As we noted just earlier today, just about every statement that is made by David Barton needs to be fact-checked because, more often than not, the claim he is making turns out to be entirely false.
As if to help drive home this point for us, Barton appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio program today and absurdly declared that the “average welfare family” receives $61,000 a year in government benefits, meaning that in many states they earn more than teachers and secretaries.
“Right now, if you are on welfare, you make more than a teacher in eleven states and you make more than a secretary in thirty nine states,” Barton said:
Barton’s figure comes from a document produced by the Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions, back in 2012 that was, not surprisingly, entirely misleading.
As experts at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, this figure was derived by relying on “a series of serious manipulations of the data that violate basic analytic standards and are used to produce a potentially inflammatory result:”
Counts payments to hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and other medical providers — including payments for care for sick elderly people at the end of their lives and for people with serious disabilities who are institutionalized — as though these payments are akin to cash income that is going to poor families to live on. The single largest area of federal spending in the Sessions comparison is health care spending. Close to half of all of the spending that Senator Sessions portrays as income to poor households consists of payments to hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or smaller health programs. The majority of this health care spending is for the elderly or people with disabilities, including end-of-life care and nursing home care.
Counts, as spending on poor people, benefits and services that go to families and individuals who are above the poverty line. As noted, Senator Sessions divides the cost of a broad set of programs by the number of households with income below the official poverty line. Yet many of these programs, by design and for good reason, serve substantial numbers of low- and moderate-income Americans whose incomes are above the poverty line. For example, 65 percent of the lower-income working households receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2011 had incomes above the official poverty line. Many programs do not cut off benefits abruptly at the poverty line, for two reasons. First, many hard-pressed families and individuals modestly above the poverty line have significant needs; for example, an elderly widow living on only $12,000 a year is above the poverty line. Second, abruptly cutting off benefits at the poverty line, rather than phasing them down gradually as income rises, would create large work disincentives.
Long-term care alone constitutes 28 percent of all Medicaid costs — and a larger share of Medicaid costs for seniors and people with disabilities. A substantial share of Medicaid spending on long-term care is for seniors who had middle-class incomes for much of their working lives but whose long-term care needs now exceed their ability to pay for that care. In 2010, private nursing home care averaged $83,585 per year, assisted living facility costs averaged $39,516 per year, and home health aide services averaged $21 per hour. In 2009, the average long-term care cost for a Medicaid beneficiary receiving such care was $34,579, a figure sure to be somewhat higher today.
By including the costs of such care in the calculation of the average spending per poor household, the Sessions analysis creates a misleading impression that typical low-income families and children receive extravagant benefits. Providing a frail senior with nursing home care does not mean that the typical low-income family with children is receiving huge amounts of benefits that give it a high standard of living … Older people, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses incur far higher health care costs than do healthy individuals, but that doesn’t make them “higher income” or give them a higher standard of living than healthier households have. Similarly, a low-income family with a child who has a serious disability is not “well off” because Medicaid covers the child’s sizable health care costs. A middle-income household with a member fighting cancer doesn’t suddenly become “high income” when the family’s insurance covers costly cancer treatments.
Once again, Barton’s claim is entirely false, as the average family on welfare does not, in any way, receive $61,000 a year from the government.