Is the U.S. Welfare System Broken?


Is the welfare system necessary? The answer is unquestionably still yes. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t broken, and based on where the majority of government aid is going, it very well might be. The first important thing to recognize about the collection of U.S. aid programs is how much they’ve grown, and the second is that this money is not going to the most needy individuals or groups. The growth in size isn’t inherently a point against the effectiveness of welfare programs, nor does it negate their necessity. It merely highlights just how much money and budgetary strain these programs account for, and how important it is that funds are allocated properly. The increase itself is simply an acknowledgement of the greater difficulties in today’s economy.

Welfare programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, subsidized housing, school lunch, Head Start, and the WIC program, grew by 89 percent between 1986 and 2007 (adjusted for population), based on a new report from Robert Moffitt, economist at Johns Hopkins University, according to The Washington Post.


Even more important is what happened during and after 2007 though, when the recession began to economically hobble more and more people. According to a report from the United States Senate Budget Committee’s nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the total amount spent by the more than eighty federal welfare programs totaled approximately $1.03 trillion, and the federal portion of that expenditure increased by 32 percent compared to federal spending on welfare in 2008. That’s more than Social Security, Medicare, or defense. Looking at just the ten largest programs, the report found that the programs have doubled their demand on the U.S. budget over the last thirty years. And glancing back at tax time in April, we saw that 9.8 percent of U.S. tax dollars go to unemployment and labor, according to The National Priorities Project. But in what way is this aid distributed, and how has that changed over the years? Let’s take a look.