“Is Welfare The New Normal?” we wondered in an editorial last Thursday, and we didn’t have long to wait for an answer. On Friday an answer came back in depressing new data from the Census Bureau.
CNSNews.com’s indefatigable data hound, Terence P. Jeffrey, dug into a few routine Census releases recently and discovered something shocking: More people in America today are on welfare than have full-time jobs.
No, that’s not a misprint. At the end of 2011, the last year for which data are available, some 108.6 million people received one or more means-tested government benefit programs — bureaucratese for welfare.
Meanwhile, there were just 101.7 million people with full-time jobs, the Census data show, including both the private and government sectors.
This is a real danger for the U.S. — the danger of dependency. Anytime more people are being paid not to work than to work, it imperils our democracy. No one votes to cut his own welfare benefits. So welfare grows.
In recent years, the welfare state has expanded to create an all-encompassing security blanket to protect Americans from all vagaries of economic life. For everything from losing a job to having trouble paying the rent, there’s now a welfare program for it.
Those who say the poor deserve such largess will find no argument here. Sometimes people have such dire need that a helping hand may be necessary, if only for a limited period of time.
But this goes way beyond that.
According to official data from the government, 46.5 million people live in poverty in the U.S. Doing the quick math, that means just 43% of all those on welfare are officially considered poor.
When you add in other government programs with a check attached — Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, unemployment and other non-means-tested benefits — you find a whopping 151 million Americans get a check from the government other than an income-tax refund.
That’s close to half our population, folks.
A Cato Institute study in August found that welfare now pays more than minimum-wage work in 35 states. Indeed, the federal government has 126 separate programs to help low-income earners.
“The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work,” the study said. “Welfare currently pays more than a minimum-wage job in 35 states, even after accounting for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and in 13 states it pays more than $15 per hour.”