Takers vs Doers

Nicholas Eberstadt has the call.

A growing body of empirical evidence points to increasing dependency on state largess.

Then he enumerates [emphasis his]:

  • Over the 50-plus years since 1960, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, entitlement transfers—government payments of cash, goods and services to citizens—have been growing twice as fast as overall personal income.  Government transfers now account for nearly 18% of all personal income in America—up from 6% in 1960.
  • According to the BEA, America’s myriad social-welfare programs (the federal bureaucracy apparently cannot determine exactly how many of these there are) currently dispense entitlement benefits of more than $2.3 trillion annually.  Since those entitlements must be paid for—either through taxes or borrowing—the burden of entitlement spending now amounts to over $7,400 per American man, woman and child.

To pay for this, every child is born with a $7,400 debt.  Including those who will be recipients of this welfare.  Which means, as a practical matter, the other children are born with an even greater debt.

  • In 1960, according to the Office of Management and Budget, social-welfare programs accounted for less than a third of all federal spending. Today, entitlement programs account for nearly two-thirds of federal spending.  In other words, welfare spending is nearly twice as much as defense, justice and everything else Washington does—combined.  In effect, the federal government has become an entitlements machine.

Yet President Barack Obama insists that entitlements don’t sap us, they strengthen us.  He’s partially right: they strengthen those who control the handouts from these entitlements.  Politically.

  • According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half (49%) of Americans today live in homes receiving one or more government transfer benefits.  That percentage is up almost 20 points from the early 1980s.  And contrary to what the Obama White House team suggested during the election campaign, this leap is not due to the aging of the population.  In fact, only about one-tenth of the increase is due to upticks in old-age pensions and health-care programs for seniors.
  • As entitlement outlays have risen, there has been flight of men from the work force.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of adult men 20 and older working or seeking work dropped by 13 percentage points between 1948 and 2008.
  • In recent years, the biggest increases in disability claims have been for “musculoskeletal” problems and mental disorders (including mood disorders).  But as a practical matter, it is impossible for a health professional to ascertain conclusively whether or not a patient is suffering from back pains or sad feelings.  The government’s disability-insurance programs were intended to address genuine need.  On the current trajectory, the Social Security disability fund is projected to run out of money during Mr Obama’s second term.
  • The president and others describe Social Security and Medicare as “social insurance” programs rather than transfer schemes.  True, the eventual beneficiaries of these programs contribute payroll taxes to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds during their working lives.  But “insurance” programs are meant to pay for themselves; Social Security and Medicare cannot do so.

Moreover, insurance programs pay the premium payer or the payer’s designated beneficiary later, not some stranger currently.

And who’s paying for all of this?  Slightly over half, and dwindling, of those Nancy Kress called mules in her Beggars novels.  And those of our children who are picking up the debt.

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