Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Conservatives too compassionate?

This USA today article raised my eyebrows (as did Andrew Sullivan's completely unquestioning reaction to it).
A sweeping expansion of social programs since 2000 has sparked a record increase in the number of Americans receiving federal government benefits such as college aid, food stamps and health care.

A USA TODAY analysis of 25 major government programs found that enrollment increased an average of 17% in the programs from 2000 to 2005. The nation's population grew 5% during that time. (Related: Federal entitlements have changed)

It was the largest five-year expansion of the federal safety net since the Great Society created programs such as Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s.

Spending on these social programs was $1.3 trillion in 2005, up an inflation-adjusted 22% since 2000 and accounting for more than half of federal spending. Enrollment growth was responsible for three-fourths of the spending increase, according to USA TODAY's analysis of federal enrollment and spending data. Higher benefits accounted for the rest.
Wha? So it's not that more people are finding themselves in need of government assistance in an economy that is especially cruel to those of lower income, but that Bush is spoonfeeding the lazy poor people? Greg Anrig Jr. sets things straight.
There’s been no “sweeping expansion” of any social program since Bush took office, except for the Medicare drug bill (which didn’t take effect until after the paper’s 2000-5 time frame). Medicaid enrollments have mainly gone up because more people have fallen below the eligibility thresholds while losing health insurance at work--most states have cut back their eligibility requirements rather than make them more generous. Food stamp enrollments have mainly gone up because, again, more people have fallen below the eligibility thresholds --though some administrative changes have helped modestly.
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