The derogatory term “welfare queen” was so 1980s and ‘90s, when Republicans and even some Democrats were looking to reform welfare programs. President Biden, by contrast, is doing all he can to expand the number of people receiving means-tested welfare. That makes him the welfare king.
The irony is that historically politicians liked to boast that their leadership had created jobs and grown the economy, thereby reducing the number of people on welfare. Biden also says he’s growing the economy and creating a record number of new jobs even as he tries to push more Americans into means-tested programs.
His record of success growing the economy is at best questionable. His record of exploding the welfare rolls is undeniable.
Of course, welfare programs have been growing for decades, along with their cost. Since President Lyndon Johnson initiated the “War on Poverty” in 1964, the country has spent some $25 trillion on anti-poverty programs, according to the Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner.
Welfare has become a maze of multiple and duplicative programs. For example, Tanner says there are 34 housing programs run by seven Cabinet departments; 23 programs providing food or food assistance; 13 health care programs; and 15 cash or general-assistance programs.
And those programs come with a heavy cost to taxpayers. The federal government spent $1.1 trillion on welfare in 2021, not counting COVID-19-related costs. But Tanner adds that state and local governments spent an additional $744 billion, for a total of $1.8 trillion.
Let’s start with Medicaid, the federal-state means-tested health insurance program for the poor. There were about 90.6 million people enrolled in Medicaid as of August 2022, about 28 percent of the U.S. population. That’s an increase of 19.3 million from February 2020.
Yes, part of that expansion was due to the arrival of the pandemic. But the pandemic has basically been over for months, yet Medicaid enrollment is higher than ever.
Indeed, the Biden administration began to panic when it realized the recently passed $1.7 trillion omnibus budget package will end provisions allowing expanded Medicaid enrollment under a public health emergency. So, Team Biden is scampering to get those individuals in the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, which has very generous, means-tested taxpayer subsidies, which Biden expanded early on and managed to continue with the passage of his Inflation Reduction Act.
Then there’s Biden’s push to continue and expand the Child Tax Credit. Biden’s American Rescue Plan increased the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child, and $3,600 for children under age six, and increased the age limit to 17. In addition, it increased the income levels, so that it began to phase out at $112,500 for singles and $150,000 for married couples.
So, when did a couple making $150,000 become low income?
The temporarily expanded Child Tax Credit came to an end, but not without a fight from Biden and progressives. They wanted to expand the credit to even more children and make it permanent.
And let’s not forget the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC is a refundable tax credit that supplements the income of low-income workers with children by reducing their tax obligations. And if their credit is greater than their taxes, they receive the difference.
Biden’s American Rescue Plan expanded the EITC, increasing the cash benefits, nearly tripling it for some, raising the income and age levels, and included childless individuals. But the increase was only for 2021. Biden, with widespread support from progressives, wanted the EITC extended. But that didn’t happen.
There’s more, but you get the point. Joe Biden has relentlessly, and often successfully, tried to grow and expand the welfare state, even as he has touted his efforts to increase jobs and grow the economy.
There is, however, one element of the massive U.S. welfare system Biden doesn’t talk much about: fraud. As Medicaid exploded, so did fraud. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), “The 2022 Medicaid improper payment rate was 15.62%, or $80.57 billion, a decrease from the 2021 reported rate of 21.69%.”
In addition, “For CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income children], the 2022 improper payment rate was 26.75%, or $4.30 billion, a decrease from the 2021 rate of 31.84%.”
As for the EITC, the IRS estimates that 28 percent of those payments are improper.
Now, not all improper payments are the result of fraud or abuse, but a large percentage is.
But since the welfare king thinks that government spending boosts the economy and wants more, not fewer, people in means-tested welfare programs, why get upset over ineligible people taking advantage of the program? Biden sees massive welfare spending for as many people as possible as a success, not a failure.