Friday, March 12, 2010

Entitlement Nation: Death of a Republic

My oldest daughter is taking a college political science class. Recently, she emailed me asking for guidance on selecting a period of party dominance in America’s history. She was to write an essay about the era and why it was important. I couldn’t identify them off the top of my head, so I hit the search engine and found three major periods of party dominance. Not surprisingly, the most recent period running from the years 1932 to1968 was dominated by the Democrats. I suggested she look into that period, reminding her briefly the warped history of the “great” Depression, the FDR years, and Johnson’s Great Society. The events of those thirty-six years have paved the way to the current “Entitlement Period” which may very well lead to our destruction. (There are many with whom I won’t disagree that assert this all began with Woodrow Wilson, but I’ll just stick with the most recent 40 years of data, if our readers don’t mind.)

My daughter’s question prompted me to think about the evolution of our country into the “Entitlement Nation” that we are today. I’ve thought about it so much it’s led to this post, which is the result of much research. It’s absolutely depressing and positively frightening to think about the grave danger this extremely large part of government spending poses to our country’s social and economic health. Think about it, what does it say about our society and its future when so many are looking for a handout? There are far too many people who are asking what can their country do for them, and too few who understand and appreciate the intrinsic value of hard work and achieving success by one’s own hand while living as a contributing member of American society. The “Handout Attitude” is going to cost, and cost us dearly.

Consider this: In 1992, the combined Federal, State and Local Welfare Budget was comprised of 34 entitlement programs. According to the House Ways and Means Committee report in 2003, the list of income-tested benefit programs detailed 85 programs! As well, the same report states that expenditures for only income-tested benefits have risen from $16,116,000 in 1968 to $522,156,000 (in current dollars) in 2002. A whopping 3140% increase.

Without significant reform, the cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will rise from 18 percent of GDP to 28 percent by 2050. That means that just these three federal government programs will be consuming between a quarter and a third of everything this country produces. Paying for those programs would necessitate raising the corporate and top income tax rates to 88 percent, the current 25 percent tax rate would rise to 63 percent for middle-income workers, and low-income workers would pay not the current 10 percent but 25 percent instead. The catastrophic impact this would have on our economy and American workers cannot be dismissed.

If that’s not enough to really bother you, consider the rest of our country’s financial mess. According to the AP in February 2010,

“The government already has made so many promises to so many expanding 'mandatory' programs. Just keeping these commitments, without major changes in taxing and spending, will lead to deficits that cannot be sustained. Take Social Security, Medicare and other benefits. Add in interest payments on a national debt that now exceeds $12.3 trillion. It all will gobble up 80 percent of all federal revenues by 2020, government economists project.
That doesn't leave room for much else. What's left is the entire rest of the government, including military and homeland security spending, which has been protected and nurtured by the White House and Congress, regardless of the party in power.
The U.S. debt crisis also raises the question of how long the world's leading power can remain its largest borrower.”

An editorial in a Florida newspaper wrote during last summer’s Obama Healthcare push, “Once upon a time if you wanted something you paid for it. Once upon a time it was embarrassing to ask the government for anything. That was once upon a time. I heard a new version of the reference to "Give a man a fish, he eats for the day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime." Now it is, "Give a man a fish, he eats for the day; teach him to fish and he'll vote for the one who gave him the fish."

After reading these dire statistics , I was prompted to look up the phrase, “banana republic” and after wading past the entries for the trendy retailer, I found this definition: Banana republic is a pejorative term originally used to refer to a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique. I am so glad that I’d already started planning my vegetable garden for the summer.... we can get a jump on the banana republic ethic about to slap us silly! Reflecting back to the start of this post, I am absolutely resolute that I, a patriotic American, am self-reliant and won’t be seeking a handout should the stuff really hit the fan. I’d also like to think that one day I can make the independent choice NOT to sign up for Medicare, but then again, maybe it will have gone the way of our liberty and national sovereignty.

Julie Ranson is a wife and mother of three. She teaches business courses at a community college in Virginia.