It has become all too easy today to receive government assistance. Half of all babies born in the U.S. today receive food assistance, and half of all children live in a home that will use food assistance at some point during their childhood. 40 percent of the population in Washington, D.C. is on welfare. Between 2000 and 2010 the number of Americans receiving food assistance more than doubled, expanding to over 47 million, which is more than one-seventh of the population. Forty years ago, only 4.3 million Americans received food assistance. According to a Heritage Foundation study, means-tested welfare has grown faster than every other part of government during the past two decades, including Social Security, Medicare, education and defense.
What is wrong with this picture? Half of everyone in the U.S. is not “poor.” We are the wealthiest nation in the world. Almost half of all households do not even pay any federal income tax. The problem is that welfare is not just provided to the handicapped and unemployed; it is distributed to the lower middle working class and their children. In Arizona, a single parent with four children making up to around $3000 in income per month is eligible to receive $800 a month in food assistance and $400 or more in cash assistance per month. Even with an income somewhat above $3000 per month, there is still some financial assistance available. An able-bodied adult without children making less than approximately $1500 per month is eligible for up to $250 to $300 per month in food assistance from the state of Arizona.
Although illegal immigrants are not eligible for welfare, they can receive benefits on behalf of their children through the Aid to Dependent Families Act. Proportionately, illegal immigrant households receive more food assistance than the rest of the population. According to a study from the Center for Immigration Studies, although illegal immigrant households comprise 3.6 percent of the total population,they account for 5.6 percent of food assistance programs. Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich announced this year that 22 percent of welfare spending in the county goes to the children of illegal immigrants.
In many ways welfare is becoming easier to obtain. The GOP’s Contract With America welfare to work legislation that former president Bill Clinton signed is gradually being eroded. A cutoff for receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families was put in place in 1996 that limited welfare benefits to five years. But local governments have been slow to enforce the cutoff dates and have found replacement funding through other programs. Half of food stamp aid goes to individuals who have received aid for 8.5 years or more. The 2009 stimulus act removed the requirement that able-bodied recipients without children work at least half-time in order to receive food assistance, and increased the maximum food assistance level by 13 percent. Some states are waiving limits on the amount of savings someone on food assistance may have. Food assistance no longer comes in the form of embarrassing food stamps, but through a debit card that looks just like any other debit or credit card.