The so-called "Great Recession" has left Americans depending on the government dole like never before. Without record levels of welfare, unemployment and other government benefits as well as tax cuts last year, the income of US households would have plunged by an astonishing $723bn — more than four times the record $167bn drop reported last month by the Commerce Department. Moreover, for the first time since the Great Depression, Americans took more aid from the government than they paid in taxes.