Study: More Than Half a Trillion Dollars Spent on Welfare But Poverty Levels Unaffected

Matt Cover, CNS News, June 25, 2012

The federal government is not making much headway reducing poverty despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars, according to a study by the libertarian Cato Institute.

Despite an unprecedented increase in federal anti-poverty spending, the national poverty rate has not declined, the study finds.

“[S]ince President Obama took office [in January 2009], federal welfare spending has increased by 41 percent, more than $193 billion per year,” the study says.

Federal welfare spending in fiscal year 2011 totaled $668 billion, spread out over 126 programs, while the poverty rate that remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.


The federal poverty rate is the percentage of the population below the federal poverty threshold, which varies based on family size.

While the study concedes that some of the increased spending under Obama is a result of the recession and the counter-cyclical nature of anti-poverty programs, it also finds that some of the increase is deliberate, with the government having expanded eligibility for welfare programs.

In fiscal year 2008, anti-poverty spending was $475 billion. In fiscal year 2009, when Obama took office, it had risen to $590 billion.


In fact, the study points out that according to the administration’s own projections, federal welfare spending is unlikely to decline even after the economy recovers—further evidence that not all of the increase in spending is recession-related.

“All this spending has not bought an ap­preciable reduction in poverty,” the study says.  “[T]he poverty rate has remained relatively constant since 1965, despite rising welfare spending.”


The study faults the way poverty programs are designed, saying that the increase in spending and largely unchanged poverty rate showed that the issue is not a matter of money, but a matter of what the programs aim to achieve.

“The vast majority of current programs are focused on making poverty more comfortable—giv­ing poor people more food, better shelter, health care, and so forth—rather than giving people the tools that will help them escape poverty.”

Instead, the study recommends refocusing anti-poverty efforts on keeping people in school, discouraging out-of-wedlock births, and encouraging people to get a job—even if that job is a low-wage one.


Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • On the other hand, “poverty” today isn’t quite as grinding as it was in earlier decades.

    “The vast majority of current programs are focused on making poverty
    more comfortable—giv­ing poor people more food, better shelter, health
    care, and so forth—rather than giving people the tools that will help
    them escape poverty.”

    Lost the URL, but the Ag Dep’t is dragging its heels on releasing data on how “It’s Free Swipe Yo EBT” food stamps are spent.  Don’t need them to know — From what I’ve seen, about 15% of food stamps are used to buy Kool Aid Jammers.

    • Bob

      these statistics and factual analysis of poverty just proves that now is the easiest time to rise out of it if you are “colored” (this word should always be followed by the worlds smallest violin)
      they merely don’t have the capacity,ability, or motivation to do so.

  • IKantunderstand

    All this money should have been spent on sending colored people to the Wizard of Oz. They would have gotten brains, courage, and heart. And frankly, spending money on sending these people to a made-up land, makes as much sense as spending it the way they did. Clap your hands if you want Tinkerbell to live. I do believe in ghosts, I do believe in ghosts. Where does this fairytale of equality eventually lead us? The future is grim(m). 

    • Church_of_Jed

      These are the kinds of stories you get when Anglo-Saxons become obsessed with foreign cultures and take on alien sounding names:

      Seattle woman Maria Gonzales Esquivel, 47, physically and sexually abused the
      children in vicious attacks that included pouring pure alcohol on one girl’s
      genitals and getting her brother to kick her in the groin

      • IKantunderstand

        I do long for Hansel und Gretel and the subsequent demise of Maria Gonzales Esquivel And I’m sure, due to lack of industry and creativity, NO freaking gingerbread house was involved.

    • I don’t know how much it would cost to send them to OZ but I do know that it only cost 23.9 Billion Dollars to send men to the moon.

      • IKantunderstand

        Umm, I don’t think your number is correct. (Once again, I refuse to do research on this, Liberals don’t) it just seems rather high given the time frame in which it was accomplished. I think what needs to be discussed however, is not how much alleviating poverty costs, or how much it would cost sending coloreds to OZ,(you do realize I was just being satirical?) But really, how much would it cost to remove our White asses to a galaxy far, far away? Or would it be cheaper to just send coloreds to the moon?

        • Apollo spacecraft: $7,945.0 million
          Saturn I launch vehicles: $767.1 million
          Saturn IB launch vehicles: $1,131.2 million
          Saturn V launch vehicles: $6,871.1 million
          Launch vehicle engine development: $854.2 million
          Mission support: $1,432.3 million
          Tracking and data acquisition: $664.1 million
          Ground facilities: $1,830.3 million
          Operation of installations: $2,420.6 million.

          NASA Center for Aerospace InformationActual costs were a touch higer at a bit over 25 Billion Dollars.  Liberals don’t do research, is that a moment of truth or is that also satire.  In any case, the cost of space exploration was a steal when compared to ROI. Just about everything electronic and useful has its nexus with the space program. Besides which is more beneficial, the money spent on space exploration or the 15 Billion Bush sent to the rat hole in Aftrica for AIDS treatments? It would be one thing if all this money spent on welfare kept the beasts out of our country so we could live in peace, just as we did for a few hundred years. But no, we have to waste our treasure on races not deserving of our works and still we have open borders to them. It just doesn’t make any sense to play the game this way when the only outcome is failure. We all we go down, liberal, conservative, communist, it doesn’t matter, no escape to OZ, the moon or anywhere else.

