America: A Nation of Government Dependents

Member Group : Jerry Shenk

Government spending is out of control. Through profligacy and dysfunction at the federal and state levels, and in local governments like Philadelphia’s, politicians have destroyed government as America’s Founders envisioned it

The national debt is already approaching the cumulative net, including illiquid assets value of America’s top 1 percent. Adding Washington Democrats’ proposed massive spending programs would exceed it, so targeting the 1 percent with confiscatory taxation is an impractical pipe dream.

Absent a course correction, every American will pay.

Here’s how:

Most Americans are somehow dependent upon government. Only ignorance and/or indifference permits them to deny it.

America’s political class encourages unrealistic expectations by promising gullible citizens more than government can consistently and sustainably deliver.

Today, unsustainable “entitlements” are considered mandatory expenditures, and “discretionary” expenditures, much of them on programs never envisioned by the Founders, are relentlessly compounded by ballooning baselines.

In fact, politicians have created a nearly-permanent American underclass accustomed to receiving their “livelihoods” from one or more government programs.

But the problem of inflated expectations is far larger and more complex than entitlements and public welfare.

The numbers have been staggering for years. According to a 12-year-old Census Bureau report, in 2008, nearly 139 million – or 46.2 percent – of slightly more than 300 million Americans were receiving benefits from one or more federal programs.

The largest programs are familiar: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, public welfare and SNAP.

But, less familiar programs such as the Railroad Retirement Program, unemployment compensation, workers compensation, housing subsidies, Federal Supplemental Security Income, Women’s, Infants and Children benefits and other means-tested assistance programs cover millions, many redundantly.

The Census Bureau’s list ignored tax breaks for industries, businesses, and individuals. And it overlooked items like taxpayer subsidies for farmers, ethanol refiners, solar and wind energy, among other politically-favored beneficiaries. In effect, people who work for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other “cultural” organizations receive taxpayer-funded handouts. Some business tax breaks filter down to individuals. About one-quarter of the roughly fifty percent of Americans who pay personal federal income taxes itemize the home mortgage interest deduction on their tax returns.

The U.S. tax code’s 70-thousand-plus pages contain thousands of deals for special interests and favored constituencies. Ironically, in order to take advantage of available tax breaks, individuals and businesses spend tremendous amounts of time, manpower and money to prepare returns.

In sum, adding federal employees, favorable tax policy recipients, including employees of companies receiving breaks and subsidies, to the numbers receiving government cash payouts and direct benefits, the number of those receiving government benefits may exceed three-quarters of Americans.

Things that cannot go on, won’t. Deficits are far too large. The national debt is unsustainable. Entitlements and irrational overspending are destroying the futures of our kids and grandkids. Government has become too enormous, too unwieldy, too inefficient, too corrupt – and largely unaccountable.

Worse, most politicians lack the will to make necessary changes.

To be fair, aside from loyalties to generous special interests, politicians mirror the mood of their constituencies. Though there’s a notion that Americans favor tax reform or reducing deficits and debt, so far, few appear willing to give up the benefits, tax breaks and subsidies they enjoy. Many/most Americans may say they favor change, but, as a practical matter, desire it only at the expense of others.

Politicians have encouraged dependency on government to the point that correcting America’s fiscal problems will require general sacrifice. The size and scope of government makes self-correction unlikely. The people must demand reform.

If government defaults, the consequences will be felt most profoundly by America’s neediest. When government “assets” are exhausted, people who were encouraged or allowed themselves to become wholly dependent upon government “benefits” will suffer most egregiously.

The politicians who promote entitlements for “the children,” “seniors” and “the poorest among us” have abdicated their responsibility to preserve the viability of programs on which those classes became dependent. In answer to the fiscal crises they created, irresponsible politicians cynically demagogue proposals that could sustainably reform entitlement programs and create a healthier, more prosperous nation.

But, politicians aside, are Americans, including those who claim to support fiscal reform, willing to give up some or all of their own benefits?

One fears that most people will say, “You first…” until things unravel – gradually at first, then all of a sudden.