Welfare and Food Stamps are easy to see – but hidden tax breaks, mortgage deductions, and business subsidies cost taxpayers much more and skew social benefits toward the affluent. Submerged social programs leave citizens in the dark, and make it hard to hold politicians accountable.
A related brief by Christopher Howard, College of William and Mary, explains how tax expenditures work and who benefits.
Another pertinent brief by Andrea Campbell and Kimberly Morgan considers how political visibility and accountability are affected by delegated governance, that is the indirect delivery of many federal social benefits through nonprofits, businesses, and state and local governments.
Cartoonist Barry Deutsch captures the paradox of citizens who do not see the many ways they are helped by government: