(Illustration of small white girl in pigtails running. This is Sue.)
See Sue run.
See Sue run to public school.
(Illustration of Sue running towards brick building.)
Go, Sue, go!
See Sue’s Daddy tkae a child-care tax credit.
(Illustation of Sue’s Daddy in foreground filling out some forms while Sue plays with toys on the floor in the background.)
Maybe Daddy will use it to buy Sue more toys!
See Sue use federal student loans to attend college.
(Illustration of Sue, now a teenager in a cap and gown, receiving a high school diploma.)
Good going, Sue!
See Sue lower her taxes with the lifetime learning credit.
(Illustration of Sue putting an envelope into a mailbox. This cartoon is certainly action-packed, isn’t it?)
See Sue get a job.
(Illustration of sue wearing goggles and sawing a piece of wood that’s clamped to two sawhorses.)
See the employer tax exclusion make Sue’s health care cheaper.
See Sue buy a home.
(Illustration of a small house.)
Sue can afford it because of the mortgage deduction!
See Sue have a baby.
(Illustration of a baby’s pacifier.)
See Sue take the child-tax credit.
See Sue save for her kid’s college education with a tax-free education savings account.
(Illustration of Sue, now a bit older, filling out forms.)
Good planning Sue!
See Sue retire.
(Illustration of Sue, now older with white hair, at a retirement party — there are balloons and cake and a man has his arm around her shoulders.)
Now Sue will collect Social Security!
See Sue get sick.
(Illustration of Sue in a patient’s gown at a doctor’s office, being spoken to by someone holding a clipboard.)
Good thing Sue has Medicare!
See Sue join the Tea Party.
(Illustration of Sue, wearing a blazer, angrily speaking.)
SUE: I’ve never taken a cent from the government!
I largely based the above cartoon on this table:
|Percentage of Program Beneficiaries Who Report They “Have Not Used a Government Social Program”|
|Program||“No, Have Not Used a Government Social Program”|
|529 or Coverdell||64.3|
|Home Mortgage Interest Deduction||60.0|
|Hope or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit||59.6|
|Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit||51.7|
|Earned Income Tax Credit||47.1|
|Social Security—Retirement & Survivors||44.1|
|Veterans Benefits (other than G.I. Bill)||41.7|
|Social Security Disability||28.7|
|Supplemental Security Income||28.2|
|Government Subsidized Housing||27.4|
|Source: Suzanne Mettler, “Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenge of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era,” Perspectives on Politics (September 2010): 809. (pdf link)|
From The Baseline Scenario:
Mettler distinguishes between visible federal programs, such as Pell Grants and Social Security, which are administered by government agencies and therefore are more recognizable as government programs, and submerged programs such as the mortgage interest deduction or 529 accounts. She found that the more visible programs a person uses, “the more likely he or she was to agree that government had helped in times of need.” Benefiting from submerged programs, however, had no impact on people’s perception that the government had helped them—even in the case of things like HOPE or Lifetime Learning tax credits, which help people pay for eduction. In fact, “the greater the number of tax breaks an individual had benefited from, the more likely he or she was to disagree that government had provided opportunities for an improved standard of living” (pp. 41–43, emphasis added). (This is after controlling for socio-economic characteristics.)
In short, the way our government currently distributes goodies makes it possible for people to think that they are paragons of individual self-reliance while still being enormous beneficiaries of other people’s tax dollars. That explains a lot about politics today.
I’m contemplating changing the wording of the final panel. Right now, it seems too much like a slam on the Tea Party, whereas what I really want to criticize is broader than just the Tea Party.
UPDATE: Alternative ending.