If you haven't read this excellent NY Times story, Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It, yet you should. One section of it, however, just blew me away:
One of the oldest criticisms of democracy is that the people will inevitably drain the treasury by demanding more spending than taxes. The theory is that citizens who get more than they pay for will vote for politicians who promise to increase spending.
But Dean P. Lacy, a professor of political science at Dartmouth College, has identified a twist on that theme in American politics over the last generation. Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.
Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.
This was so mind blowingly counterintuitive, I wrote to the reporter who provided the reference so I (and you) could delve deeper.
Anyone have any ideas as to what could be going on?