Politics

How Much U.S. Spends on Welfare and Statistics Spread by Politicano

8 June, 2020

On June 3, 2020, Facebook page Politicano published a chart with a caption “U.S. spending on police sector and welfare in 1970-2018.” According to the chart posted by Politicano, the U.S. government spending on police sector exceeds welfare spending. Statistical data were calculated according to national income.

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The chart published by Politicano is manipulative, because it involves not generally welfare spending, but only cash welfare expenditures; the country’s spending on welfare programs is much higher.

Gabriel Zucman, associate professor of economics, published the image on his Twitter page on June 1, 2020. Noteworthy that the original English-language chart contained more detailed information and it specified what the terms “police sector” and “welfare” used by Politicano meant. 

Both charts published by Gabriel Zucman and Politicano provide identical quantitative information. As for its content, the original English version provides more comprehensive information. According to the primary source, U.S. government benefits involve cash welfare, containing temporary assistance, food stamps and supplemental security income. As for police sector, the original chart uses the term “public order,” containing police, prison and law court. 

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It is worth noting that three types of benefits provided on the chart represent only a small part of welfare programs being implemented in the United States. “Temporary Assistance”, “Food Stamps” and “Supplemental Security Income” are mainly designed for extremely poor citizens:

  • Food Stamps – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal nutrition program that helps low-income individuals and families stretch their food budget. 
  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – the program is designed for applicants who are either pregnant or responsible for a child under 19 years of age; also have low or very low income; and are under-employed (working for very low wages), unemployed or about to become unemployed.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – the program is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; it provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

  • The United States spends more on welfare than on police.

The U.S. government’s annual spending (federal, state, local) can be divided into several categories. It includes social protection, welfare, education, health programs, defense, etc.

According to the data for 2018, USD 432.8 billion was spent on welfare programs, exceeding the amount allegedly spent on police sector, as claimed by Politicano. These programs involve not only the above listed three programs, but also additional benefits. A total of USD 305.4 billion was spent on police, prison and law court during the same year. It is worth noting that some programs may not fall under the category of welfare programs, but have a huge influence on social security and generally material welfare of citizens. In this view, according to the data for 2018, the U.S. government spent USD 987.8 billion on social protection; Medicaid program (a healthcare program designed to help people with special needs) – USD 597.4 billion and Medicare program (health insurance for elderly people) – USD 588.7 billion. Almost the same expenditures were made in the previous years.   


Category

Cost
2018
billion$

Cost
2017
billion$

Cost
2016
billion$

Cost
2015
billion$

Social Security

987.8

944.9

916.1

887.8

Medicaid

597.4

580.1

565.4

542.6

Medicare

588.7

597.3

594.5

546.2

Other Welfare Programs

432.8

454.3

461.5

463.5

Police

145.5

140.3

134.5

128.1

Prisons

88.5

85.7

84.8

83.7

Law Courts

71.4

69.0

66.5

62.3

 


Prepared by Irakli Iagorashvili
Regional Network of Media Literacy Lab

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