By Marta Mossburg
The Hendricks County Flyer
Tue Nov 20, 2012, 02:59 PM EST
Taking government handouts is as American as reality TV.
As political economist and demographer Nicholas Eberstadt writes in his new book, A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic, "The United States is at the verge of a symbolic threshold: the point at which more than half of all American households receive, and accept, transfer benefits from the government."
Even worse, he writes, "it will only be a matter of time before a majority of Americans are seeking and obtaining 'anti-poverty' benefits - regardless of their wealth or their employment prospects."
Think about that. People who don't actually meet any poverty threshold will claim benefits because they can. Old America, meet the brave new America where meritocracy is traded in for a new smart phone.
We're already there by some measures. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, 62 percent of households making less than $20,000 per year own between two and four televisions. Sixty-eight percent of those who earn $120,000 or more have the same number.
For a nation whose identity is rooted in hard work and personal industriousness, this is a staggering turn toward the crumbling Old World social democratic compact.
And it happened before most people even noticed.
In 1960, the welfare state was less than one third of total federal spending, according to Eberstadt. By 2010 it was two-thirds of federal spending. "Thus, in a very real sense, American governance has literally been turned upside-down by entitlements - and within living memory," he writes.
The cost is staggering. He notes that in 2010, entitlements equaled about $7,200 per person or about $29,000 for an average family of four.
And it is all being fueled by debt. As Eberstadt writes, "For the sake of pure short-term expedience, the U.S. democracy has decided to mortgage its tomorrow for a more comfortable today."
In other words, those of us living are asking the unborn to pay for our mortgages and back surgeries and Friday night pizza and beer. O, say can you see ... a problem?
It doesn't matter if the benefits don't seem lavish to those who accept them or bestow them. The issue is that we can't afford them. Coincidentally, Eberstadt notes that the federal deficit has recently been almost the same as our spending on Social Security and Medicare.
For him, the price is high but the moral cost even more debilitating. He points out that millions of men have exited the workforce since the rise of the entitlement society really began in post World War II America. He also shows that abuse of the welfare state has skyrocketed, with millions more relying on government disability payments despite public health data that shows American workplaces to be much safer and Americans healthier.
For those who say this is one more study railing against minorities, the data shows that "the proclivity to rely upon government disability payments today is at least as much a 'white thing' as a tendency for any other American group." Charles Murray came to a similar conclusion in his recent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.
His research shows that Mitt Romney wasn't that far off base with his 47 percent remarks. Remember when the former Republican presidential candidate was secretly taped saying it was not his "job to worry about" the 47 percent who don't pay federal income taxes and who don't "take personal responsibility and care for their lives"?
Almost no one in the media focused on the groundswell of dependency in the nation revealed by that figure and what it meant for our future. Instead, commentators on both the left and right excoriated Romney for dismissing half of America.
The cacophony against him was so loud it was as if the crowd thought demonizing him would somehow make the problem go away.
The political smack down worked, but Eberstadt's chilling, chart-filled book shows our metastasizing tumor of debt is growing out of control, fueled by members of both parties eager to leverage the unborn's future for votes.
To fix it we must stop demonizing those who merely point out the truth.
- Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hate dog movies. In dog movies, the good, loyal, lovable dog always dies at the end and I end up sitting there in the dark with big tears streaming down my cheeks.
May 21, 2013
Mr. President, the buck stops with you.
President Truman set that standard, with these very words posted on a sign on his Oval Office desk.
But now, with over a thousand days left in this second Obama administration, we find a Nixonian stench emerging from the “W. House.”
Rarely has the White House briefing room so resembled the main ballroom at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
I’ve not kept it a secret that I find people who dress their dogs in clothes to be, to put it nicely, somewhat more than just eccentric. And many friendly, helpful readers out there have not kept it a secret that they really wish I would not express my views about dogs dressed as humans.
May 17, 2013
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
The federal government recently announced new regulations for buying fast food.
It sounds like the plot from a dystopian libertarian novel. The word “patriot” and the phrase “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights” triggered heightened scrutiny from the most intrusive agency in the federal government.
The action at the bird feeder has been spectacular lately: Cardinals, finches, songbirds in impressive variety crowding around all day long in search of sustenance. It is truly gratifying …
For my neighbor.
That’s what it’s like at his feeder.
May 14, 2013
On April 27, Dr. Jeff Butts demonstrated a rare form of servant leadership as he participated in the Go Love Indy westside service project.
May 13, 2013
Everyone presumes that Sen. Chuck Schumer, the media-hungry Democrat from New York, wants to be the next Senate majority leader. His performance in the negotiations over the Gang of Eight immigration plan should bolster his case for an eventual promotion.
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
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