In both Canada and the United States, middle-income families feel neglected by policymakers but struggle to balance their financial need and desire for government support on the one hand with neoliberal beliefs in self-reliance and self-responsibility on the other. The focus of this paper is on the tensions experienced by middle-income participants in both countries as they try to negotiate a place for themselves amid these competing discourses. Specifically, this paper analyzes participants’ struggle to juxtapose their place in the ‘shrinking' or ‘forgotten' middle class, against their desire to be ‘good' citizens who take responsibility for themselves and their families. This analysis plays out against the backdrop of different socio-political environments and in the context of the 2007–2009 global recession which exacerbated the already increasing pressure on the middle class. It is argued that these contexts have shaped how participants in each country feel about the government support they require, deserve, and reject.