If I told you that Ron Paul (remember him?) said that Secret Service protection for presidential candidates is "welfare" and he didn't need it, what would you think he meant? Why of course, you'd think he meant that the kind of protection the Secret Service provides is necessary, but sometimes a candidate has fallen on hard times and can't afford to pay for it themselves, so the government steps in to do it for them. And if Paul doesn't need it, it's because his campaign, unlike those of his rivals, is on sound financial footing. That's what you'd think he meant, right?
Well, no. You'd know that when Ron Paul says "welfare," what he means is "an undeserved government handout." Welfare was established as part of a safety net to insure that people in poverty wouldn't spiral into absolute destitution, but today not only has the program (now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF) been slashed to the bone, we barely ever debate it at all, unless it's to discuss a Republican proposal to make it even harder and more humiliating to receive. Instead, the word "welfare" only comes up when someone wants to characterize a benefit as undeserved.
And liberals are nearly as guilty as conservatives. The only time they use the word is when they're talking about "corporate welfare," by which they mean not benefits to needy corporations, but undeserved handouts to corporations. Just one more conservative linguistic victory, and one that has become so ingrained everyone uses it without thinking.