Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Obama: Guns AND Butter


Over the weekend, President Obama turned a particularly noisome phrase in his regular radio address — one that has been employed by a rogues gallery that includes everyone from Tom Friedman to Jon Huntsman. The rhetorical gem in question:

… after more than a decade of war, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

Please. The implicit assumption of this statement — that we’ve been going without at home due to expenditures abroad — is obliterated by even a cursory look at the federal ledger over recent years. A new study by the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner shows how wide of the mark — in regard to the welfare state, at least — this contention is:

In 2011 the federal government spent roughly $668.2 billion on … 126 [federal programs designed to fight poverty].

That represents an increase of more than $193 billion since Barack Obama became president. This is roughly two and a half times greater than any increase over a similar time frame in U.S. history, and it means an increase in means-tested welfare spending of about 2.4 percent of GDP. If one includes state and local welfare spending, government at all levels will spend more than $952 billion this year to fight poverty.

 To put this in perspective, the defense budget this year, including spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, totals $685 billion.

Indeed, federal welfare spending alone totals more than $14,848 for every poor man, woman, and child in this country. For a typical poor family of three, that amounts to more than $44,500. Combined with state and local spending, government spends $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $61,830 per poor family of three. Given that the poverty line for that family is just $18,530, we should have theoretically wiped out poverty in America many times over.

Problem? Yes. Problem with insufficient spending? No.

There are 10 comments.

  1. Guruforhire Member

    You are trying to argue with people who think counting = Nonesensical, intellectually dishonest, and oh yeah and the koch brothers jumping out and yelling boo!

    Do you think math and context are going to be persuasive?

    • #1
    • May 9, 2012, at 9:12 AM PDT
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  2. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Matthew Continetti on Obama’s “nation building”.

    • #2
    • May 9, 2012, at 9:14 AM PDT
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  3. Paul A. Rahe Contributor

    Obama still thinks that he is running against George W. Bush. It is, you see, all his fault.

    • #3
    • May 9, 2012, at 9:19 AM PDT
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  4. Austin Murrey Inactive

    Even the phrase “nation building at home” annoys me – we should not be interested in government radically transforming America to build it, but dismantling excess government infrastructure to allow America to build itself.

    • #4
    • May 9, 2012, at 9:31 AM PDT
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  5. DocJay Inactive

    Our government, D and R, has had one giant coke binge.

    • #5
    • May 9, 2012, at 9:36 AM PDT
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  6. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    $61,830 for a family of three? Is that right? That’s above the median income.

    • #6
    • May 10, 2012, at 6:01 AM PDT
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  7. Joseph Eagar Member
    Joseph Eagar Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    By the way, are these numbers cyclically-adjusted (using [edit: PRE]-Obama law as a base)? Part of this is the recession (Obama did expand means-tested welfare programs quite a bit in the stimulus bill, though some of it was temporary).

    • #7
    • May 10, 2012, at 6:05 AM PDT
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  8. Profile Photo Member

    Why can’t we just accept the fact that Poverty has won the war, stop fighting, and leave the refugees to fend for themselves. Our “help” is obviously making things worse for them.

    • #8
    • May 10, 2012, at 12:04 PM PDT
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  9. Guruforhire Member

    In 2011 we took in 2,303,000,000,0000, and spent on entitlements alone 2,186,000,000,000. Our reasonable expectation for the governments share would be 2,647,000,000,000 (18% of GDP).

    We are now at a point where we have to choose between entitlements and government at all.

    • #9
    • May 11, 2012, at 5:24 AM PDT
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