Is Sessions a math dunce? No, he just subscribes to an unrecognizably maximalist definition of “welfare,” one that includes every single federal program that’s means-tested. He includes Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, usually described as health care programs, which account for nearly half his total. He also includes Pell grants, job training programs, and various other functions that are “welfare” in roughly the same sense that all government spending is “socialism.” By stretching welfare’s meaning until it has almost none, Sessions is able to calculate the total welfare tab not at an underwhelming $96 billion, but at $746 billion, which is indeed more than the tab for Social Security, or Medicare, or defense. Then he adds in the state-funded part of these programs so he can say the total exceeds $1 trillion.
I’m sure that many conservatives and libertarians do subscribe to the belief that any means-tested program is basically welfare. It’s interesting to see the extent to which there’s a “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” effect going on – how many white Americans with a thing against welfare have children getting free school lunches or attending private schools because of voucher programs or are actually receiving welfare?
Oh right, about the same number as blacks. [Yes, I’m implying that much of the ire against welfare is based on racism.]
Republicans are putting themselves in a weird position for the coming elections. They’re already associated with 47% rhetoric (GOP strategists must love Mitt Romney). They’ve lost the black and likely the Latino vote for at least another few election cycles. They rail against welfare despite the fact that a significant portion of the remaining electorate even considering voting for them is taking advantage of the programs they claim they would do away with (or which would have to be eliminated to make up for magic asterisks in their budget proposals). They’ve completely lost the youth vote (compare the GOP of today to Reagan, who won the youth vote by 20 points in 1984). How does this party stay relevant when they no longer represent any major demographic?