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Superman makes the case for welfare

These days, the term "welfare" has a negative connotation. Nobody uses it to refer to a government program they like. So a bad business subsidy program is "corporate welfare," but Social Security is not "welfare for old people." When Vox's Joseph Stromberg writes that "European, Asian, and Canadian cities treat [mass transit] as a vital public utility" while "American policymakers — and voters — see transit as a social welfare program," he is explaining why transit is bad.

But this 1952 Superman cartoon (via @Mentally_eel) about how Americans should "hop on the welfare wagon" shows that wasn't always the case:

National Comics

The key thing here is that Superman rebuts a skeptical argument about a public works project by saying it is a welfare program. He argues that these programs "help to protect the welfare of the community — and that means your welfare, too!"

A modern-day argument would go in exactly the opposite direction. Superman would talk a lot about "investment," while the skeptic would be calling it welfare. Start with the public hospitals and it's going to be a slippery slope to Obamaphones and people buying lobster with food stamps.

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