  • APaige

    So the money is spent on helping people cope, but not escape poverty. The most-underated part of the Declaration of Independence is “..all experience has shown that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable then to right themselves by abolishing the forms they are accustomed to.” (might have missed a few words?) A ‘mean’ government makes people suffer…a ‘nice’ government allows people to suffer…while a limited government limits mean or nice and therefore limits suffering.

  • IstvanIN

    Go to any welfare office in New Jersey and you will find yourself in
    Latin America.  You can never solve poverty by importing more of it. 
    Can you imagine how much more prosperous America would have been if we
    had ended immigration in 1965 as well as welfare for the able-bodied
    (including “single moms”) .  Full employment for any American, white, black or Puerto Rican, who wanted one.  Got out of Vietnam and stopped invading the rest of the world.  Had a
    reasonable trade policy that kept manufacturing here in the US.  Just
    think, we could have had a moon base.  And if forced to work blacks
    might have actually evolved into useful citizens instead of being
    replaced as a source of labor by Mexicans.  Young white Americans might
    actually own their own homes and have babies rather that being reduced
    to 2nd class status and living with mom and dad until age 35 because of
    the importation of Asian-Indians to steal their jobs.

    But then I guess I am imagining an America that had the same kind of men running it in 1960 that were running it in 1780

    • We would have every human comfort imaginable on a 25 hour workweek. Instead, White Women went into the workforce so Lakeisha and Esperanza can have litters of welfare babies.

    • WhitesRdumb

       Go to the any Gooberment office in California and you will find yourself in the alien cantina in the original Star Wars movie. Strangely dressed people making bliping and beeping sounds.

  •  “give it away and they will come”

  • Detroit_WASP

    I know how to drastically reduce the welfare rolls.

    1.  Pay people on welfare to be fixed.  Yes, pay them.  If you paid them $5,000 each to be fixed, they’d be standing in line to have it done.  This would save billions just 9 months later when the don’t show up at hospitals to give birth to a low weight, low IQ sickly baby which will cost hundreds of thousands EACH just to keep the poor things alive in ICU.  Only to go home to be neglected and abused by mama’s various boyfriends.

    2.  Billions saved on social workers to check in on these poor kids.

    3.  Five years later, these kids will not be showing up for school for there first day of special ed. classes.  Billions more saved.

    4.  Sixteen years later, these kids will not be getting arrested since they were never born.   Billions save in the criminal justice system as well as welfare.

    5.  After 40-50 years these people who were never born, will not be around to collect SSI and other benefits.  

    6.  The few that do collect welfare….make them work for it.  Make them show up at 8 AM, sober and  ready to work HARD rain or shine.

    If that doesn’t work, I’ll kiss you where the sun don’t shine.

    • mikejones91

      What about  a welfare recipient  with a high I.Q? Like a person who fell on hard times. I think you should revise it to those who have been on for more than 3 years. 

      • Hopefully they will have unicorn to ride around on.

    • That would lead to less goverment workers. Goverment will never shrink on its own.

  • Sloppo

    We would not have so many poor people if we didn’t pay people so much for being poor.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      Check out this chart about the “poor” in America today:

      • Bob

        this is part of the reason why i don’t believe in the marxist “class system”
        the poor can afford any amenity that is needed to have a healthy happy life
        they can pretty much afford anything they really need
        but of course they don’t really need
        they just want 

    • How come all the “poor” people that buy their food with EBT have nicer phones and cars than me?

      • Just a few days ago, I was in line at the local Wal-Mart. There was a “hispanic” couple in front of me. They had two carts. One filled with groceries, and one with assorted other stuff. Toys, jeans, a toaster, computer paper, and DVDs…  So the wife whips out the EBT card and pays for the groceries, and then the husband whips out a roll of bills and paid for the other stuff in cash. I saw them in the parking lot getting into a Buick Enclave.  

  • mikejones91

    At first, I though the source was CNN. I was quite surprised. I now realize my mistake. Darn…

  • bubo

    I believe Paul Kersey of  Stuff Black People don’t like has said it best.  We could have gone to Mars…..(but instead we got black people)

  • No amount of money can raise the standards of blacks and blacks will never believe they receive enough.

    To them, half a trillion isn’t enough as is seen by the results. If half a trillion didn’t work, we just need to spend two trillion (or whatever it takes).

  • An unpublished study that I am aware of pegged Welfare spending at much more than is generally known. Even the Heritage Foundation is too conservative with their estimates. While some headlines warned us that obama intended to spend over 10 Trillion Dollars on welfare (, actually no one really knows how much is spent. Through a distributive web that cannot be deciphered, billions are lost to pure negligence, even more to theft. There is no accounting, no conscience for what is spent. I once worked for a black woman who came from Washington DC with all sorts of expensive office furniture. She was hired as a manager in state government. At the time I was in my early twenties and a few of us white guys had to move her furniture into her office- while she supervised. We had to be careful because this furniture was worth “more than we made in a year”. She had got it from working in a federal poverty program, it was bought special for her. Stories like this are legion. The tax money you have been forced to pay has all but been stolen from you.

