How welfare spending has exploded
Welfare spending has exploded in the last 18 months or so. Sure, some of this can be attributed to the bad economy but according to this post (by Tom Blumer at Pajamas Media), the economy is not the primary reason for the massive increase in welfare spending.
After further research, I’ve learned that welfare-related “entitlement” program enrollment and spending are up in virtually every major federal program. Eligibility rules are looser. Individual and family benefit amounts provided have shot up. Costs are going through the roof. The menu of available benefits continues to expand.
It would be one thing if we had individuals and families starving in the streets by the millions before this wanton expansion began. But of course we didn’t. Welfare rolls were continuing 12 years of decline until about a year ago. Food stamp enrollment was growing, but in current context not by much. In August 2007, about a year before the floodgates opened, Robert Rector described the status of those deemed as being “in poverty” in the U.S. as follows:
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.
The food stamp program (SNAP) is the poster child for this phenomenon. The loosening of eligibility requirements has played a major part in the explosion of benefits. As of February of this year almost 40 million people are enrolled in SNAP. (report here)
Not that proving eligibility is particularly important. The Daily Caller carried a story in mid-February entitled “Record numbers receive food stamps as USDA turns blind eye to recipients’ finances.” It quoted a letter from SNAP Associate Administrator Jessica Shahin to the program’s regional administrators, telling them that “applicants will not need to provide documentation verifying their resources.” This makes food stamps the no-doc loans — er, make that grants — of the entitlement world.
Beyond that, there’s a built-in rules dodge that from all appearances is a recent “innovation” of the federal bureaucracy. Known as “categorical eligibility” (again, per the Daily Caller, supported by the letter from Ms. Shahin) it specifies that “anybody who receives other federal aid, such as Medicaid, automatically qualifies for food stamps in most states.”
Other factors have also contributed to the rise in program costs. The trifecta of waste, fraud, and abuse, common to all government programs, is rampant in SNAP as well.
More than a few recipients realize, especially considering the myriad other government bennies they are already receiving (and I can cite a specific personally relayed example of this), that their food stamp allotment is far higher than what they really spend on food each month. So they let relatives or friends share in the redistributed wealth. There’s also rampant fraud and abuse that the government never seems to be able to stop, to the point that one has to wonder if it really wants to stop it.
It should not surprise anyone that SNAP program costs rose 45% from $37.7 billion in fiscal 2008 to $53.6 billion in fiscal 2009. Costs are now running in excess of $5 billion a month and are on track to reach at least $63 billion by fiscal year-end.
This is not about helping the poor. It is about increasing government control over people by making them dependent on government. With tax revenues on the decline, the increases in entitlement spending are putting us further into the debt hole.
Remember this in November.