The "talking points" on-line today (9/14/05) was about America and the poor. O'Reilly compared government spending "on the poor" from 1996 (the first year of welfare reform) to last year. He used raw dollar amounts for his comparison (no adjustments for inflation), and showed a nearly 50 percent increase in spending. Now this stuff is my life -- I actually am a college professor (minus the PowerPoints because my Community College is too poor to support that technology in the classroom). I teach social problems and inequality and spend vast amounts of time mining this type of information from the vast federal bureaucracy.
O'Reilly's figures were not bogus, but highly misleading. The single biggest item in that "spending on the poor" is Medicaid. Money that benefits the poor, but certainly does not GO to the poor. It goes to physicians, psychiatrists, hospitals, drug companies, and many other affluent folks. And Medicaid is where almost every penny of that increase has gone. Spending on cash payments (loved it when O'Reilly said "that's free money") has declined. It has had to -- by law. You know that law everyone calls "welfare reform" from 1996. That law was very specific, it cut spending to state governments for direct cash payments to poor people every year for the past 10 years.
O'Reilly's point? America is generous to the poor. I'll grant that individual Americans are very generous in times of crisis. But the American government generous to the poor -- not. Generous to some parts of the medical community -- yes indeed.
My mom, poor dear, at 81 just figured out what a racket is being run between the medical equipment industry and Medicare (similiar to but different than Medicaid). The bought my 93 year old Dad a really fancy walker to go walking out side, with wheels and brakes and a seat from a discount store for about $80. Then the doctor recommended that for around the house my Dad needed a simpler version, without wheels, and wrote a prescription and told my mom to go to a particular medical equipment company that would do all the Medicare paperwork for her. The prescription was written for a "rental" of 999 months. After signing all the forms and paying the deductable, it dawned on my Mom that by "renting" the walker on a monthly basis, the medical equipment company would probably make several hundred dollars off this one item -- that certainly could not have cost more than the fancy wheel walker she had purchased outright. She was outraged. She asked me if the government "knows" about this, and was disgusted to discovered that, yes, indeedy, this was well known and understood by our government. Just another example of how generous our government is.