In the months leading to the so-called fiscal cliff, politicians on both sides of the aisle made the case on the costs of slashing benefits, including those for lower-income individuals. In a way, the conversation highlighted the looming growing clash of two demographics: minorities and a graying generation.
"Over time, the major focus in this struggle is likely to be the tension between an aging white population that appears increasingly resistant to taxes and dubious of public spending, and a minority population that overwhelmingly views government education, health, and social-welfare programs as the best ladder of opportunity for its children," National Journal's Ronald Brownstein wrote.
A recent report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that for the 2011 fiscal year, taxpayers spent about $746 billion on about 83 federal welfare programs, including Head Start, Federal Work Study, Workforce Investment Act Adult Activities, and programs for foster-care children. The figure reflects federal and matching state spending.
The report, produced at the request of members of the Senate Budget Committee, found that the share of federal spending on 10 of the 83 programs has doubled in the past 30 years.