Reconstruction of Mettler, Our Hidden Government Benefits

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Here's my premise-list and paragraph reconstruction of the Mettler article:

Premise List reconstruction

Main Argument

P1: If you're unaware of the benefits you receive from government, you can't form good critical opinions about the size of government.

P2: People are unaware of the benefits they receive from government.

GC: Public discourse about the size and role of government would improve from increased awareness of the benefits we receive from government.


P2 of the main argument is also an IC:

P1: There is evidence that people are unaware of their use of government benefits. (summarize)

IC: People are unaware of the benefits they receive from government.


The author also offers an explanation of the evidence. Our unawareness of government benefits is explained by the fact that they are invisible or submerged in the tax code.

Paragraph Form Reconstruction

In "Our Hidden Government Benefits," Suzanne Mettler argues for the general conclusion that political discussion of the size of government would improve if people were more aware of the benefits they receive from government. Her main argument is that if you're not aware of the benefits you receive from government, you can't form good critical opinions about the size or role of government. She also claims that people aren't aware of benefits received. She supports the second premise of this deductive argument with evidence that people systematically under-report their reliance on government benefits and that this phenomenon varies with political belief. She provides an explanation for this bias by suggesting that government benefits are invisible to us, because we interact with a private company to receive them, or because they are submerged in the tax code.


Sample of student work

Sample 1

The author of this article, Suzanne Mettler, argues that the threat to democracy today is not the size of government but rather the hidden form that so much of its growth has taken.The first part of her argument supports the first part of her conclusion. She cites statistics showing that over half of the participants in the poll were unaware of using government programs and denied it altogether. She argues that Americans fail to see how government programs actually helps them. In general she argues that their opinion of government would be different if they weren't so unaware of it's involvement.

Another set of arguments is directed at her second part of her conclusion -- that if those who assume government has never helped them could see how it has, it might help diffuse our polarized political climate and reinvigorate informed citizenship. Mettler explains many forms of invisible government and how people are unaware it's government related comparing it to the visible forms which people are completely aware of. She believes that political leaders should reveal government benefits for what they are by talking openly about them and that the government should provide "receipts" that inform people of the size of each benefit they get through the new W-2 tax code. Mettler thinks that by alerting citizens of the available government programs they'll be more receptive to government involvement viewing their help as positive in their lives. For that reason she recommends talking openly about available benefits for citizens.

Sample 2

In “Our Hidden Government Benefits”, Suzanna Mettler argues to support the conclusion that democracy is threatened by the invisible form that government has taken to the people with two main reasons. Mettler emphasizes the first reason that democracy is threatened through the fact that even though statistically a large portion of the population receives benefits from programs such as Social Security, Medicare, or student loans, many of them do not see the government as the source of assistance. She explains the public’s lack of awareness to where the assistance is coming from through description of the submerged state that focuses on the market’s role instead of the government’s role. The explanation is further supported with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s own perspective of why Social Security should be understood as an earned right and making the public’s denial seem acceptable instead of neglecting pressing issues of current national politics. However, the public’s blind views to the government’s role in these programs keep citizens from having the ability to speak meaningfully and form opinions on the programs. The second reason that builds off a citizen’s lack of awareness to the government’s function in public assistance programs, is that in a democracy each citizen must be able to speak openly and knowledgably about these subjects to create a good environment for citizenship and a place where political views do not alter their perceptions. These current errors in the view of government involvement and our population’s knowledge of the government actions, threaten the ideals of democracy. Mettler concludes that democracy would not be threatened, if government involvement was not so invisible to the people and if citizens were more aware to the government’s roles in programs that assist them so they can form educated and fair opinions of their government.

Sample 3

The conclusion that Suzanne Mettler comes to at the end of the article is that many people complain that our government is too big, and say they want fewer services. However, the majority of those people don’t realize that they have probably used one of the governments programs at some point in their life. One rationale that the author gives as an explanation for why many American’s fail to recognize government’s role in society is that a lot of what the government does is not seen by people. In a sub-explanation the author tells us that government programs that are most well known are those that you hear about frequently and must qualify for, such as “food stamps, disability payments, and subsidized housing.” Because a lot of people don’t use these programs, they don’t realize that there are other things our government does that they benefit from. Another rationale that Mettler gives is the argument that people’s political views can have an effect on their perception. According to a study people who are more liberal are more likely to acknowledge using a government program then someone who is really conservative. Mettler presents many rationales throughout her article to support her conclusion, and these are just two of them. These premises supports her conclusion that the problem with our government isn’t the size of it but the fact that many people don’t see the benefits they have received.

Sample 4

After reading the article Our hidden Government Benefits, I came to find three important argumentative rationales. The first two rationales are in support of the last conclusion. The first rationale has the conclusion that "Americans often fail to recognize government's role in society, even if they have experienced it in their own lives." This is supported by the two premises "that 94 percent of those who had denied using programs had benefited from at least one; the average respondent had used four", and "Institute found that when people were asked whether they had ever used a government social program, 57 percent said they had not." The second rationale has the conclusion that "Until political leaders reveal government benefits from what they are by talking openly about them, we cannot have an honest discussion about spending, taxes or deficits." This is supported by the two premises that "even personal encounters with the submerged state fail to make most people recognize that they have benefited from government" and the policies that people can see and are knowledgeable about, are the ones that involve interacting often with higher authority to receive benefits. For example, disability payments, subsidized housing, etc. The final rationale consists of the last two conclusions being as premises for the main conclusion. The main conclusion is "the threat of democracy today is not the size of government but rather the hidden form that so much of its growth has taken". This is supported by the premises that the political leaders need to be heard and speak up or else we the people cannot have open discussion about the deficits, taxes etc, and the fact that we Americans tend to not pay attention to what the government is doing for us even if we are using their programs to better ourselves.

Sample 5

The article Our Hidden Government Benefits is argumentative with three different rationales. The first conclusion is that “Americans often fail to recognize government’s role in society, even if they have experienced it in their own lives. That is because so much of what government does today is largely invisible.” Two premises support this conclusion. The first premise is that after a poll in 2008 conducted by Cornell it was found that when people were asked whether they has ever used a government social program about 43% of people said that they had. The second premise in support of this conclusion is that 94% of people who said they had not used any of these government programs had in fact benefited from at least one but just did not know it. The second conclusion that was gained from this article is that, “Until political leaders reveal government benefits for what they are by talking openly about them, we cannot have an honest discussion about spending, taxes or deficits.” Likewise there are two premises in support of this conclusion, number one being that the government policies that are visible to the people require frequent interaction with public officials for things such as food stamps and very few people benefit from such visible policies. The last premise is that even people who personally encounter the submerged state fail to see that they have benefited from government policies. The conclusions of these two rationales now come together as the premises to our final conclusion, “The threat to democracy today is not the size of government but rather the hidden form that so much of its growth has taken. If those who assume government has never helped them could see how it has, it might help defuse our polarized political climate and reinvigorate informed citizenship.”