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  • Welfare: Tackling the Fastest-Growing Part of Government Spending

    Multiple reports of welfare abuse have hit the headlines in recent weeks, from a million-dollar lottery winner receiving food stamps to a Massachusetts drug dealer attempting to use welfare cash to post bail and an Alabama nightclub advertising a “Food Stamp Friday” party.

    These examples highlight the need to reform a welfare system that is contributing to a culture of entitlement. A crucial element of reform is tackling the ballooning costs of the welfare state, which has become the fastest growing part of government spending.

    In a hearing on Tuesday headed by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI), Heritage senior fellow Robert Rector discussed the major growth in welfare costs and how to get spending under control.

    First, Rector dispelled the myth that the 1996 welfare reforms ended “welfare as we know it.” In fact, he noted, since 1996 the U.S “spends 50 percent more on means-tested cash, food and housing than it did when Bill Clinton entered office on a promise to ‘end welfare as we know it.’”

    The reforms have been significantly watered down over the last several years, and as Rector explained on Tuesday, they touched only one of dozens of federal welfare programs:

    The public is almost totally unaware of the size and scope of government spending on the poor. This is because Congress and the mainstream media always discuss welfare in a fragmented, piecemeal basis. Each of the 79 programs is debated in isolation as if it were the only program affecting the poor. This piecemeal approach to welfare spending perpetuates the myth that spending on the poor is meager and grows little, if at all.

    In reality, welfare programs are costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year. In fiscal year 2011, total welfare costs equaled $927 billion ($717 billion from the federal government and $210 billion from states).

    From a historical perspective, since the War on Poverty began in the 1960s, the government has spent $19.8 trillion (inflation-adjusted) to fund a growing list of welfare programs. As Rector points out, this is nearly three times “the cost of all military wars in U.S. history from the Revolutionary War through the current war in Afghanistan.”

    Yet, despite current annual welfare costs already twice the amount necessary “to lift all Americans out of poverty,” as Rector noted, President Obama plans to increase welfare spending. Welfare costs have already grown by a third since he came to office in 2009. And this isn’t temporary spending due to the recession. President Obama plans to grow welfare such that by 2022 costs will reach $1.56 trillion. Based on President Obama’s plan, in the next decade U.S. taxpayers will fork out roughly $12.7 trillion on welfare.

    To control the burgeoning costs, Rector explained that Congress must put a cap on aggregate welfare spending. Once the current recession ends or by 2013 at the latest, welfare funding should be rolled back to pre-recession levels (adjusted for inflation) and then allowed to grow thereafter only at the rate of inflation. This would save U.S. taxpayers more than $2.7 trillion over 10 years. In addition to the spending cap, Congress should tackle the causes of poverty by promoting self-reliance through work requirements and time limits as well as efforts to strengthen marriage in low-income communities.

    Pouring more federal dollars into welfare is creating a burden on taxpayers and promoting a system of government dependence. Reforming welfare by getting costs under control and promoting personal responsibility is an approach that not only respects American taxpayers but also benefits individuals in need.

    Posted in Culture [slideshow_deploy]

    18 Responses to Welfare: Tackling the Fastest-Growing Part of Government Spending

    1. Rob says:

      Only an fool would attempt a "War On Poverty," as our Savior says, "For ye have the poor with you always."

      Many societies have tried to eliminate poverty. All have failed.

      • Fractalshift says:

        The WAR on poverty, the WAR on drugs, the real WAR is a war on the American Tax Payer who has to bear the costs of all these domestic 'wars', not to forget the costs of the Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan etc…The war on drugs is an abysmal failure, the war on poverty is likewise a failure because we seem to be making MORE AND MORE POOR PEOPLE not fewer of them…

    2. billstanley1 says:

      California offers $18,024 in food stamps per year for a household of 10 if the gross annual income is less than $58,596. http://www.newsandopinions.net

    3. Stirling says:

      This is why the Government should never be in charge of anything except the limited roles dictated in the constitution.. Without limitations government grows until it consumes all wealth and freedom of it's people. Government Welfare does breed dependency plain and simple. The "Morality" of the welfare system is a perversion of persoanal charity, (which is a free choice to give), not a forced choice to give (as government taxes are to pay the cost).

    4. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      This is what Obama wants.

    5. Bobbie says:

      the government in control uses "the war on poverty" to mislead and corrupt. Nobody proves to be more immoral than the government in control.

