Politics, religion, taxes, and social structure: no arguments are as heatedly debated – or deadly – as these. Americans hold deep, passionate beliefs about their nation and how things should be done. You have conservatives , who believe society should function as the Founders intended, and liberals, who believe people and society change and so must the rules that govern them.
While most are moderate thinkers, these two schools of thought dictate most of the world we live in. One of the most passionate debates between the two is welfare. Welfare is a tedious subject. No one wants to deny people the basic necessities they need to live. But how we provide those needs is another story entirely. The following sociology paper is going to explore the issue of welfare and provide insight into where the money actually goes.
One of the crucial elements that cause these arguments to go sour, fast is determining who pays for welfare. Does the government write the check? Of course, but it’s more complex than that. Government agencies receive funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury (Treasury Department). The Treasury Department receives money from taxes, paid by the people and businesses they own. Here is a study on the federal money, taxes, and who pays for taxes.
Where does my tax money go?
First and foremost, taxes are used by the federal government to pay its bills. Americans invest their hard earned money to build a better nation. Most of the money is recirculated back into state and local governments in the form of education, medical, infrastructure, and security . Across the nation, 30 percent of state revenues come from the federal government.
In fiscal year 2015, the federal budget was $3.8 trillion. This is about 21 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is about $12,000 for every U.S. citizen.
Social Security receives a large portion of tax money. In 2015, more than 24 percent of the budget was invested into the Social Security Administration (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?”). The nation’s four medical insurance initiatives – Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the Healthcare Marketplace – received 25 percent of the budget in 2015, or $938 billion.
Defense and international security assistance received the next largest chunk. The security of the nation costs $602 billion, or 16 percent of the annual budget.
Where did welfare get its money?
Using the definition for welfare liberally, the state and federal welfare systems received money in the form of taxes and allocated funds. In 2014, the federal budget spent nearly 28 percent of its budget on healthcare. These funds were allocated for medical insurance initiatives, Medicare, and research. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), two of the primary health welfare programs offered in every state, received 12 percent of those healthcare funds. Many Americans may think the defense budget is the largest consumer of federal resources. The military’s enormous budget is second to American healthcare, especially after the passing of Obamacare.
But “pure” welfare makes up the third largest consumer of federal taxes and resources. The White House lists “jobs and family security” as the third largest segment of the federal budget. In 2014, nearly 20 percent of all federal funds went to fund federal military and civilian employee retirement and disability (5.33%), food and nutrition assistance (4.08%), earned income and child tax credits (3.23%), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (2.19%), housing assistance (1.89%). Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) (0.67%), child care, foster care, and adoption support (0.63%), and railroad retirement and additional income security (0.16%). Of those programs, nearly 10 percent of the 2014 federal budget was used to support welfare programs across the nation.
Doesn’t this mean we’re spending too much or that welfare is bad?
No one can determine whether welfare is good or bad. But there are plenty of misconceptions about the program. The first misconception is understanding the above figures. Just because the federal government allotted more than ten percent of its budget to welfare services doesn’t mean the people actually receive the money. For example, federal charts calculate the cost at $168 per recipient per day. That adds up to more than $5,000 each month. Rest assured, there are no welfare recipients earning $60,000 each year from the public. This cost includes overhead associated with administering the benefits.
“The reality, expressed mathematically, is: Total Spending On “Welfare”/Those who receive benefits = $24.77 per day. That’s a lot less than $168” (Worstall).
This misconception is proven with the allotted resources for food. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps provides an average benefit of $1.50 per meal per person. Accounting for two to three meals per day, that’s $145 per month for groceries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists the moderate grocery cost for a family of as $239 per week and $191 per week for a “thrifty plan. While the government says it costs $764 to $1,100 to feed a family of four, SNAP benefits only allocate $580. That’s $184 to $520 the family must come up with on their own.
Many opponents of welfare say if these families weren’t lazy, they could afford to feed their families and not live in poverty. They don’t believe they need extra – or any – welfare to support their loved ones. This simply isn’t true. This opinion assumes most people on welfare are able-bodied adults who are able to make a living. On the other hand, in 2013 more than 44 percent of SNAP recipients were children and 20 percent were disabled or retired adults living on a fixed income. In other words, in 2013 more than two-thirds of SNAP recipients were not able to work and provide for their needs.
For the other third receiving benefits, each state has strict guidelines regarding those who can, and should, work for a living. Most benefit programs require SNAP recipients to work full-time in order to receive TANF and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits. In other words, very few people receive food stamps or other welfare benefits without putting in the effort or are unable to work.
Welfare started as a minimal program, offered by the federal government to few people. First, under the original Social Security Act, taxes were used to fund retirement and disability programs for those who have worked their entire life and need a helping hand from Uncle Sam. Though it grew into a larger program designed to help more than retired and disabled seniors. welfare is a necessary “evil” for every society, regardless of who pays for it. The program helps reduce the stress on local economies, builds motivation for those who can work, decreases low morale, and shows the nation cares for its citizens.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?” N.p. 4 March 2016. Web. 20 May 2016. http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/policy-basics-where-do-our-federal-tax-dollars-go.
Delaney, Arthur. “Who Gets Food Stamps? White People, Mostly.” The Huffington Post. 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 May 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/28/food-stamp-demographics_n_6771938.html.
Hellmich, Nanci. “Cost of feeding a family of four: $146 to $289 a week.” USA Today. 1 May 2013. Web. 20 May 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/01/grocery-costs-for-family/2104165/.
Johnson, Danica. “7 Lies About Welfare That Many People Believe Are Fact.” Groundswell Stories. 30 March 2015. Web. 20 May 2016. http://groundswell.org/7-lies-about-welfare-that-many-people-believe-are-fact/.
National Priorities Project. “Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go.” Federal Budget 101. N.d. Web. 20 May 2016. https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/.
The White House. “Your 2014 Taxpayer Receipt.” The White House. N.d. Web. 20 May 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/2014-taxreceipt.
Worstall, Tim. “The Average US Welfare Payment Puts You in The Top 20% Of All Income Earners.” Forbes. 4 May 2015. Web. 20 May 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/05/04/the-average-us-welfare-payment-puts-you-in-the-top-20-of-all-income-earners/#70c619299d8f.