Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How Dependent Are Americans on Government?

When the New York Times publishes an article on the extent of government dependence, that's when you know that you have to begin wondering just how dependent the average American has become on government. What does it mean to "be dependent" on government? How do we measure dependency on government?

The Heritage Foundation recently put out the data in their 2012 Index of Dependence on Government. It is tempting to scream "right-winged bias." I'm not a happy that Heritage Foundation only included federal income taxes in its assessment with tax burden or that it does not put the growth of expenditures in terms of 2012 dollars.  But just remember that with the aforementioned NYT article, there was an interactive map that came to the same conclusion: Americans have become increasingly dependent on government.

As Heritage Foundation points out, the programs that create dependency account for seventy percent of our budget! The two largest programs are Social Security and Medicare. Considering the rise of retiring Baby Boomers, it should be no surprise that these expenditures will only increase with time, not only as a dollar amount, but also in percentage of the federal government's budget.

What makes these programs even worse is these two entitlement programs are not predicated upon economic status, but age. This is a point that the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a Left-leaning think tank, illustrates, which is that the "middle class" is benefiting way more than perceived. That makes sense given that Social Security and Medicare are the large percentage of these "entitlement expenditures." I know what the CBPP is trying to do. They want to demystify the Republican adage of redistribution of wealth. However, this does not help the Left's cause because they go on and on about how we need these programs to help the poor. If that is not what is really going on, all that the CBPP study does is give libertarians such as myself the reaffirmation as to why such programs are not needed.

Look at Social Security. The original purpose of Social Security was a temporary safety net created during the Great Depression to make sure that elderly citizens weren't dropping dead en masse. Now, the government is treating the program as "guaranteeing" a retirement account to American citizens, much of the funding that helps the "middle class." Considering the rising costs, scaling back on Social Security and encouraging private retirement accounts (PRAs) would be the way to go.

Although Social Security and Medicare are two programs that create a huge degree of dependency at a great fiscal cost, I'm not solely worried about that. What about housing? Or higher-education subsidies? Federal employees notwithstanding, approximately one in five citizens are dependent on the government.

I know of people who would play the emotional card on me here and say that I don't care about others, that I want the elderly to die, or I don't want young adults to receive a good education because I either want virtually every government department either scaled back or eliminated. But let's look at a department such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. The department was created back in 1965, which was also the same year that the legislation that created Medicare passed.

It makes me wonder. Was there no healthcare prior to the creation of Medicare? Prior to 1965, was there no interim housing for those who were temporarily down on their luck? Of course not! For my friends who are enamored with Big Government, it must be difficult to imagine a world in which there is not a bureaucratic entity that attempted to regulate and provide everything. However, prior to the creation of these programs, mutual-aid, religious, and educational organizations provided poor people with such needs as temporary housing, welfare, and healthcare.

But now? We live in society with such a self-entitlement mentality that many expect the government to not only solve problems, but provide citizens with everything, i.e., a "welfare state." It's not simply a matter of the welfare state being a costly endeavor. Dependency stymies progress and growth, both for the individual and the society as a whole. The trend of this country is clearly heading in a direction towards increased dependency. If we are to reverse this negative trend, it begins with changing the minds and hearts of the American people.


  1. You are libertarian in an economic definition, it would be against Judaism to be so socially. So, you Jews have made the Managerial State a mitzvot, with your FDR and Neoconservatism (of which you share with Catholics, despite intellectual iconoclastic attempts.)

  2. Mr. Mcgranor, I fail to see what this has to do with American dependence on government, but I'll nevertheless respond.

    It would be more accurate to say that being libertarian goes against the political opinions of a majority of Jews, rather than say that it goes against Judaism. While Judaism and libertarianism do not have 100% overlap, Judaism nevertheless has a multitude of libertarian elements to it, including, but not limited to, the right to self-defense, treating everyone equal under the law (which would include not favoring the poor over the rich or treating people of different race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. any differently), flat taxation (any tithing done in Judaism is done in terms of percentages, not in a progressive manner, as well as having reasonable limits), and my personal favorite, a respect for a man's free will (i.e., metaphysical libertarianism).

    I can't help it if the Zionism that created the State of Israel was of a secular, socialist nature. I certainly do not approve of the lack of economic freedom. If you think Jews are just complacent about Israel's status quo, you haven't talked to enough Jews or Israelis on the matter because there is a wide divergence of opinion amongst us. Also, I do not understand what you mean by "making a mitzvah out of it." Short of the debate of whether it's a mitzvah to live in Israel, it makes no sense because the underlying assumption with that statement is that the State of Israel inherently has to be socialist in nature, and that is simply not automatic.

    I don't see how he is "my FDR," especially since he denied a lot of Jews entry to America during the Holocaust. Whether it is from a Jewish perspective or a libertarian one, I'm hardly an FDR fan.

    Finally, I don't see how you can call me a neo-conservative when I have called for America to pull its troops out of Afghanistan on more than one occasion. And I don't share any neo-conservatism with any Catholics because I'm a libertarian, plain and simple.