There are a lot of ways to keep your population and especially your large underclass under control and relatively docile. Some of these methods are quite effective and some are not. When the Government bares its teeth and uses force to keep its population down, this is usually the sign of overall weakness in the Government's effort to placate the population and an additional sign that the whole edifice may soon come tumbling down. Far better it is to sell the illusion that all is well, and to follow that illusion up with the items that mean most to the people which are food and entertainment, also known as "bread and circuses".
The United States has a massive welfare class in which according to townhall.com, "a new report from the Census Bureau showed a total of 108,592,000 people were on some sort of means-tested government benefits program in the fourth quarter of 2011, yet only 101,716,000 people were employed full-time for the entire year." It is fortunate that the United States is known as the breadbasket of the world so that food here is not only just plentiful, it's relatively cheap, widely available and competently distributed, and access to this cheap food is readily given to all Americans as almost a given right. Fortunately too, America is known as the preeminent entertainment center of the world, in which its products are easily available, at a price-point that is either quite affordable or basically free, and that these diversions can also be up-scaled for consumers with a little bit of extra cash on them.
The formula for America works so well that even when there are protests against the Wall Street and the money-elite such as "Occupy Wall Street", the protestors are only able to gain traction for a very short period of time, despite the fact that this country is clearly divided between an absolute money-elite, a middle-class that is being squeezed and marginalized, and an underclass that is big and growing. The reason that the poor and underprivileged are still satisfied within America is because they are very well fed, so well in fact that obesity is nearly an epidemic in America, and they too have ready access to all sorts of entertainment and games through their TVs, their cell-phones, and other electronic items that connect to the internet.
Countries like Egypt and Greece get it so wrong, because when you don't properly feed your population or keep the price of food within reason you will get unease, grumbling, and riots. Additionally, when you create a welfare state but over-promise your population and under-achieve with them, such as in Greece, you will get blowback of the highest order in return. Whether the United States will disintegrate into these types of conditions remains to be seen, but should it come to that it will get very, very ugly.
Rome, once the greatest empire ever known, eventually succumbed to its enemies because its' love of bread and circuses, sapped the virtue and desire of its citizens to apply themselves, and instead replaced this with indolence, hoarding, corruption, and trade deficits. Our future is both uncertain and hardly secure, for when those that have their hands out are greater in number than those that through their efforts and diligence are able to create the handouts, you have a problem of increasing significance, and our edifice of bread and circuses will begin to crack, crumble, and eventually to fall.