Buried deep in a section of President Obama’s budget, released this week, is an eye-opening fact: This year, 70% of all the money the federal government spends will be in the form of direct payments to individuals, an all-time high.
In effect, the government has become primarily a massive money-transfer machine, taking $2.6 trillion from some and handing it back out to others. These government transfers now account for 15% of GDP, another all-time high. In 1991, direct payments accounted for less than half the budget and 10% of GDP.
What’s more, the cost of these direct payments is exploding. Even after adjusting for inflation, they’ve shot up 29% under Obama.
Where do these checks go? The biggest chunk, 38.6%, goes to pay health bills, either through Medicare, Medicaid or ObamaCare. A third goes out in the form of Social Security checks. Only 21% goes toward poverty programs — or “income security” as it’s labeled in the budget — and a mere 5% ends up in the hands of veterans.
Interestingly, despite Obama’s frequent pledges to reduce income inequality, the share of direct payments going toward “income security” has dropped from 25% in 2009 to 20% in 2014. (The average share from 1980 to 2008 was 25.4%.)
Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget calls for this share to drop to just 17% by 2019, as his programs devote more and more federal tax money to middle-class entitlement programs such as ObamaCare.
Here’s another way to look at it: If all these federal direct payments went only to the poor, every person living in poverty today would receive an annual check worth $55,900.
The 1% Handouts
Instead, a surprisingly large amount of federal money is handed out to wealthy Americans through Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, unemployment benefits, conservation programs, disaster payments and other programs.
An IBD analysis found that the richest 1% of Americans, in fact, receive roughly $10 billion each year in federal checks.
Outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who exposed these vast payment programs available to the rich, said “this reverse Robin Hood-style of wealth distribution is an intentional effort to get all Americans bought into a system where everyone appears to benefit.”
The White House normally releases the Historical Tables section of the budget — where these direct payment numbers are detailed — along with the rest of the budget documents. But while Obama released the main parts of his 2015 budget last week, he delayed the release of this little-noticed section until this week.