86 million makers support 148 million takers?

By Neal McNamara | April 18, 2014
Beige Book

A shocking statistic publicized this week had KTTH host Rush Limbaugh outraged.

The website CNSnews.com reported on Wednesday that in 2012, there were 86 million full-time, year-round workers in America, and 148 million people receiving some kind of government benefit.

The figures, culled from Census Bureau data, are shocking, seeming to show an out-of-control welfare state in America – proving that America is a majority “taker” country.

“So you’ve got 86 million private sector workers, backbone of America, sustaining 148 million benefit takers,” Limbaugh said. “This is a number that cannot be sustained for very long and the direction we’re going it can’t be sustained because eventually 86 million is going to be come 80, then 75, and at some point they’re going to throw up their hands and they’re going to refuse.

“Yeah, that’s right – the takers outnumber the workers. It’s official – and it’s significant – the takers outnumber the workers.”

But don’t lose hope yet.

According to CNSnews.com, the numbers, while still startling, break down differently than just 86 million makers to 148 million takers.

First, there were actually 103 million full-time, year-round workers – defined by the Census Bureau as anyone who worked 35 or more hours per week for at least 50 weeks – in American in 2012. Approximately 12.5 million of those workers work for state and local governments, including everyone from cops to governors. Another 4 million work for the federal government, everyone from soldiers to IRS auditors. You have to discount all of those workers to get 86 million.

Second, there were 108 million who in 2012 lived in a household where someone received a welfare benefit, including subsidized housing, WIC, food stamps, and social security insurance. While some people don’t work while on welfare, receiving welfare does not mean you don’t work and pay taxes.

In fact, federal law requires you to work if you receive cash welfare benefits: The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act – also called “welfare to work” – turned cash welfare assistance into a block grant program administered by states.  For states to be eligible for the program, they must force welfare recipients to seek a job as soon as possible – and most states provide job training and pathways to work – and not later than two years after beginning to receive benefits.

Also, studies have shown that more than half of all minimum wage workers receive some kind of welfare benefit, whether it’s food stamps or subsidized housing, to the tune of $7 billion per year.

And third, to achieve the 148 million “benefit takers,” CNSnews.com added people who received other benefits, like unemployment insurance or social security for retirement. They did not include the 3.1 million veterans who get benefits because they “served their country in the most profound way possible.”

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