What's the Government For?

Photograph by Peter Hapak for TIME

These days, pretty much no one argues in favor of Big Government. It was Bill Clinton who announced in 1996 that "the era of Big Government is over." But while public trust in government keeps declining, reliance on government continues to grow. Americans may not like Big Government, but they sure like their Medicare and Social Security and mortgage-interest deduction.

Michael Grunwald's cover story brings this idea alive as he charts how much his life--and ours--is subsidized by government. It's not something most of us think about every day as we use publicly financed roads and electricity and communications technology--but if...

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