    6. David Riford says:

      The trouble with welfare is that there is no limit to the program. If you work for a living and loose your job you have 26 weeks to find another one. Where as if you go on welfare say with a child you can stay on it indefinitely and the more kids that you have the more they give you. People who work and pay taxes can't afford to have large families but the ones that a tax payer takes care of can have 8 to ten and more. The tax payer is the one being punished for having a job.

      • Trish Miller says:

        You have your facts wrong. Your statement: "you can stay on welfare with a child indefinitely and the more kids you have the more they give you" is not correct. The federal government limits the time a mother can receive direct monetary payments to 2 years per child. Each state can limit it further. The amount of money is minuscule compared to what is needed to raise a child. Only women without husbands (single parent, unwed) are eligible.
        There aren't welfare programs for married couples. There are programs you may consider welfare such as Medicaid which provides health care for low income families with children. Food stamp programs help feed hungry children in low income families.
        David, if you had accurate facts, your opinions might change accordingly.

        • Tony g says:

          Trish get your facts right. I have lived around these people my whole childhood. They can stay on welfare as long as they want. I seen woman on sec. 8 and foodstamps there whole life. Ive seen it so where do you get your facts from

    7. justice says:

      how much does JP Morgan make annually on welfare programs?

    8. Trish Miller says:

      I read articles written by Heritage staff and research completed by Heritage staff because I believe it is important to learn how conservative right Republicans perceive national issues. I also read articles and research written by progressive staff on more liberal progressive sites. I think it's important to learn multiple perspectives on important national issues. After hearing and analyzing the multiple perspectives, I find that I still must do more research in order to locate key data, information and evidence. Although most perspectives tend to omit important key facts and/or distort them…nowhere is this more evident that in the political domain such as the "right versus the left"; "conservative versus the progressive". Both sides will exaggerate. However, it is conservative side that will discount, distort and change previous research findings to deceptively make them appear to support their position(s). They also distort their findings, misinterpret statistical data and conduct research using research designs that are not valid or reliable. These practices are not only serious violations of research protocol; they contribute to the destruction of the base of accurate knowledge. When civilization's base of knowledge is no longer valid and accurate, our society may lose a century of advancement. Only academicians who have devoted their lives to the advancement of knowledge fully appreciate the gravity of this as well as its full consequences of these practices.
      When writing articles such as this one, authors (Sheffield) often use anecdotes (single incidents) as if they were valid evidence that the reader can generalize to larger sample sizes…they are not generalizable. Authors (Sheffield) often make damaging derogatory statements but do not explain or offer information to support their accusations. Sheffield made statement of what President plans on doing without offering any source (proof) that supports her assertion.
      Sheffield and other conservative writers count on their readers having little education and/or scientific background. Sheffield’s readership does not expect/demand a higher standard.
      As a former university professor…actually one with a neutral stance…no political stance…I resent Heritage taking advantage of the readers of their "think tank". Most of the authors are writing outside of their fields of expertise…meaning they do not have degrees in the field they write about. Most of them do not have the proper academic credentials claimed by this "think tank"…such as a Ph.D.

      • R. Hall says:

        Good for you. Don't give up.Thinking is hard work and I ,for one, appreciate your effort.

      • John says:

        So why is it you don't offer your source (proof) that supports your assertation that the conservative side distorts their findings, misinterpret, ect. etc.? Your rhetoric is just as bad as theirs in my opinion.

    9. Rob says:

      Don't remember getting to vote on this issue…Want my $$$$$ back….

    10. rpoole says:

      It is easy to target the poor when talking welfare costs. Lets take the hundreds of billions of dollars going to %1 of americans (farmers), or the same amount going to fortune 500 companies then we will have plenty to spend on helping those who really need it.

    11. Burgeoning welfare benefits hurt all Americans. They go way beyond giving a helping hand to training up an entire culture dependent upon a handout.

    12. tallman601 says:

      In a paragraph you write "From a historical perspective, since the War on Poverty began in the 1960s, the government has spent $19.8 trillion (inflation-adjusted) to fund a growing list of welfare programs. As Rector points out, this is nearly three times “the cost of all military wars in U.S. history from the Revolutionary War through the current war in Afghanistan.”" Is the military spending also "inflation-adjusted?

    13. Chris says:

      The problem is we, the hard working, American tax payer can not keep up with the government spending programs. If there is no money to fund these programs, there is no money. They should be scaled back. But instead America votes to raise the taxes on the wealthy. This is putting a bandaid on a gusher. There are plenty of jobs in this country! People need to provide for their own families, and quit relying on the government to do it for them. That used to be what made a man, now he relies on a government pay check!

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