IN THIS SECTION
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On June 1, 2011, Patricia A. Dalton, Chief Operating Officer of the General Accountability Office (GAO,) testified before a House subcommittee that the GAO could not identify all existing welfare programs in the various federal departments and agencies — or determine how much they cost.
Further, she admitted that the GAO could not even “hazard a guess” as to what percentage of the programs actually accomplish the purposes for which they were created. She agreed that it “would be good to have a number of how many programs there are, what exactly are we spending, and what are we getting for that money.”19
These are astonishing assessments of programs which cost the American people more than $700 billion annually. Yet Washington is doing nothing to ensure that the taxpayers’ money is well spent. Therefore we propose that comprehensive action be taken to eliminate duplicative and wasteful low-income assistance programs and assure that all welfare funding is targeted to the truly needy in the most effective and cost efficient way. But first we need to understand the size of the problem.
To that end, the Carleson Center for Welfare Reform (CCWR) conducted an exhaustive review and inventory of the 3,000+ page Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Programs (CFDA) to determine how many federal welfare programs there are, what department or agency oversees them, how much they cost, and who they were originally designed to help. While many other organizations and individuals have enumerated means-tested programs serving one purpose or another, we selected for inclusion in our proposals only programs designed to provide basic living amenities and services to means-tested or means-targeted populations. We compiled compatible programs into groups, categorizing them by their intended purpose, with the goal of accurately capturing the current universe of programs intended to provide assistance to the low-income needy — i.e. the “safety net.”
The federal government now spends an average of $60,000 per household under the poverty line on welfare programs — more than the median income of all American households in 2011, which was $50,054.20 With welfare dependence at an all-time high and growing, it is obvious that today’s patchwork of duplicative and wasteful welfare programs is not achieving the purposes the public rightly expects of it.