In a democracy, elected officials of the government create programs for the general welfare of the population. To pay for these programs, the government taxes individuals and firms. In this way, the government redistributes income from those it taxes to those who receive goods and services.
Two significant Federal Government programs are Social Security and Medicare. Social Security provides for the needs of the elderly and disabled and is primarily funded through a tax on wages. Medicare is a Federal Government insurance program that covers the health care needs of the elderly. These two programs, in combination, have greatly reduced the level of poverty among elderly Americans.
The government also spends significant resources on areas like military and agricultural subsidies. Groups of individuals and firms can join together to create a special interest and lobby the government for tax breaks or special spending. Every year when the federal budget is passed, careful choices must be made in allocating scarce resources to various government programs.