Government Spending and Deficits
We have decided to take an in depth look at several spending programs maintained by our federal government. We will try to provide you with the data needed for this inexhaustible spending; moreover, we want to assist people in making correct voting decisions.
Most discussion of government spending and deficits assumes that the federal budget consists of four principal parts: entitlements (meaning Social Security and Medicare), defense, non-defense discretionary spending, and interest. This perspective is misleading because it ignores the hidden welfare state: a massive complex of 79 federal means-tested anti-poverty 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. When I originally saw that there were 79 additional programs to literally guide and/or assist the primary welfare state organizations I just about vomited.
The piecemeal, fragmented character of the hidden welfare system makes rational policy-making and discussion impossible. Sound policies to aid the poor must be developed holistically, with decision makers and the public fully aware of the magnitude of overall spending.
Means-tested welfare spending or aid to the poor consists of government programs that provide assistance deliberately and exclusively to poor and lower-income people.
By contrast, non-welfare programs provide benefits and services for the general population. For example, food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are means-tested aid programs that provide benefits only to poor and lower-income persons. On the other hand, Social Security, Medicare, police protection, and public education are not means-tested; they provide services and benefits to persons at all income levels.
Means-tested programs are anti-poverty programs: they are intended to increase the living standards or improve the capacity for self-support among the poor and near-poor. Unlike many other government programs, means-tested welfare programs do not require a prior fiscal contribution to establish eligibility.
The size of the federal means-tested aid system is particularly large because it is funded not only with federal revenue but also with state funds contributed to federal programs. Ignoring these matching state payments into the federal welfare system results in a serious underestimation of spending on behalf of the poor. Prior to the current recession, one dollar in seven in total federal, state, and local government spending went to means-tested welfare.
The 79 means-tested programs operated by the federal government provide a wide variety of benefits. The federal welfare state includes:
12 programs providing food aid;
12 programs funding social services;
12 educational assistance programs;
11 housing assistance programs;
10 programs providing cash assistance;
9 vocational training programs;
7 medical assistance programs;
3 energy and utility assistance programs; and,
3 child care and child development programs.
For the past two decades, means-tested welfare or aid to the poor has been the fastest growing component of government spending, outstripping the combined growth of Medicare and Social Security spending, as well as the growth in education and defense spending.
Means-tested spending on cash, food, and housing increased more rapidly (196 percent) than Social Security (174 percent). The growth in means-tested medical spending (448 percent) exceeded the growth in Medicare (376 percent). The growth in means-tested aid greatly exceeded the growth in government spending on education (143 percent) and defense (126 percent).
Reading the research from public organizations is quite different than the information coming from the General Accounting Office (GAO) or even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).