Ben Carson Is Running for President

"I have no desire to get rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency in able-bodied people. We are not doing people a favor when we pat them on the head and say 'there there you poor little thing, we are going to take care of all your needs, you don't have to worry about anything.' You know who else says stuff like that? Socialists."

On Monday, May 4, 2015 in Detroit, MI
Sources: C-SPAN, Democracy In Action 

The Context: Carson highlights independence throughout his speech, emphasizing that social welfare is not a solution to poverty. Carson tells the story of his mother working multiple jobs rather than sacrificing her independence to welfare. He notes that she did so "trying to stay off of welfare [because] she noticed that most of the people she saw go on welfare never came off of it."

"Welfare" is an often-mentioned, general category of federal programs targeting different groups, addressing different shortages, and operating in different ways. There are roughly 80 different federal welfare programs, generally inclusive of all means-tested programs and tax credits for low-income Americans. The vast majority of them are temporary or discrete (such as a tax credit) by their definition, and almost all are not distributed as cash or cash-equivalents to individuals and families. Rather, many are grant programs to states or other institutions, funding for locally administered programs, or tax credits.

To give just a handful of examples, federal welfare programs include health care (examples: Medicaid and a subsidy for Medicare Part D), nutrition and food (examples: National School Lunch Program and WIC), housing and community development (including a substantial portion of HUD's programs), education assistance (examples: Pell Grants and federal work-study), and even infrastructure investment programs in rural communities. Federal welfare (and, of course, "federal welfare spending") includes all of these. We then wondered about the "welfare" described by Carson and asked,

How much (and in which parts) of the country currently receives direct government assistance?