More Than 1/3 of Americans in Households Receiving Federal Welfare

Nearly half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “War on Poverty” to help the 25 percent of the nation he declared was living in poverty, more than a third of Americans were living in households that received benefits from one or more federally funded “means-tested” programs — commonly known as welfare — in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Bureau has not yet reported the number of households that received means-tested federal assistance in 2013 or the first half of 2014, reported Terence Jeffrey at

The 109,631,000 American living in households receiving means-tested federal assistance was equal to 35.4 percent of the 309,467,000 people living in the United States in the last quarter of 2012, according to the Census Bureau. Adding those who were receiving non-means-tested benefits, including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and veterans benefits, the total of those receiving some kind of federal benefits was 153,323,000 or 49.5 percent of the total population. Even if the 3,297,000 receiving veterans are subtracted, that leaves 150,026,000 in households receiving benefits or 48.5 percent of the population.

That suggests GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was pretty close to the mark when he told a gathering of wealthy donors at a private meeting in the spring of 2012 that 47 percent of the population was dependent on the government and, not being taxpayers, would find no appeal in the Republicans’ low-tax message. “And they will vote for this president no matter what,” Romney said adding that his job as candidate was “not to worry about those people.”

Alas for Romney, the remarks were captured on a video that was published online by Mother Jones News during his fall campaign against President Obama and became the subject of much reporting and commentary in the mainstream media. It also became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since it was then doubly certain that few of the people in that 47 percent (or more) were going to vote for a candidate who had said he wasn’t going to worry about “those people.” The remarks were damaging to the Romney campaign, since he appeared to be writing off nearly half the electorate and characterizing Obama voters, or indeed, anyone receiving benefits from the federal government, as irresponsible. “I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he said.