According to an October 16 memorandum prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) for the Senate Budget Committee, the federal government spent $746 billion on means-tested welfare programs in 2011. As the U.S. Census Bureau notes, there were 16.8 million households living below the poverty level in America in 2011. In other words, if the federal government were to give this money directly to the impoverished households, all 16.8 million households would have received over $44,000. This is double the 2011 federal poverty rate of $22,350 for a family of four, and nearly double the 2012 poverty rate of $23,050 for a family of four.
Furthermore, according to calculations by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the states contributed roughly an additional $280 billion to federal means-tested welfare programs, bringing total welfare spending to nearly $1 trillion in 2011. This is enough money to send every U.S. household living below the poverty level a check for nearly $60,000. As alarming as this seems, these numbers do not tell the whole story. As noted by CNS News.com,
This federal welfare spending does not include programs such as Medicare and Social Security, because they are not means-tested programs. Means-tested programs are those that only pay out benefits to people whose incomes fall below a certain threshold, such as food stamps, traditional cash welfare, and Medicaid.
In other words, if the government were to discontinue its myriad federal welfare programs, such as housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid, and instead just wrote every poor household a check, it would nearly quadruple their income: increasing it from at most $23,000 per year to nearly $83,000 per year.
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