hart 1 gives us a 35-year picture of the growth in federal transfer programs targeted at these middle-income households and compares those trends to the total amount of federal taxes they paid. In 1979, these households paid an average of $10,500 in federal taxes (in 2013 dollars), while the government directed an average of $4,700 in transfer benefits toward them. (Transfers include programs such as Social Security, unemployment benefits, Food Stamps, school lunch programs, as well as the cash value of healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.) At the end of Carter administration, middle-income families paid roughly $2 in taxes for every $1 in federal benefits they received.
As Chart 1 shows, for nearly twenty years, the tax burden on middle-income families remained fairly stable but the amount of transfer programs aimed at them grew considerably. As a result, by 2000, the average amount of transfer programs benefiting the middle-class equaled the average amount of taxes they paid; $10,400 in benefits compared to $10,900 in taxes paid. Since then, the gap between the amount of taxes paid by middle-income families and the amount of transfer benefits spent on their behalf has grown considerably.