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I came across this article (on a Washington Post blog) about how most Americans who benefit from government programs don't think they receive anything from the government.

The article talks about how this is because many government programs for median and higher income people are disguised as tax breaks or things that "just happen," so you can receive your social security or Medicare or home mortgage tax credit without ever thinking about where it comes from, in contrast to the programs for the poor, where you have to jump through hoops and fill out forms and grovel to get a grudging handout. Hence the 60 percent of home mortgage holders who don't think they're getting a government handout, as well as the 40-45 percent of retirees who seem to think that Medicare and Social Security are not government programs.

But that explanation doesn't exactly explain how 25 percent of those living in public housing or receiving food stamps could claim to not be getting anything from the federal government.

What the article leaves out, I think, is that the US government never does any PR for itself.

In Canada, if something is paid for by the government, then you can be damn sure that somewhere on the billboard or subway poster or letter in the mail telling you about it, there will be a little "government of Canada" logo that lets you know that this thing, whatever it is, was made possible, at least in part, by the Canadian federal government.

Things that in the US are labeled as being from/provided by/paid for by HUD or FDA or some other government agency are, more often than not, up here labeled as being from "The Government of Canada." And when things are labeled as being from a specific government department up here (for instance, public health ads from Health Canada), the logo used by the agency on the letter or ad will have a similar iconography and font as the Government of Canada logo, emphasising that all these various things (Health Canada, Revenue Canada, etc) are part of the Government of Canada. Contrast this to the plethora of departmental logos and seals used by various US government agencies on their announcements, which don't have very much in common with each other.

So in short, when a level of government up here spends money, it lets its citizens know about it, and it does so most often as a monolithic entity -- "Paid for by the Government of Canada" rather than as one of many sub parts -- "Paid for by HUD" or "Paid for by the CDC."

Explaining all the reasons why the US government is reluctant to let its citizens know when something is happening due to government money could take up a book, but it boils down, probably, to the long history of anti-government sentiment down there, and to two impulses arising from that long history -- fear on the part of liberals that if the government lets people know it's doing something, they will get mad and demand that the government stop that immediately, and desire on the part of conservatives to make the government as hated and feared as possible so they can continue to strangle it for the short term benefit of the rich and corporations without anyone objecting.

[ETA] TL,DR version: In Canada, the federal government is a brand, and the government spends time and advertising dollars making sure that people are aware of that brand and what it does. In the US, the exact opposite is the case.

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