J. D. Heyes
November 4, 2013
As I’ve written before, the sum of U.S. government “entitlement” programs are not simply expensive, they are unsustainable. And now, there is evidence that the fastest growing entitlements – those that comprise “welfare” – will soon approach a mind-boggling $1 trillion a year.
Talk about unsustainable; think Detroit on steroids.
A new study by Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee found that, over the past five years, the country has spent a whopping $3.7 trillion on welfare programs. To fully understand the gravity of that, take a peek at this chart, which shows spending on welfare programs versus spending on transportation, education and NASA (click here).
Broad range of programs make them hard to track
As noted in the group’s report:
“We have just concluded the 5th fiscal year since President Obama took office. During those five years, the federal government has spent a total $3.7 trillion on approximately 80 different means-tested poverty and welfare programs. The common feature of means-tested assistance programs is that they are graduated based on a person’s income and, in contrast to programs like Social Security or Medicare, they are a free benefit and not paid into by the recipient.”
Furthermore, the GOP senators said, “The enormous sum spent on means-tested assistance is nearly five times greater than the combined amount spent on NASA, education, and all federal transportation projects over that time. ($3.7 trillion is not even the entire amount spent on federal poverty support, as states contribute more than $200 billion each year to this federal nexus – primarily in the form of free low-income health care.)”
In their report, the senators pointed out that the welfare budget is “fragmented,” and because of that, “effective oversight” is “nearly impossible.” For example, they said, food stamps are only one of 15 federal programs that provide some sort of food assistance.
The broad range of programs also makes it possible to disguise “the scope of the budget from both taxpayers and lawmakers alike. For instance, it is easier for anti-reform lawmakers to oppose food stamp savings by obscuring the fact that a household receiving food stamps is often simultaneously eligible for a myriad of federal aid programs including free cash assistance, subsidized housing, free medical care, free child care, and home energy assistance,” they said.
The report also pointed out that, in other industrialized countries, lawmakers have managed to both curb benefits and reign in programs.
“In the UK,” says the report, “six of the nation’s welfare programs have been consolidated into a single credit and total benefits have been capped at ?26,000 (about $42,100 per family) in an effort to both improve standards and decrease net expenditures. A similar reform concept in the United States – combining welfare spending into a single credit – would still result in a surprisingly large welfare benefit while reducing expenditures and allowing for reforms that encourage self-sufficiency.”
Continuing, the group said that a CATO Institute study “found that an average household in the District of Columbia currently receiving the six largest federal welfare benefits (Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, etc.) receives assistance with a converted cash value of $43,000. In Hawaii, it’s $49,000. Hypothetically, if net benefits from these myriad programs were combined into a single credit and capped at even 95 percent of that very large amount, it would save taxpayers billions while enabling reforms to promote self-sufficiency, reduce the penalty for working, and make the system fairer for taxpayers.”
In recent months, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan entity, said the nation’s budget deficits and debt, which are driven by excessive spending on entitlements, are unsustainable.
Just last month, the CBO warned that, without any changes in policy or law, the national debt would hit 100 percent of annual GDP by 2038.
This article was posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 at 6:07 am