wealthy but, WELL able to care for ourselves.

Our family of three is RAPIDLY losing ground.

Very soon, if things remain the same or deteriorate further, we will be required to explore "safety-net" options.

Feb. 15 2012 11:15 AM
Shenna from UES

Can your guest speak to the direct benefit of benefits like foodstamps to the economy. Foodstamp money goes right back into the local community. It is extremely helpful.

Feb. 15 2012 11:15 AM
Doug Turner

Why aren't all programs that benefit citizens, on state/local and Federal level, that don't completely pay for themselves included in the "safety net" designation? For example, expenditures for education? Clean air/water? Public safety? Can we clarify the definition? As far as I know, Social Security is paid for by payroll taxes, not general tax revenues, but it is included in the "safety net"?

Feb. 15 2012 11:15 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

I am middle class, making over 40K a year, but my partner is out of work. He got on foodstamps, which enabled us to have far less financial stress than we did previously. In addition, because of those benefits, we get a discounted electrical bill. These factors mean we still have to carefully watch our budget, but were able to focus on getting him back into school rather than just getting by.

Feb. 15 2012 11:14 AM
Robert from NYC

Like Bloomberg this is a very rich man who you DON'T want in any office. We are (you are) a masochistic society and seem to get it wrong most of the time. YOU DO NOT WANT RICH BUSINESSMEN RUNNING GOVERNMENT. Nor do you want politicians similar to the ones we have now who get paid by rich business men to run the government. Fire these scum, read, learn America about the people running for office and make an intelligent choice. If there ain't one, get one or write one in. Don't settle on the best of choices because often there isn't one.

Feb. 15 2012 11:12 AM
helen from manhattan

Is earned income credit really for the middle class? I thought the cutoff is very low for this. $50,000 for a family of 4 is not very much money. I don't think this is a "payment" as your caller says, but more of a tax break on taxes that they already have paid.

Feb. 15 2012 11:10 AM
Tom from oak ridge, nj

Been over 3 years w/o a regular job.
Discovered I can't afford my prior believes/convictions etc.
Slowly but surely being placed by the wayside. Don't even recognize myself from 3 1/2 years ago.

Feb. 15 2012 11:07 AM

What about where federal dollar are spent? Looks like the blue states are subsidizing the red

Feb. 15 2012 09:46 AM

I heard this reporter briefly on the radio while coming home from work last night and was extremely dismayed by his choice of language and his absurd assertion that middle class Americans use "benefits" the most. He cited the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax rebatement available to low-income earners. I believe he referred to this as a "government payment." Tax shelters on the Cayman Islands and loopholes for billionaires making oodles of money off of capital gains are fine, but a low-income earner that gets money back on the taxes he or she paid in is somehow a sponge. Interesting. We Americans have demanded and fought for disability, social security, unemployment insurance, etc., etc. These are not benefits bestowed upon an undeserving population thanks to the largess of wise, wealthy politicians. These programs were designed to deal with poverty and unfortunate circumstances that lead to poverty for so many. Language is key here because there absolutely is an attack on the American worker, whose wages have been stagnant of dropping for three decades. For the record, I say this as someone earning a decent, middle class income and receiving zip from the government, and - and this is key here for New Yorkers who rent - paying at one of the highest tax brackets. (Yes, there's a HUGE difference between the top ten percent and that infinitesimal minority at the top of the top 1%. The rest of us will get screwed, as is already happening, if there is not unity and if we don't reframe the narrative. As for "free" school lunch, I had to fill out a form (we were not eligible, nor would I even accept such a "benefit," given what passes for food in the cafeterias of our nation's schools these days). What I was surprised at, however, when I filled out the waiver, was just how low one's income had to be to be eligible. And is this reporter suggesting that government contracts by agri-business and the processed food industry are not greasing the wheels of capitalism?

Feb. 15 2012 07:29 AM

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