There have been extensive and dire warnings coming from those seeking to limit the growth of the federal government’s spending on items not central to its basic functions.
By just about any statistical measure, those warnings are not only correct; they may well be understated. The skyrocketing increase in entitlement spending has come at the cost of a startling drop in support for essential federal responsibilities, such as defense.
But before reviewing the impact on military spending as an example of a vital federal program deprived of funds by excessive entitlement spending, examine whether all those dollars devoted to helping the poor have actually accomplished their goal.
Unfortunately, the numbers indicate that, despite the dedication of vast resources, no difference has been made. National Affairs noted that “anti-poverty programs have not obviously reduced poverty in recent decades…”
The CATO institute concurs: "Since President Obama took office, federal welfare spending has increased by 41%, more than $193 billion per year. Despite this government largesse, more than 46 million Americans live in poverty. Despit nearly $15 trillion in total welfare spending since Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964, the poverty rate is perilously close to where we began more than 40 years ago.”
The American Enterprise Institute reviewed the enormous growth rate of this ineffective effort: “The rate of entitlement growth per capita has been nearly twice as fast as per capita income growth for the last fifty years…In the 1960s, the federal government spent $2 on governing for each $1 it spent on entitlement transfers. Today that ratio has completely flipped… In 1969, government benefits accounted for 7.8% of Americans’ personal income. In 2009, government benefits accounted for nearly 18% of Americans’ income. And the regions which relied most on benefits in 1969 have become even more dependent. Nearly 50% of the U.S. population lives in a household that receives some government benefits. 31% of US households are receiving means-tested public benefits.”
A 2012 U.S. News analysis revealed that “government spending on entitlements not only exceeds defense spending these days, it completely overwhelms it. In 2010, America spent well over three times as much on transfer payments to individuals than it did on its entire national security budget—including on both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If current trends continue under President Obama, entitlement spending is set to increase by more than $700 billion over the next four years; the current national cost of all defense and security programs is roughly $700 billion as well. That means it will take only one presidential term … for the growth of entitlement spending to absorb the entire defense budget of the United States.”
Chris Conover has noted that “Washington spends $50 billion less on defense than the outgoing secretary of defense said was the bare minimum needed.” This is due to the extraordinary diversion of funds to poverty programs that don’t work.
There has been no discernible success in reducing poverty, despite the draining of funds from the private sector and the redirection of appropriations from more traditional and increasingly vital areas of governmental activity. It is a path that will both bankrupt the nation and eventually leave it vulnerable to threats from abroad.