The government spent approximately $1.03 trillion on 83 means-tested federal welfare programs in fiscal year 2011 alone — a price tag that makes welfare that year the government’s largest expenditure, according to new data released by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee.
The total sum taxpayers spent on federal welfare programs was derived from a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on federal welfare spending — which topped out at $745.84 billion for fiscal year 2011 — combined with an analysis from the Republican Senate Budget Committee staff of state spending on federal welfare programs (based on “The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance”), which reached $282.7 billion in fiscal year 2011.
The data excludes spending on Social Security, Medicare, means-tested health care for veterans without service-connected disabilities, and the means-tested veterans pension program.
According to the CRS report, which focused solely on federal spending for federal welfare programs, spending on federal welfare programs increased $563.413 billion in fiscal year 2008 to $745.84 billion in fiscal year 2011 — a 32 percent increase.
Further, spending on the 10 largest federal welfare programs has doubled as a share of the federal budget in the last 30 years: In inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Republican staff on the Senate Budget Committee, the amount spent on these programs has increased 378 percent in that 30 year time frame.
CRS reports that food assistance programs — the third largest welfare category behind health and cash assistance — experienced the greatest increase in spending, with 71 percent more spending in 2011 than in 2008. The agency explained that this spending increase was largely due to the growth in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.
CRS further noted that the largest expenditure category, health, was 37 percent higher in fiscal year 2011 than fiscal year 2008. In that same period, cash aid increased 12 percent, education assistance increased 57 percent, housing and development assistance increased 2 percent, social services increased 3 percent, employment and training remained the same (though fluctuated in intervening years), and energy assistance was 67 percent higher in fiscal year 2011 than fiscal year 2008.