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Monday, February 13, 2012

S.F. Not the Welfare State of Conservative Nightmares, New York Times Finds

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 4:10 PM

Maybe not
  • Maybe not

San Francisco is a favorite punching bag of right-wing provocateurs who decry it as a West Coast bastion of European-style socialism. (Whatever that might be.) Sadly, even some of our city's local journalists buy into the pat image of San Francisco as a cautionary tale of the excesses of expansive government, joining the likes of Bill O'Reilly, who famously dispatched a reporter here to determine what America might look like in the dark night of the Obama administration.

Good journalism tends to demolish facile ideas, and the A-1 story in yesterday's New York Times was very good journalism indeed. A Times investigation revealed that the parts of the country most inclined to despise and decry government benefits are the same areas that are most dependent on the government teat. It's a fascinating finding that's ripe for political and psychological analysis. But in the meantime, here's what concerns us: San Francisco, it turns out, dishes out comparatively less money in government aid when set side-by-side with many other counties.

San Francisco County distributes $7,270 in government aid per capita, the Times found, and such aid constituted 10.24 percent of all county income. To put that dollar figure in perspective, it's more than Marin County (at $6,414) but less than San Joaquin County (at $7,346) and less than the amount spent by over a dozen counties in the socialist paradise known as South Carolina.

Of course, the picture isn't all that simple. Great personal wealth is concentrated in San Francisco, accounting in part for its overall independence of government aid. But the numbers still indicate that SF is not the craven entitlement society many of its lazier critics allege.

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Peter Jamison


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