More Dollars, More Dependency

President Obama made it clear in last month’s inauguration speech that he would continue to implement his ultra liberal vision. He trumpeted numerous grandiose, colorful lines lacking in substance like, “Progress require[s] us to act.” That sounds nice, and it makes people feel good. But bureaucrat terms like “progress” and “moving forward” usually mean spending more money on government programs. And government spending almost always creates dependency.

In case you haven’t heard, we have over $16 trillion in debt. Adding the most substantial chunk to that debt is welfare spending. Welfare is now the largest federal expense, and it cost taxpayers $1.03 trillion last year.

A temporary and effective safety net to help struggling Americans makes sense. But Washington’s expensive, bloated efforts to help the poor are often counterproductive, and hurt more than they help.

Since Obama became president in 2008, federal welfare spending has increased 41%– yet poverty levels remain unchanged. But the Obama administration continues to increase welfare spending each year, somehow expecting different results.

Welfare handouts make poor people comfortable remaining in poverty. Government gives out electricity, schooling, cell phones, computers, medication, gasoline, serves meals, housing, and almost every other service imaginable. Why pay your own way if Uncle Sam will take care of you?

Many welfare programs have no time limit. One example is public housing, which subsidizes rent for over 2.2 million Americans. Many individuals live in government-funded homes their entire lives. The “projects” may come to mind at the mention of public housing, but rent subsidies are often elaborately masked and integrated into all types of neighborhoods. The Section 8 voucher program hands out up to $2,200 per month to pay for housing in the private sector- $2,200 is quite generous, even in expensive cities like New York City. Public housing tenants are allowed to utilize this government assistance indefinitely, as long as they do not exceed a certain income. If that income is exceeded, the benefit is taken away.

Food stamps, or as the USDA likes to call it, the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)” is another example of an expensive, ballooned, and counterproductive welfare program. Amazingly, one out of seven Americans are now on food stamps, and this number continues to grow. Over 13 million more people rely on the program now than when Obama took office in 2009. As the program grows, so does government dependence. There is also no time limit for most food stamp recipients. Those who have children, are elderly, or are disabled never have a time limit. Over two thirds of SNAP’s recipients fall into this category.

NewKristinTateICONAlong with their subsidized housing, food stamps, fuel and electricity, these recipients can also get their well-ballyhooed “Obama Phone” (also government funded, of course). Their incentive to get off the couch and improve their lot in life is gone. Why hustle to get that job when the Honey Boo Boo marathon is on?

Back to the point: government spending is not the sole answer to poverty. If it were, America would have the lowest poverty rate in the world. Instead of making poverty more comfortable with government handouts, incentives should be created to encourage hard work and self-sufficiently. Welfare programs should also be means tested more aggressively to focus on the truly needy.

Anyone who has taken an intro economics course knows that people respond to incentives. When you subsidize a benefit, there will always be more people seeking out that benefit. Why are Washington bureaucrats oblivious to that?

Kristin Tate | Emerson College | @KristinBTate

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19 Responses

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  1. Ceecee
    Feb 20, 2013 - 04:23 AM

    @ Bianca
    “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Do you honestly think that a business is going favor higher wages over profit? Without a minimum wage law employers will pay the lowest wage possible. Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages demands that wages be kept as low as possible. That when there is a surplus of workers there will always be someone willing to work for the lowest possible wage. These days, by outsourcing jobs overseas and hiring foreign visa workers (who generally work for less) employers can maintain a surplus of workers (unemployment) while keeping wages low. The middle class income has been flat for about 30 years now. Meanwhile, thanks to the Reagan and Bush tax cuts the richest top 10% now control 2/3 of America’s net worth.

    Just because you claim to know several people who are “gaming the system” doesn’t mean you need to take disability/TANIF/SNAP away from everyone. Most people who receive a “government handout” are truly in need. Many people who are disabled do not look disabled. For example, my severely autistic son looks perfectly normal. Without talking to him you might conclude that he is “normal” and not deserving of a “handout”. Maybe you think he should just be allowed to die?

    The inconvenient truth is that without a “handout” the children, disabled, elderly and poor would have no shelter, no food, no health care and no heat. Rather ironic that the richest country in the world refuses to care for its most vulnerable citizens.

    Bianca, I can only conclude that you are one privileged, cold, heartless, selfish, self-absorbed, ignorant b*%#h.

  2. Trilby
    Feb 15, 2013 - 12:13 AM

    Yes, we have $16 trillion in debt. But the American people will soon realize that even though the GOP says they are “fiscally conservative” ad nauseum, it isn’t true.

    Entitlements have grown faster under GOP presidents, and Reagan/Bush were particularly skilled at slashing revenue while racking up huge bills on defense. Paul Ryan voted for an unpaid for war, tax cuts for the rich, and an unpaid expansion of Medicare drug benefits- and he’s supposedly the fiscal hawk of the party.

    The last five GOP presidents have all INCREASED our debt-to-GDP ratio while the last four Democrats have decreased it. The GOP needs to give people a reason to believe they will actually do things differently if are ever again trusted with the White House.