    BTW, we couldn’t figure exactly the cost spent since 1965 on welfare but we guessed. Considering inflation and depending on definitions, we decided it was somewhere north of 75 Trillion Dollars, maybe as much as 125 Trillion Dollars when loss of productivity is included. This is nothing less than a stake through the heart of America from whence we will never recover.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    The poverty rate remains high at 15.1 percent, roughly where it was in 1965, when President Johnson declared a federal War on Poverty.

    This is the direct result of 47 years of LBJ’s failed War on Poverty.  As the old joke goes, LBJ declared war on poverty, and poverty won.

    What incentive is there to get off of welfare when the USDA dedicates $5 million in 2011 to “improve access to and increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP]??

    The number of Americans on food stamps has increased by almost 50 percent since BO first took office.


    5.4 million workers and their dependents have signed up to collect federal disability checks since President Obama took office, Security’s disability insurance [SSDI, financed with Social Security taxes paid] program is twice the job growth figure. 


    The amount of money the federal government hands out in direct payments increased 32% during first three years of Mr. Obama’s Presidency.  

    Today, an astounding 49.1 percent of all Americans live in a home where at least one person receives government benefit.

    Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, specifically targeted at poor blacks, ushered in the welfare state.

    One of the most perverse effects was that enormous numbers of young black males left the regular labor force; suddenly many of them didn’t have to work because the government was paying them not to work, giving them a reason to drop out of school and remain unemployed.

    Black women were given a financial incentive to stay single, have babies, and avoid full-time work.  Black illegitimacy has gone from 23% in 1963 to 48% in 1980 to a staggering 70% today.

    Result of the War on Poverty??  More Than Half a Trillion Dollars Spent on Welfare But Poverty Levels Unaffected

    The question is always this:  What happens when you run out of other people’s money?


    • “What happens when you run out of other people’s money?”

      No black or hispanic, has ever asked themselves that question. They may not be able to comprehend it. 

      When these people proudly drove the White Man from their ancestral homelands, their ancestral homelands immediately de-civilized back to the stone age.

      • WhitesRdumb

        And they believe that the white man took the civilization with them; which ironically is true.

    • technodan

      Government benefits aren’t counted as income for official poverty statistics, so very few people here are truly “poor”. As Bon’s chart above shows, most people in “poverty” have many material comforts the rest of us have, plus subsidized food, electricity, phone service, etc.  Somewhere I read (maybe here) that someone making $20,000 a year with a family could get so many benefits that they would have as much expendable income as someone making $60,000 a year with no benefits.  That’s why there is so much goverment dependence and laziness here: it’s too easy to get the money for free rather than working for it.

      Makes me wonder, are all the freebies given to minorities, especially blacks, just given to pacify them somewhat so they don’t cause more trouble than they already do?

  • I’m wondering how this plays out in the long-run. Whites have tried EVERYTHING to imbue some sort of civilization on the 3rd world. Nothing has worked and whether by war or logic this fact will be known to at least every white person. 50 years and trillions upon trillions for NOTHING.
    So assuming White people don’t go extinct, where does our civilization go from here? Do we find ways to genetically engineer 3rd worlders? Do we build Mars colonies and “white flight” to space?

    • IstvanIN

      We are eliminated or subsumed genetically into the 3rd world masses.  See Brazil. 

      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        See Yugoslavia.

  • B

    Welfare does affect poverty levels –  it increases them.

  • Our government has been importing third-world poverty since 1965, under the Hart-Cellar Act. Hence, when you import third world poverty, you get poverty! No amount of money can fix that, as the figures clearly demonstrate. When and where does this massive, I say criminal, waste end?

  • WhitesRdumb

     That is true. The banksters need money to circulate. Whites save their money. Solution: 1) Take money from whites and give it to irresponsible blacks and browns, so they can spend it; 2) Allow crime to increase so you can take more money from whites to make them feel safe [sic]; 3) Create an excess of garbage and charge whites multiple times to recycle it (in California we pay 3-4 times to recycle depending on the item).

    • Bob

      or the solution that has been finalized
      reduce the value of the currency that whites have saved

  • WhitesRdumb

    On one side of the pool our gooberment is trying to clean up the pool with a sieve. On the other side of the pool, they are using a backhoe to dump in more dirt.

  • Dennis

     A good illustration of the above is that when Rodney King received his 3.8 million dollar settlement he blew away most of the money on a failed rap music record label.

  • Up to my neck in CA
  • “much difference between the lowest tribe of negroes and the white Frenchman, Englishman, or American, as there is between the monkey and the negro.”
    You need to look a how smart chimpanzees are they are actually more advanced than the humans they evolved next to. They knew how to cure malaria before the white man brought the knowledges to africa.

  • $5k is like 2 years of a pack a day smokes.