Why does welfare cost so much?


Welfare is about one-third of our Federal Budget.

1.3 trillion dollars a year, every year. Paid mostly to people who refuse to work.

OK. That hurt someone’s feelings. So, let me soften that statement.

Money paid to encourage people not to work.

The problem is simple.

The country cannot afford to pay 1.4 trillion dollars over ten years for wars against our enemy. So, how do they think we can suddenly afford to pay almost that much each and every year? About 1.3 trillion dollars each year on welfare spending.

I know Robert will ask me for my sources when he reads this.

And yes, I have already blogged on the numbers.

Here are some old blogs: First, Second, Third, and Last.

The wealthy will NOT pay off the debt our politicians gave us.

But, we could control our runaway spending if we just rolled back welfare costs to realistic levels.

Don’t you think?


Another article.

And 60 Billion in SSI payments.

Medicaid 270 Billion.

Two more to add:


Cato is including fewer programs as welfare, maybe not counting Medicaid?


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14 Responses to Why does welfare cost so much?

  1. I agree. A happy medium between ultra-libertarian sparseness and progressive nanny-statism could be found if the government could achieve a level of spending around 19-20% of GDP, as soon as possible. That is within our country’s tax capacity to support, without tanking the economy (as you explained in “Tax the 1%!” (Here is a recent article I wrote, saying essentially the same thing.) Sure it would take awhile to gradually pay down the debt, but drastic cuts are a political impossibility when every impacted special interest group squeals like a pig to the media whenever their trough is threatened. Politicians are so beholden to the media to be favorable to them during re-elections that very few of them will do the realistically smart thing and get our national “household” on a sustainable budget.

    Keep up the excellent truth-telling.

    – Jeff

  2. I have found debating with you futile and was going to stop, but since you called me out here, I feel I have to respond. You still don’t understand how to source your claims (I’ll admit that I’m in college at the moment writing essays, so sourcing is something I pay a lot of attention to). Let me try one last time (and I mean last). When you give a source, it can’t be yourself. Obviously you agree with yourself, I’d be surprised if you didn’t. Sources have to be independent.

    Secondly the blog posts you linked to didn’t have any sources verifying their main claims. So in essence you plucked numbers out of the air and linked to it and called it a source. That is not a source.

    You claim that people are paid not to work or encouraged not to work. None of your sources provide any evidence to support this claim.

    Perhaps it would be easier if I showed you an example of sourcing. Here is an essay I wrote examing if welfare really does discourage people from getting a job. Note how I include a bibliography and references. I don’t expect a standard blog post to look like this, but this should give you an idea of what sourcing looks like. Pay particular attention to the fact that whenever I make a claim that could be disputed, I give a reference.


    There is also the fact that unemployment benefits comprise a small proportion of the overall welfare bill so it is not true to say that all welfare is spent on discouraging people to work as you call it. Welfare also goes to children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled etc, most of whom cannot work.

    • PS, I am getting over being really sick. Slept 18 hours this last night. And I allowed you many comments on your blog. I hope most of my comments were nice.

      I will get back to this comment soon. But, like you told one of your commentators, I won’t reply to everything.


    • Robert,

      I will write this quickly, sorry I did not have time to write it better.

      I promised a response, and then got sicker. Life.

      First, there are generally accepted principles in every area of study. Claiming that I need to prove generally accepted facts and implications is a fallacious appeal to a non-existent authority.

      Can you tell I have done the logic track?

      All data has implications. Some implications are valid, some prove to not be valid. But, an implication does not need ‘verification’ by a secondary source.

      Take the clouds outside today. Yes, they look like rain. And the implication is that there will be rain ….

      Do you demand the weather man to provide a source? I thought not.

      Paying someone when they are not working would imply that you are encouraging that person not to work. I do not need a source for that implication.

      It is a realistic implication, if you want to take exception to that statement, show why.

      Personal opinion does not need verification. It is opinion.

      As for the benefits of welfare programs, the programs do benefit those not working. However, who will pay for that debt?

      Debt benefits bankers – the true welfare recipient. Debt does not benefit the tax payer, or the welfare recipient.

