The Washington Post recently reported on the federal government’s cash-welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Despite the deep recession, the TANF welfare rolls haven’t seen a dramatic increase. Meanwhile, other federal anti-poverty programs have seen the sizable increases that are to be expected in a recession:
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Care and Development Fund is a state aid program that subsidizes child care expenses for low-income working families with children. The federal government largely leaves it to the states to provide oversight for the CCDF program, which HHS estimates loses more than 10 percent of its funding in improper payments.
The Government Accountability Office released congressional testimony this week looking at Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. TANF, which replaced unrestricted welfare in 1996, has reduced welfare rolls and encouraged recipients to obtain work. Unfortunately, TANF’s goals have been undermined.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program provides $5 billion annually to the states, which distribute the funds to businesses, nonprofits, and homeowners. Unfortunately, the states do a poor job making sure the money isn’t lost to fraud and abuse.
When describing spending growth in federal programs, I often need to use words like “soaring” and “explosive.” But growth in federal health spending is almost beyond superlatives to describe it, and it will increase even faster as a result of President Obama’s new health legislation.
As an opponent of government growth, I’m interested in what we can learn from history to help us reverse the trend going forward. We need to understand the mechanisms of government growth if we are to combat the disease.