An interest with no lobbying group: Welfare Recipients

by on Feb.10, 2013, under politics, society

Since I became aware of politics, I’ve seen resentment whipped up towards people collecting welfare, characterizations of them as lazy, and word of mouth anecdotes to “support” the idea that welfare is a need created by laziness. Whether these anecdotes are any more real than Lemonjello and Orangejello is beside the point, or at least my point. Also besides the point are the hundred reasons why this program exists.

I want to talk about something specific: the scapegoating of welfare and the people who receive it. The reality is that people in this position are desperate, struggling to survive, and humiliated by the situation. I think the people resenting them are not only demonstrating a lack of empathy – they are showing a lack of understanding.

Here are some facts about TANF, the cash benefit program that most people are thinking of when they say “welfare”:

– Less than 5 million people (under 2% of the country) receive a cash benefit
– More than three out of four of these recipients are children.  (
– For a family of three, the maximum benefit in Ohio is $434/month. This is generous, compared to say, Arizona, which pays $278/month.
– None of these are ever inflation adjusted. Tennessee has been paying the same $185/month to a family of three since 1996.
– The cost of TANF had declined significantly since 1996. (

Total cost of TANF in 2011: 33.6 billion, which a little less than half (about 16) coming from the Federal government.

Some things that cost lots more:

– $673 billion this year on defense
– $405 billion/year to subsidize home ownership (
– $150 billion in subsidies to finance, utilities, telecom, and oil/gas (
– Separately, each of these tax breaks: Forgiveness of capital gains tax at death, deducting local and state taxes, ( …and…deducting our charitable contributions – or using the the tax law to subsidize our charitable giving.

So, is it a good investment to use .05% of the federal budget on this? Worth discussing, but everything’s worth discussing.  What is more likely, that one dollar in 20 of defense spending is wasted, or that we are too generous with our poorest?

Yes, the budget deficit and the debt are a problem. The barriers to solving them are the refusal to discuss revenue, social security, and defense. Poor kids are not the issue.

Is there any better reason for this scapegoating besides lack of a lobby and crypto-racism?

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