      And debt actually COSTS the welfare recipient, because you have to pay the interest with tax money you would have used to provide services to the welfare recipients.


      Did I do better, or do you still need more?


  3. How was I to know I called out a world renowned economist?

    First, congratulations upon your prize. Your paper was an interesting read.

    Second, who is Azizgolu? Were you referring to Bert M. Azizoglu?



  4. Thank you Robert for the lesson. Thank you Ghost for you diplomacy. Glad you are feeling better. I am off to bed.

  5. I think one way to deal with welfare is to make the government the employer of last resort. Start by paying family members willing to stay at home to care for those needing 24/7 care. Parents caring for pre-schoolers; children caring for aging parents, siblings caring for less abled brothers and sisters, spouses caring for less abled spouses. Pay them the equivalence to what home health aides are paid for a ten hour shift, five days a week. Apply a means test.

    Draft all able body 18 year olds for a two year Work Corps projects before college. Means test would not be applied. Youth would be required to live away from family, budgeting own money, living in youth hostel type situations and expected to do work assigned for minimum wage. Jobs would be those considered “menial” by many of today’s youth. Examples: nurses aides, dishwashers, landscaping grunts, dishwashers, janitors, child care workers so on and so forth.

    All wages would be minimum, taxed; insurance benefits and retirement benefits expected.

    Don’t have an idea of what this would cost. Think much of the qualifying for family members caring for the less abled could be handled cheaper, but not sure. The Work Corps could probably be handled by the DOE with schools, community colleges and corporations wanting cheap labor and receiving grants.

    Would love some feedback from the more educated research oriented people posting here.

    • Katherine,

      You have some great ideas!

      131,571,428,571.429 per year for your youth program ….

      The idea of paying people to take care of family, sounds to me like they should be taking care of family without being paid ….

      Don’t you think?

      Isn’t a big problem with welfare that people are not taking care of their families and they think we should let the government take care of them for us?


    • It’s odd that you start off by saying you think the government should be the employer of last resort. But then everything you suggested was going to be paid for by the government…so I guess you really meant that the government should be the employer of first, middle, and last resort (?). And by the way, the “government” doesn’t really pay for anything…it’s you and me and Ghost and every other taxpayer that actually pays for it. Except that the path of the tax dollars between our wallets on April 15th and the mailboxes of all those recipients of welfare assistance travels the long route through Washington D.C. where much of it gets syphoned off to pay the salaries and pensions of all the bureaucrats that are hired to run all these centrally-planned programs. If those needy people are in your neighborhood or town, wouldn’t a local charity be a more cost-efficient way to help them and NOT help the bloated government leaches in D.C. ?

      I have a better idea for “means testing.” Shouldn’t a fertile couple logically have to think about their own “means test” BEFORE they have that glass of wine, put on that romantic music, and start mixing little sperms with little eggs? Isn’t that called self-responsibility? Why in the world should us taxpayers pay THEM to raise their little ones? And BTW, welfare already does that…have you noticed that poor women actually get pregnant out of wedlock intentionally, in order to get a fatter welfare check? That’s what Ghost meant when he said welfare is “Money paid to encourage people not to work.” Watch this:

      The best way to learn to start doing your own economic analysis is to remember that incentives matter a great deal in how they affect human behavior. America will get MORE of whatever it rewards through subsidies (more unwed mothers, more unemployed, more not-really-disabled people, more perfectly-edible corn wasted on making ethanol, etc.). And America will get less of whatever it penalizes through taxation (less hard workers, less hiring by businesses, less entrepreneurs, less investment in banks so they have deposits to loan for buying houses and cars and paying for education, etc.)

      Economist Thomas Sowell once said:
      “I’ve often said there are three questions that would destroy most of the arguments on the left. The first is: ‘Compared to what?’ The second is: ‘At what cost?’ And the third is: ‘What hard evidence do you have?’ Now there are very few ideas on the left that can pass all of those…”

      Any hugely complicated master plan to solve societal “problems” is a bad idea. We don’t need more centrally-planned programs to “run” the country. We need less of them.

      – Jeff

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