October 23, 2017

Question: Apart from military spending, why does the USA get away with being so cheap?

People die due to basic heath issues, a 14yr old boy with a tooth abscess. Waiters don’t get paid a living wage and rely on tips. Child mortality is higher than many poor countries. Why do Americans put up with this? Asked at Quora.com

Response by Scott Kirwin


The US has 3 government tiers: federal, state and local. 2/3rds of the entire federal budget is mandatory spending. This is spending that Congress cannot touch during budgeting. In 2015 Mandatory Spending = $2.45 trillion.

Of that $2.45 trillion, over $2 trillion was paid out in Social Security and Medicare payments to the elderly and to the poor. Source: Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go You can add in another $250 billion of entitlement spending from the discretionary budget side too.

States spend about $500 billion on entitlements. Source: How much does your state spend on welfare? I can’t find data on what cities spend, but I know that large cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia spend hundreds of millions of dollars of their own budgets on welfare programs.

So let’s assume $3 trillion dollars spent by the governments on entitlements. But that’s not the only money spent.

In 2015 US private citizens and business donated $373 billion (or 2.1% of US GDP) to charities. Source: Giving Statistics : Charity Navigator Not all of that giving goes to the poor but most of it does. Even the religious category of charity finds its way to the poor because most religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) have active programs to help the poor.

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Does $3.3 trillion seem cheap to you?

The current US poverty rate is 13.5%, meaning that 43.1 million Americans live in poverty. Source: What is the current poverty rate in the United States?

Dividing the amount spent by the various levels of gov’t on entitlements plus charitable donations by the number of poor means the US spends $76,566 on each poor person in the USA.

$75,000 per poor person in the USA doesn’t seem cheap to me.

I live in one of the poorest counties in the rural USA. I’ve also lived in Africa (Tanzania). What we call poverty here in the United States would pass for prosperity in most of Tanzania. People have their own transportation and housing. They get free food via the EBT program. They have cell phones and pay TV judging by the satellite dishes I see.

That doesn’t mean that people don’t fall through the cracks. It doesn’t mean that we can’t do better to help people raise themselves out of poverty. It doesn’t mean that America doesn’t need a better healthcare system (everyone agrees it does).

But don’t insult us by calling us cheap.

About William of Ockham 70 Articles
William of Ockham is a husband, a parent, and animal rescuer obsessed with Ancient Rome. He is a gun toting libertarian, and dedicated gentile Zionist who dreams of one day reading the carbonized scrolls in the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum. He's been blogging since Sept 2001 at http://www.therazor.org