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Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I'm going to have to take serious issue with the $6.6 trillion supposedly spent on programs for the poor

Having spent most of my life under an elected Republican president -- GW Bush excepted -- I have acquired a tool when discussing poltics, i.e., investigate "facts" presented as hard and fast truths. We are so used to assuming the truth is being told that Bush could piss on our shoe, look us in the eye and tell us it's raining. And, we'd buy an umbrella!

We are so used to arguing with this group of neocons about context that we forget to insist on facts. Worst of all, the media have no inclination to call a lie a lie.

My friend, CB, and many conservatives suggest that $6.6 trillion has been spent on programs for the poor. That figure was bandied about after the Katrina disaster. Before I get on with the rant, I have to ask this about the conservative mentality -do you expect poverty to just go away? 'No, thanks, we're tired of being poor; we're going to crack open those IRAs, now.' My impression is that you're doing some kind of Affirmative Action countdown and by 2019 people better not need welfare. Is welfare some special case? I mean, We've spent trillions on the military - but we still have wars; we've spent billions on law enforcement - but we still have crime; we've spent billions on medicine - but still have disease.

OK, back to the $6.6 trillion; I addressed that number as if it were gospel in my recent post. But I stuck a mental note on the refrigerator door of my mind reminding me to do my own check of that figure for its accuracy. I don't have the most current figures because I found a great site whose numbers I wanted to cite and it was from the mid-90s. And, I am not trying to suggest that NO money was spent on the poor. I'm sure it was a very large sum, but $6.6 trillion seemed hyperbolic to me. And, with my cursory check of the internet; I'm going to say it is.

Assuming that "welfare for the poor" strictly describes AFDC, WIC and other types of government aid, it's not possible to have paid that much out. $6.6 trillion would mean an average state and federal outlay of $165 billion a year for welfare for the 40 years since 1965.

Quick math trick. AFDC, WIC, food stamps and other more direct welfare programs have averaged about 1% of the total state and federal budgets over that period -- meaning average state and federal budgets of $16 TRILLION for each year. That's not even remotely close to possible in the last 40 years of U.S. governmental budgets

To even achieve an outlay of $165 billion a year in social programs (state and federal) one has to expand the definition of "welfare" to make this figure larger, which includes middle class programs such as Medicaid and student loans.

In 1992 (sorry for the old figures, but you'll see why in a second), AFDC formed only 1 percent of the combined federal and state budgets. Food stamps also took up 1 percent. Both programs cost $24.9 billion each, comprising 1 percent each of the combined federal, state and local budget of $2.5 trillion (see why I say an average of $16 trillion isn't possible?)

I am going to refer to a link to offer a comparison of other government spending: http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-runawaywelfare.htm

"Comparing the size of federal AFDC to other federal programs puts a great deal in perspective:

Federal AFDC Expenditures as Compared to Federal Spending in Other Areas in 1993
(once again, the figures are kind of long in the tooth).

Agency $ billions
Medicaid 76
Medicare 131
Defense 281
Social Security 305

"To rescue their point that welfare is responsible for runaway government spending, conservatives must expand the definition of "welfare" as much as possible. Unfortunately, AFDC and food stamps are by far the largest welfare programs for the poor, and any expanded definition is going to include popular middle class programs like Medicaid, student grants, school lunches, and pensions for needy veterans. In other words, conservatives must villainize the middle class if they wish to villainize the poor. But for the moment, let's give them the benefit of the doubt, and accompany their line of argument to the end:

Many conservatives expand "welfare" to include all one-way transfers of cash, goods or services to persons who make no payment and render no service in return. The Library of Congress provides a list of such programs (Good Reading - jae). In 1992, these expenditures for combined federal, state and local governments came to $289.9 billion, or 12 percent of the combined budget of $2,487 billion.

Keep in mind that this 12 percent includes such popular middle class programs as Medicaid, student grants, school lunches, pensions for needy veterans, etc.

If conservatives are still frustrated that this does not prove their point that government is drowning in welfare, then they might try expanding "welfare" to include all social welfare expenditures, which include every entitlement program under the sun, including Social Security and Medicare. (Forget, for the moment, that the middle class is defending these programs with bazookas and rocket launchers.) In 1992, these expenditures comprised 62 percent of combined government outlays. However, at least at the federal level, these benefits are paid to literally every income bracket, and in a remarkably proportional manner:

Distributions of Federal Funds by Income Bracket, Compared to Distribution
of Households by Income Bracket, CY 1991

Percent of Percent of
Income all households all benefits
Under $10,000 16.4% 17.8%
$10,000 - $20,000 18.8 21.7
$20,000 - $30,000 17.0 17.2
$30,000 - $50,000 23.6 21.8
$50,000 - $100,000 19.1 15.9
Over $100,000 5.1 5.6

As the above chart shows, the conservative's absurdism is now complete; he has declared class war against every member of society. But at least he has proven his point."

> That's not my line; but I might have to steal it ;-)

link | posted by Jae at 11:50 AM |


Blogger Renegade Eye commented at 8:42 PM~  

Brilliant writing.

The numbers are not going to get better. The class war is moving more against "the solid middle class", than ever before. Flight mechanics, auto workers, etc., used to feel free, to buy big homes and cars, etc. Pensions are now a cruel joke.

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