To the best of my recollection, one of the WoW developers first coined the terminology "welfare epics" at last August's Blizzcon. I've had difficulty finding the original source, but as I recall, the context of the talk had to do with the goal of the WoW designers to make all players put forth some degree of effort in obtaining quality gear. The specific gear in question was that purchased with arena points.
New arena loot was released to the clamoring masses a couple of days ago, and some of the items have arena rating requirements on them, thus setting in motion the designers' plan to avoid a proliferation of welfare epics. As per usual with changes of this magnitude, the official forums are rife with controversial topics. This time around, its the PvE players arguing with PvP players regarding the quality and accessibility of arena loot. Some of this debate spilled over into the comments on one of my own recent posts, piquing my interest in the issue even further.