Republicans are pressing for cuts to welfare, and some cite a report produced by Republicans on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee to make their case.
According to that report, more than 100 million people are now on some form of welfare. That's a third of the U.S. population on the public dole—not counting Medicare or Social Security.
Medicaid is the biggest slice of the pie. Fifty-four million people now receive state-run health care for the poor, according to the report. It also notes 45 million are now on food stamps.
Our weak economy and aging population are driving up the numbers.
But Democrats say there are not really 100 million people on welfare. That's because the Republican report lumps some 80 different programs into the mix, counting job training efforts, Pell grants, and tax credits for working class families that many may not think of as welfare.
There is another factor that may be padding the numbers in the Republicans' report: in the fine print, the report states that the figures include anyone residing in a household in which one person received benefits. So, in theory, there could be 10 people in a household where only one person is getting help from a federal program, and all ten would count as welfare recipients in the math used in the report.
So how many people are really on welfare then? It depends entirely on how the numbers are crunched, and what is considered welfare.
We called the Department of Health and Human Services and asked for the total number of Americans on welfare.
The response was 4.3 million people. That's because HHS counts only temporary cash assistance; Republicans on the budget committee count much, much more.
The Senate Republicans did, however, leave Social Security and Medicare benefits out of the mix. That's because those are programs people pay into over the course of their working lives, and the Republicans count it as a form of social insurance, rather than welfare.
In any case, the report makes a case for reducing the numbers by going after fraud, and streamlining overlapping programs.
But in the end, 4.3 million versus 110 million is quite a discrepancy in evaluating how many Americans are on welfare, and how valid the numbers are as evidence for both sides of a fiery national debate.
Editor's note: In response to this
report, Press Secretary Andrew Logan of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget sent FOX 13 the following statement:
"Under the definition used by HHS, a healthy, working-age individual could receive the bulk of his or her income in the form of food stamps, subsidized housing assistance, Medicaid, and a host of other federal benefits—and still not be considered a welfare recipient. In fact, the Congressional Research Service points out that the low-income safety net has expanded to the point where ‘the federal government spent almost $708 billion in FY2009 on programs for low-income people.' As for the household methodology, that is the way the Census Bureau calculates the figures because it recognizes that every member of a household benefits when the household's total financial means are increased."
Additionally, "job training efforts, Pell grants, and tax credits for working class families … are not included in the 107.2 million people"
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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