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idea of a runaway welfare state is a myth

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/31/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 664 times Debate No: 103742
Debate Rounds (3)
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the idea of a runaway welfare state is a myth

only ten to a little more percent of federal spending is on programs for the poor. our spending is a somewhat arbitrary intake of our economic output.... if you measure it according to GDP, poor people spending is like two or three percent of GDP.

the only thing a person in the usa can be sure of, if he's not disabled, is food and education, with a very small minority getting housing assistance. anything else comes from the states and most states dont add much. for example, you may or may not be in a state that expanded subsidizing healthcare to poor people under obama, and it's not really a tangible benefit. if you're lucky enough to get cash benefits, it's usually only if you have kids, limits to just a few years, and you have to work unpaid as if you have a job anyway.

like ninety percent of spending is on social security, medicare, defense, and interest on the debt. this stuff is designed for helping everyone, not just poor people.


If welfare is overly narrowly defined as Pro suggests, to "helping poor people", then perhaps he has a point. However, since we are debating the idea of the US being a "runaway welfare state" it becomes us to consider what exactly those who use the phrase actually mean. Britannica defines a welfare state in the following way: "Welfare state, a concept of government in which the state or a well-established network of social institutions plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of citizens." Therefore, it does not follow simply because a program aims to help "everyone" rather than "just poor people" that said program does not qualify as a component of a welfare state.

On the other hand, Britannica`s definition is a bit broad, but it is clear that the concept of the welfare state began in the early twentieth century, supplanting the laissez-faire states. We may therefore as a heuristic method of defining which programs are components of the welfare state and which are not, exclude all programs that were well-funded in all or almost all developed nations. Among these are the military, basic physical infrastructure, administration of justice and the like. I cite as an example the UK central government public spending in 1870, because I was unable to find detailed data from the US from such an early period.

I invite the reader to expand the dropdown menus. We see in this chart that the largest budget items by far are defense and interest on the debt. Expanding "Protection" we see "Public Order" as a budget item. In "General Government" we see such items as executive and legislative organs. Utterly absent from the central government`s spending is any sort of social or economic assistance to the citizenry. We may profitably define therefore any social or economic assistance to the citizenry not in exchange for any good or service (as for example pensions are) as welfare. Social Security and Medicare, despite being "paid into" are not treated as accounts, and it is possible, and indeed, probable, that many retirees will get a lot more than they put in. (Do not be shocked at the interest spending in that period, either; perceive that the interest is only 2.5% of GDP which is saying something considering the enormous military conflicts the UK was fighting in the years prior, the Crimean war being one of them.)

Returning to the current state of the US budget,

Excluding the military, veteran's benefits, international affairs, interest on the debt (arguably a result of welfare programs, but I will include it as a non-welfare expense), transportation, and science (many of these have welfare elements within their legitimate, non-welfare purposes, but as including them as "non-welfare" does not significantly hinder my case so I will not delve into the specifics), we have an astounding figure of approximately 70% of the budget being spent on welfare. We are literally spending such an amount of money that if we entirely eradicated the military, which used to be in political thought the chief responsibility of the national government, the savings (517 billion according to would not resolve the deficit (684 billion, both values referential to FY 2017 data). The remaining deficit of 177 billion would only barely be covered if we confiscated all of Microsoft`s 77 billion in equity (assets-liabilities) and Apple`s 128 billion.

Revenue is not any lower as a share of GDP than the historical trend. In fact, in the entire recorded history of the US from 1792 to 1920, it is far higher. As an example, here is the data from 1792 to 1920 Using 1900 as an example, the GDP was 20.76 billion and the revenue a mere 669 million, giving federal receipts a mere 3% of the GDP, compared with today`s whopping 17.5%.

Blame for the debt therefore lays squarely with spending, and blame for spending squarely with welfare programs.
Debate Round No. 1


if you use an expansive definition then yes it probably is runaway welfare. even the constitution says 'general welfare' as the source of most government expenditures.

i don't know why you took the debate if you saw i was focusing on the limited definition of aid to poor people, but kudos to all that.


Unfortunately, Pro has not given me anything to respond to. He has merely complained that I was unwilling to commit to a fanciful definition of welfare or welfare state, a definition not supported either formally nor used in common parlance. He did not dispute any of my contentions beyond the accurate definition I adopted, and the reader may therefore consider them for the purpose of this debate as fact.
Debate Round No. 2


you must be unaware that welfare in common parlance often if not usually means helping poor people. here is the definition.

the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group.
"they don't give a damn about the welfare of their families"
synonyms:well-being, health, comfort, security, safety, protection, prosperity, success, fortune; More
statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.
"the protection of rights to education, housing, and welfare"
financial support given to people in need.

plus you saw that is how i was using it and chose not to abide by that usage, rendering your arguments moot.


I am not debating whether or not the US is a welfare state according to your defintion. If that was the debate you wanted, put that fact in the title. Even under your better definition of "People in need" rather than "poor people" the elderly are considered to be in need by the expense of end-of-life care and the lack of income by not being able to work, hence, social security and medicare. Address my arguments, please, or forfeit this debate.
Debate Round No. 3
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