Heritage Foundation Issues Deceptive Report On Welfare

June 25, 2010 4:53 pm ET — Walid Zafar

The folks over at the Heritage Foundation have released yet another report on welfare reform. This one, like the ones before it, makes several recommendations on how the federal government must restrain the growth of several expansive welfare programs.  Written by Kiki Bradley and Robert Rector, the report ominously warns that unless we stop the growth of the "welfare state," we face fiscal collapse.

"Careful policy reforms focused on fiscal restraint, strong work requirements, the promotion of marriage, and personal responsibility," Bradley and Rector write, "can transform the federal welfare system, reducing dependence on government and increasing the well-being of families and children."  The report notes, "Two of the largest federal welfare programs today are public housing assistance and food stamps."  The emphasis on these two programs strongly suggests that most of what we consider to be welfare goes into the pockets of people who are generally uninterested in working and instead, content with relying on the government for assistance.  Is that the case?

Of course not.  This New York Times' interactive map showing just how much is spent on each program is a useful tool in countering Heritage's misinformation.  By far the largest welfare program is unemployment insurance, which does not generally assist people most would view as lazy.  The second largest program is food stamps, which again, helps far more working people than Heritage wants us to believe. 

The third largest program consists of federal civilian employee retirement and disability.  Recommending that disabled and retired federal employees need to get back to work is punitive and unrealistic.   Fourth is supplemental security income for the blind and otherwise disabled.   Next is military retirement.  Sixth is the earned income tax credit followed in seventh place by the Section 8 rental assistance program, which Heritage considers one of the largest federal welfare programs.  Eight and ninth are both tax credits.  Finally, coming in tenth place is funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. 

In other words, what is commonly thought of as "welfare" — in that direct payments are given to low-income Americans to spends how they wish — comes in tenth in terms of how much the federal government spend on it.  That's it.  The Heritage Foundation's deceptive charts and graphs really can't change the fact.