Majority of Americans Say Government Spends Too Much on Welfare

Rachel Sheffield /

More than half of Americans (51 percent) believe the government spends too much on welfare, according to a new Rasmussen Report.

They’re right. Welfare spending has been growing for decades and is at a record level, approaching $1 trillion annually. Putting that amount in perspective, if the cost of welfare were converted to cash, it would be five times the amount necessary to pull all poor Americans out of poverty. Yet under President Obama’s plan, welfare spending is on track to keep climbing. (continues below chart)

In the same Rasmussen poll, only 22 percent of participants said welfare programs decrease poverty. More than half the respondents said government programs increase the level of poverty, and 15 percent said they have no impact.

Such low confidence in government welfare may be due to the fact that despite massive rates of spending, the number of Americans considered “poor” has stayed roughly the same. Instead of eliminating poverty and promoting self-sufficiency, welfare has led to government dependency. Today, roughly one-third of the U.S. population—100 million—receives some type of welfare aid.

The vast majority of government programs don’t require work for able-bodied recipients. Tragically, the Obama Administration has been whittling away at the very few programs that have included a work requirement, gutting work requirements from the 1996 welfare reform law and suspending work requirements in the food stamps program.

This course of dependence is not helpful to the poor, and it’s not helpful to taxpayers. The American people know this, too. The vast majority—84 percent—say that work for able-bodied adults should be a requirement to receive welfare.

Work requirements led to the successes of the 1996 welfare reform. Within just five years of the law’s implementation, which inserted work requirements into the largest cash assistance welfare program, welfare rolls dropped by half. Child poverty rates plummeted, and employment rates among low-income individuals climbed.

Work requirements should be applied to the rest of the government’s 80 welfare programs. The food stamps program, which has seen massive growth in spending and participation rates during the last decade, would be a good place to start.

Getting welfare spending under control is also crucial. Once unemployment declines, welfare spending should be capped at pre-recession levels and allowed to grow only at the rate of inflation thereafter.

It’s time to reverse the course of massive dependency and reform welfare to uphold the principles of work and self-sufficiency. These are the principles that ensure the best results for those in need and sustain a thriving society.