Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How Much Does Welfare Cost?

Based on information I received from the Office of Management and Budget I have revised this post. The numbers changed by enough that I though it worth revising.

I have been involved in some discussion of late regarding fairness of our tax system, income distribution, and income redistribution. It seemed to me that there was a lot missing in these discussions. In particular, the facts! So I set out to plow through some government reports to get a handle on were the money comes from and where it goes. This has turned out to be quite a challenge, especially since I am not an accountant (although I think even some accountants would be baffled by some of this stuff).

As I progressed it became obvious to me that this is a project that will need to be broken down into pieces. I decided the first piece would be welfare related expenditures because that has been a popular topic in my conversations and political debates. With that introduction, here are some of the welfare figures. I hope to have more analysis soon, depending upon when one very nice young intern named Karl at the Office of Management and Budget gets back to me with some information. (Karl has since gotten back to me which is why this has been revised. Thank you Karl!)

According to The Budget for Fiscal Year 2008, Historical Tables, total outlays for Means Tested Entitlements in 2006 were $354.3 billion. This was 2.7% of GDP and

Includes Medicaid, food stamps, family support assistance (AFDC), supplemental security income (SSI), child nutrition programs, refundable portions of earned income tax credits (EITC and HITC) and child tax credit, welfare contingency fund, child care entitlement to States, temporary assistance to needy families, foster care and adoption assistance, State children’s health insurance and veterans pensions.
(from Table 8.1, page 133)

The cost of these programs has increased from 0.8% of GDP in 1962 (before Medicaid) to 2.7% of GDP in 2006, or by 1.9% of GDP. If we exclude Medicaid, health care for children and veterans pensions it is 0.89 % of GDP, or $117 billion. (The numbers for the excluded items are found in Table 8.5, page 142). This represents approximately 7.5% of total non-Social Security receipts to the Federal Government. So, for every one of your tax dollars to the Federal Government, about 7.5 cents goes to these programs. I hate to use averages, but the average taxpayer had a tax rate of 12.45% in 2005 (the latest data available here), so if we multiply things out we see that about 0.93% of the average taxpayer’s income went to non-medical “welfare”. So, if you made $50,000 and paid $6,225.00 in Federal income tax, approximately $465.00 went to all of these programs x-health care and veterans pensions.

Next up I hope to isolate some of the health care numbers. I believe this is truly where our fiscal crisis lies and I hope to see whether I am correct. It will require working through historical budget numbers together with Social Security numbers - my head hurts already!

For Social Security go here.
For health care go here.
For the balance of the budget go here.

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