The Washington Post

Truth and facts about welfare

There is another report in the news that warns of explosive government spending. This time, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has released an analysis of projected federal spending, showing that “federal welfare spending will grow almost 80 percent over the next 10 years."   

Sessions does us all a service by continuing to show us the facts and not hide from the truth. But, in politics, truth and facts can only get you so far. The talking points and participants' biases shape the debate as much as anything else. The Democrats and their allies in the media have created an easy default position of relying on measuring commitment by the price tag. A $50 billion program is only half as compassionate as a $100 billion program and so forth.

What is a worried, thoughtful Republican to do in the face of such obvious wisdom? We will never out-compassion, much less outbid, the Democrats. However, we can be credible if we question the effectiveness of the government's spending and whether or not the government is getting us our money's worth. Almost no one believes that the Obama administration, or many state and local governments, are efficient or even competent in spending taxpayer money.

Even during these hard times and with such high unemployment, our problem isn't just a lack of money so much as it is how we spend it. I turn to my friend Gary MacDougal's piece that he wrote for the New York Times last year. MacDougal states that we spend “around $21,700 for each American in poverty, or nearly $87,000 for a family of four. That's almost four times the $23,050 per year federal poverty line for that family." If the poor really received anything approaching these numbers, poverty would be eliminated in one budget cycle. So what's the problem? The problem is government itself. There is too much bloat, inefficiency, redundancy and spending on itself, instead of on the citizens taxpayers think they are helping.

If the Republicans could act in concert, we could build a vivid contrast with the Democrats who are forced to defend the status quo and the performance of government unions who supply them with so much campaign support. We won't win the battle of compassion, but we could win the battle of who is best able to run a smarter, more effective government. By any measure, no one can argue that current welfare programs are effective. 

All this leads back to the 30 Republican governors who are currently on the front lines of government administration. It should be a priority of Republican leaders in Washington to learn lessons from and to promote the successes of states led by Republicans.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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