    • Mark
      Feb 15, 2013 - 04:30 PM


      You might want to check your facts. Government revenue GREW under the lowered tax rates of Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, just as they did under the beloved Democrat John F Kennedy when he cut tax rates during the 1960s. The problem is not, and never has been, revenue. The problem is the addiction to government spending by BOTH parties.

      And really, the more important question is: Whose money is it anyway? Mine, who earned it, or the government’s, who confiscated it?

      • Trilby
        Feb 15, 2013 - 10:31 PM

        Mark, you also might want to check your facts.

        According to a recent C.B.O. report, the Bush tax cuts reduced revenue by at least $2.9 trillion below what it otherwise would have been between 2001 and 2011. That is what I was referring to when I said Bush slashed revenues and contributed to our enormous deficit.

        The GOP when in power decided to spend big on not only defense spending and entitlements, but also by cutting future revenue and successfully turned a projected surplus into deficit.

        Oh it’s your money that you earned unassisted? You didn’t use any public goods to earn that money? You didn’t need the courts to enforce contracts should they be violated, or police to protect you or your earnings, or the FDA to make sure your food wasn’t toxic, or drive on any public roads? You didn’t use the internet to earn money? If that’s all true, then I certainly agree it’s your money and you owe nothing back to society to fund public goods that the rest of us depend on.

    • Bianca Colt
      Feb 15, 2013 - 07:00 PM

      Many of the Republicans have become big spenders. But Democrats have taken spending to a whole new catastrophic level. This is why I’ve become a Libertarian. Btw, Bill Clinton was a HUGE spender in 93-94. He became a fiscal conservative when Newt Gingrich and the Republicans swept the House. But I give credit to Clinton for compromising with Republicans. Obama, however, has made it clear that he will NEVER compromise on his enormous spending agenda.

      • Trilby
        Feb 15, 2013 - 10:43 PM

        Bianca, I respectfully disagree. The GOP have been big spenders since Nixon, with Reagan and George W. Bush being the worst. Democrats have been much more responsible. Clinton primarily balanced the budget by cutting military spending (the post-cold war peace dividend) which the GOP objected to and raising certain taxes back to reasonable levels. He also emphasized cutting wasteful gov’t spending. We saw deficits go away, rising peace and prosperity, but then the Supreme Court handed Bush the election. He promptly spent all the surplus on tax cuts for the rich and a bloated military budget.

        Obama is trying to recreate the common sense and successful approach taken by the Clinton years, while the GOP is still sticking to Bush’s idea of crazy military spending and big tax cuts. Obama wants a balanced approach and the GOP wants to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, and the disabled (slashing Medicaid).

        Obama has tried again and again to compromise, driving his base crazy, because the GOP have said (and proven) that their #1 priority is for him to fail, and therefore, almost any compromise with him will never happen. Why do you think the GOP supporters of individual mandates, cap and trade, and the DREAM Act all abandoned their positions when Obama said he agreed with them?

      • Ceecee
        Feb 17, 2013 - 03:07 AM

        Have to agree with Trilby. The esteemed Saint Ronald Reagan, raised the debt limit 18 times, tripled the national debt and raised taxes 11 times. George W Bush was the great stealth spender. G.W. never incorporated the cost of either the Afghan or Iraq wars, or Medicare part D in his budgets (not to mention TARP). Under G.W. and the REPUBLICAN controlled Congress, both the Afghan and Iraq wars were paid for by congressional emergency appropriations (borrowed money). The REPUBLICAN congress raised the national debt limit 7 times without complaint (doubling the national debt) while deregulating the financial markets and cutting taxes for the top 2 percent of earners. We all remember what a disaster that was.

        BTW I am the mother of a son with severe autism. My son requires round the clock care cannot be left alone. He will never be self-supporting and will need someone to care for him the rest of his life. Right now he qualifies for children’s services, but in a few years he will turn 21 and graduate to adult services. Unfortunately, adult services have been cut back to the bone. The transition to adult services will be like walking off a cliff and stepping into an abyss. I fear for my beautiful boy once I am dead and gone. With all these budgets cuts will he end-up living on the streets and foraging in dumpsters for food (like the mentally ill do now)?

        I’m really tired of you know-it-all, rich, white, college kids pontificating about poor people. When was the last time you were broke? When was the last time you had to make a decision between spending money on food or heat or medicine? Never I’ll bet. In my experience, no one who receives a “Government handout” lives well off. Maybe you should climb down out of your ivory tower and try making it on a “government handout.” It’s not nearly as easy or lucrative as you think. Have you ever heard of the “Working poor?” These are people that work 2 or 3 jobs and still cannot make ends meet. When is this country going to lift its people out of poverty by paying a livable wage?

      • Bianca Colt
        Feb 19, 2013 - 07:19 PM

        When on earth did it become the government’s job to lift people out of poverty by paying them a livable wage? And who determines what a livable wage is? You? Obama? Reid? Lmao. I say make that minimum wage $50 an hour. That’ll cure poverty overnight. (Rolling eyes…)

        BTW, Ceecee, I know SEVERAL people who abuse government handouts. They are perfectly able-bodied Americans who used to work, but choose not to now because they live a comfortable life on disability… All they had to do was find a doctor who would diagnose them with depression, then it’s full-time television and video games. My ex’s 2nd wife laughs at the system and has all 4 of her kids on disability too. Those kids have no work ethic, they watch TV all day, and they’re all obese. The government has done them a LOT of god!!!

