Moving Towards An Entitlement Society

August 13, 2012   |  
Moving Towards An Entitlement Society

The great recession sent shockwaves through many parts of American society, but one of the lasting and perhaps most destructive effects of the economic devastation was the acceleration of America towards an entitlement society. What most Americans don’t know is that the combination of unemployment, underemployment, collapsing housing prices and the liberal policies of the current administration in Washington have combined to create a situation where nearly half of our nation is dependent on an entitlement program and does not contribute to our society through taxes. This is a situation fraught with peril and one that cannot continue without serious consequences to our nation.

There is no doubt that the recession caused great disruption in the labor market and many people are unemployed through no fault of their own. Still, it has been estimated that upwards of 80 million working age Americans are not in the labor force. Surely some of these people do not participate in the labor force because they choose not to. They might be wealthy enough not to have to work or they might be stay at home moms or dads who can afford not to work because their spouse or partner is able to provide for them. Still others might truly be disabled and unable to work. This still leaves tens of millions who are not working or will not work and our society makes it easy for them to avoid work. Each month when the unemployment statistics are released and we hear that so many millions of people have left the labor force, we wonder where they went. How can someone who is unemployed simply stop looking for a job? Don’t they need to feed and shelter themselves? For many the answer to the last question is no. The government will step in and support them at a minimal level, often making them dependent on the government for the rest of their lives. In 2009, the administration of Barack Obama began to extend the number of weeks the unemployed could draw unemployment insurance. Eventually it became 99 weeks! That’s almost two years. Left to this President there is no doubt that the number of weeks would continue to be increased until unemployment insurance became a lifelong entitlement for those who choose not to work or who think that two jobs or a job at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s is beneath them. There is no greater disincentive to looking for work than being able to continually draw a check for doing nothing.

It’s not just unemployment insurance that is offered in such an easy manner. Other welfare entitlement programs have exploded as well. Today, over 80 million Americans receive food subsidies through the program that has been rebranded with the catchy name SNAP. We can all remember the old “food stamps” that so many were loathe to pull out in the grocery store for fear of being stigmatized. Today there is no fear because each recipient is given a beautiful plastic card with the American flag on it. There is no longer a stigma. To make matters worse the government under the current administration actually promotes and markets SNAP to anyone they can find including college students! Little noticed in the 2009 stimulus bill was a provision forcing all retailers who sell food to post a notice that the EBT card is accepted. Many may have noticed these signs the last time they entered their favorite store. Including welfare, unemployment insurance, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits, a recent study estimated that up to 44% of Americans receive some sort of government check.

Who pays for all of this? Clearly the unemployed don’t but unfortunately neither do many who work. The most stunning statistic of all is that roughly 47% of all American workers pay no federal income tax. How can this be? Simple, if a person’s credits and deductions add up to so much that the tax refund they receive is greater than the amount of federal tax they paid into the system the previous year then they have effectively paid no federal income tax. They were given back all they paid in and in millions of cases receive refunds for a greater amount then they paid in. For the 53% of workers who do pay some federal tax this is grossly unfair. Our tax system has basically turned into another entitlement program for millions. There has been a lot of talk about the rich not paying their fair share, but in fact the wealthiest earners pay 80% of all taxes. What is it called when you accept the benefits of our nation but pay no federal tax at all? Several words come to mind.

Unfortunately millions of Americans have come to accept this entitlement mentality and demand more. The consequences for our nation are dire. Add the 43% of workers who don’t pay any federal tax to the tens of millions who aren’t working then throw in an ever increasing spending system to pay for all of their benefits and it creates a witches brew of debt and decline.

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