New data compiled by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee shows that, last year, the United States spent over $60,000 to support welfare programs per each household that is in poverty. The calculations are based on data from the Census, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congressional Research Services.
"According to the Census’s American Community Survey, the number of households with incomes below the poverty line in 2011 was 16,807,795," the Senate Budget Committee notes. "If you divide total federal and state spending by the number of households with incomes below the poverty line, the average spending per household in poverty was $61,194 in 2011."
This dollar figure is almost three times the amount the average household on poverty lives on per year. "If the spending on these programs were converted into cash, and distributed exclusively to the nation’s households below the poverty line, this cash amount would be over 2.5 times the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, which in 2011 was $22,350 (see table in this link)," the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee note.
To be clear, not all households living below the poverty line receive $61,194 worth of assistance per year. After all, many above the poverty line also receive benefits from social welfare programs (e.g. pell grants).
But if welfare is meant to help bring those below the poverty line to a better place, it helps demonstrate that numbers do not add up.
As for the welfare programs, the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee note:
A congressional report from CRS recently revealed that the United States now spends more on means-tested welfare than any other item in the federal budget—including Social Security, Medicare, or national defense. Including state contributions to the roughly 80 federal poverty programs, the total amount spent in 2011 was approximately $1 trillion. Federal spending alone on these programs was up 32 percent since 2008.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that almost 110 million Americans received some form of means-tested welfare in 2011. These figures exclude entitlements like Medicare and Social Security to which people contribute, and they refer exclusively to low-income direct and indirect financial support—such as food stamps, public housing, child care, energy assistance, direct cash aid, etc. For instance, 47 million Americans currently receive food stamps, and USDA has engaged in an aggressive outreach campaign to boost enrollment even further, arguing that “every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy… It’s the most direct stimulus you can get.” (Economic growth, however, is weaker this year than the two years prior, even as food stamp “stimulus” has reached an all-time high.)
Here's a breakdown of the welfare spending: