December 6 2011

Welfare and Charity: Two Different Things

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By Hadley Heath

It’s the season for giving. As we approach the holidays, Americans offer special gifts to people we love, and charitable gifts to people in need. About half of all private charitable contributions are made between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Although Americans are generous compared to other nations and have created a robust network of private charities, government still offers a substantial, taxpayer-supported social safety net. Today, there are more than 70 federal means-tested welfare programs, which cost more than $900 billion in 2011, including state spending.

Still, we haven’t solved the problem. Forty-nine million Americans are currently considered impoverished. Our nation’s political rhetoric sounds increasingly like class warfare, as the public debates how to address our economy, and hardship faced by millions of out-of-work Americans.

Advocates of expanding the welfare state equate bigger government with humanitarianism, or charity. But many programs do more harm than good by creating counter-productive incentives and reducing economic growth and opportunity, which sadly keeps today’s poor people poor.

This Christmas season, we can give a helping hand to the millions of Americans who rely on federal assistance by reforming and shrinking the welfare state. The best gift we can give Americans of all social classes is greater opportunity to succeed.

Continue reading the 6-page policy brief here in PDF.

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