Christian historian David Barton stated on a recent episode of his "Foundations of Freedom" series that the average amount that families receive on welfare is $61,000 (video below).
Barton began by citing the Heritage Foundation, a very conservative think tank, to illustrate all the supposed luxuries that poor Americans have in comparison to other countries.
In 2011, MediaMatters.org countered the Heritage Foundation's assertions with citations about the lack of health care, housing, education, healthy foods and legal assistance for poor people.
Barton went on to tell his guest, Glenn Beck:
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Take that even a step further: right now, if you're on welfare in America, there are 80 anti-poverty programs in America. Those 80 anti-poverty programs, spread out over the poor, the average amount that goes through those poverty programs to those who are designated to be poor: $61,000 a year.
The poor in America, right now, make more than the starting salary of a teacher in 11 states, more than the starting salary of a secretary in 39 states. If you're in Hawaii, unless you're making a salary of over $61,000 a year, there is no reason for you to get off poverty.
According to RightWingWatch.org, this is the fourth time Barton has made this false assertion, which originally came from the GOP-controlled Senate Budget Committee in 2012.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted in 2013 that Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama posted a document on the Senate Budget Committee website that was "deeply flawed" and "substantially overstates the assistance that poor households receive. Means-tested programs do not raise poor households anywhere close to a typical middle-income household’s standard of living."
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The Sessions document derives its numbers by adding up the cost of a large number of programs that are targeted on low- and moderate-income households — or on schools and communities with large numbers of low- and moderate-income students or residents — and dividing the total cost of these programs (all of which it labels 'welfare') by the number of households below the official poverty line. It claims this shows that we spend the equivalent of $168 per poor household per day — or more than $60,000 per poor household annually. It then compares this per-household amount to median household income.
Sessions came to this total number by counting "payments to hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and other medical providers," and by adding in "spending on poor people, benefits and services that go to families and individuals who are above the poverty line," as well as other government programs, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated.
Additionally, there are specific rules that disqualify people on one government program from simultaneously being on other programs.