  3. Bianca Colt
    Feb 14, 2013 - 03:13 AM

    Government, as usual, is trying to be all things to all people. Super write-up, Ms Tate.

  4. Gavin
    Feb 13, 2013 - 03:40 PM

    I do not completely disagree with you, but think about how many poor people would turn to crime to feed themselves and their families if we took away certain benefits. We as a country would then have to pay for more police to control them, more for jailing them, and more to fix the neighborhoods/business or whatever gets hurt by them committing these crimes. I obviously have no data to show approximately how much that would be..but I bet it’s close to what we have to pay for them to get some free food and housing. With that said, I completely agree that we should focus on weeding out the abusers and saving the money for people that really do need it.

  5. Tuzi
    Feb 13, 2013 - 04:42 AM

    I consider myself middle of the road but our system is like a failing business that is measured on direct benefits administered vs outcomes. There are real stories of success like Alanna’s, but there are also many second generation dependents that make no effort to get off the system.

    The truth of the matter is that if you work for minimum wage and have others to support, you can eventually qualify for SNAP, Section 8 and don’t forget about EITC which is a benefit that many Americans aren’t aware of. add that all up and you don’t need a government phone, you can buy an iPhone!

    One rarely addressed issue is that if you make a low earning income and collect on all these, you may not be motivated to do better.

  6. Tammy
    Feb 13, 2013 - 03:49 AM

    I agree with most of what you have stated here. However, please do not lump people who get aid into one “Honey Boo Boo” loving category. I get SNAP,Fuel Assistance and I work full time, attend college full time and I am raising four children. I am in this situation because of a violent act that ended my marriage suddenly and unexpectedly a month after losing a well paying job due to town politics. I did not ask to be shoved into this situation and I work hard every day to get out of it. Not all people who get aid are losers or sitting on the couch watching Honey Boo Boo, who by the way is a disgrace!

  7. Ken Davidson
    Feb 13, 2013 - 03:49 AM

    Great article. It’s sad that only 20 years ago, there was a terrible stigma associated with all this government welfare. Today, Americans have no shame, and the entire welfare system has become an enormous JOKE! A collapse is coming…

  8. Steve T
    Feb 13, 2013 - 03:23 AM

    Alanna, you are the exception to the rule. I am a landlord in NH, and I have rented to many Section 8 tenants, all single mothers with kids. Every one has had a bigger television than I do, one had a Cadillac and 2 snowmobiles, and every one had a plethora of video game consoles and remarkable collections of video games. They play the game of being a victim, they have ZERO incentive to go to work, and they are all perfectly capable of working. But as Kristin says, why should they? These tenants drive me crazy, but I rent to them because I know that I’ll always get my rent check from Uncle Sam. Yup, I take advantage of government pork, too. Do ya blame me???

  9. Alanna Spero
    Feb 12, 2013 - 09:34 PM

    I’m a social liberal, and I’m not informed enough about financial matters to committ one way or the other, but I do have an important voice to speak on the comment above me….be careful with judgements like “single parent home” because not only is it horrible judgemental/incorrect, it also wont win favor with people like me who read this post with an open mind and wanting to learn someone’s opinion. I’m the product of a single parent home and survivor of abuse, and my mother had section 8, welfare, food stamps, the whole 9 yards….and three kids. Now, I say had because she went back to law school at age 46 and became a successful attorney. Her three kids, from that single parent home are 1. A hovercraft engineer for the fed. Gov, 2. (Me) a law school student and full time state employee, and 3. A financial advisor at state st. Bank. None of us have ever been unmotivated or lazy. Sure, SO many people abuse the system. But think before u typecast them all into one category or home situation.

  10. Chris Rushlau
    Feb 12, 2013 - 05:33 PM

    Racism speaks for itself, but it has nothing to say except “Shut up!” That’s why racism always fails. Look at Israel. Boston is a good city to study racism in.

  11. Jack Penland
    Feb 12, 2013 - 01:51 PM

    Kristin, you are correct in your assessment. As long as you make dependency comfortable and (God help us!), respectable, it will continue, and quite frankly, grow. This is what Liberals depend on, the inertia of most people.
    I honestly think that the fault, and hence the answer, lies in people themselves. When you are a product of a single parent home and have spent your formative years being inculcated into a Liberal ideology by a largely indifferent educational society, you have scant incentive. Underachievment becomes the norm, since you have that safety net of big government to catch you if you fall. My state of Georgia, last year alone, spent over a billion dollars on illegal aliens. We call it “Wetback Welfare.” This does not include US Citizens, many of whom are perfectly capable of working but don’t. As long as you have an ignorant, apathetic electorate, you will have this problem. I do not worry that I insult these people, none of them are likely to read this, as it has nothing to do with celebrities, or “American Idol.”

    • Kevin
      Feb 17, 2013 - 02:08 PM

      Great reply; I couldn’t agree more.



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