Data: Welfare As We Know It


If you add together the money the federal government spends on health care, housing, food, and income support for the poor, the total constitutes more than 16 percent of the budget. When George W. Bush became president in 2001, the figure was 15.3 percent—and the budget itself has grown considerably since then as well.

When the conservative Heritage Foundation reported these facts in a February 2006 paper, it was arguing against what it called "the tired old myth that Republicans were cutting spending for the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich." The more striking point, though, is that this president is so free with the public purse that even anti-poverty programs—arguably the least popular form of spending within his party—have gotten more money on his watch.

Even more notable: Ten years after Bill Clinton allegedly ended "welfare as we know it," the feds are spending more than ever before on the welfare state. The reform Clinton signed arrested the growth of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children), but other subsidies have more than made up the difference. According to a March analysis in USA Today, enrollment in anti-poverty programs increased an average of 17 percent from 2000 to 2005. During the same period, the U.S. population grew by just 5 percent.

Graph (not available online): Percentage of Federal Spending Devoted to Poverty Programs (Heritage Foundation)