This week we will look at one of the programs that is contributing ‘majorly’ to the cancer that is eating away at this nation. While on the surface it may appear to be humane in nature, in the long run it will destroy us. The cancer is ‘debt’ and the primary contributor to this cancer is “Entitlement Programs”. It has relieved many from taking responsibility for themselves. By today’s definition what is an ‘entitlement’? An entitlement is a “right” to participate in and receive benefits from a government program, such as welfare, unemployment compensation, food stamps, government housing, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and scores of others. Originating largely in the 1930’s as a result of the ‘depression’ that swept the nation, these programs were designed to be ‘safety nets’ to provide temporary help to the needy and at-risk. This once short term and limited assistance has now grown into full-blown lifestyle opportunities, providing lifelong income possibilities that no longer even remotely reflect their original purpose.
Prior to President Franklin Roosevelt, spending on such programs was inconsequential. With his advent of the New Deal and its many new and unprecedented social programs, entitlement spending grew eight-fold. The second wave of entitlement programs was introduced by President Lyndon Johnson with his Great Society programs. Spending tripled compared to previous spending. Then under President Barack Obama and his new entitlements…healthcare, and greatly expanded food stamps and welfare programs…entitlement spending once again exploded [USGovernmentSpending.com, “US Entitlement Spending Growth”]. Spending grew from a mere 0.4 % of GDP in 1900 (only 5% of the federal budget) to 18 % of GDP today (accounting for 45% of the budget) [Brad Plumer, “Who Receives Government Benefits, in Six Charts”, Washington Post, September 18, 2012].
Today 49% of American households, involving some 148 million Americans [Luhby, “Government Assistance Expands”], receive a government entitlement check [Ibid]. The government now sends $2 trillion annually to individuals through various entitlement programs [Suzanne Mettler, “Reconstituting the Submerged State: The Challenges of Social Policy Reform in the Obama Era”, Perspectives on Politics 8, no. 3 ,September 2010]. Money is given so freely and unconditionally that most Americans don’t even realize they are getting a government check. Two-thirds of those who currently receive an entitlement check say, “No, I have not used a government social program” [Plumer, “Who Receives Government Benefits”]. 60 percent of Americans now receive more government benefits than they pay in taxes…an unsustainable economic practice.
An example of an unsustainable “safety net” is the National School Lunch Program. Begun in 1946 to provide food at school for the poorest students, today 32 million…two-thirds of all public school children…participate in this program [Elizabeth Harrington, “101M Get Food Aid From Federal Gov’t; Outnumber Full-time Private Sector Workers”, CNSNews.com, July 8, 2013]. The program has just recently been made available to all students…regardless of family income [Jake Grovum, “Thousands More Students to Get Free Lunch Next Fall”, USA Today, June 23, 2014].
Another out-of-control entitlement program is ‘food stamps’. Originally designed to help put food on the table of the poor, currently 47 million Americans receive food stamps…the current administration says the economy is doing quite well [Harrington, “101M Get Food Aid”]. With revisions to the program, food stamps can now be used to buy lobster and gourmet cupcakes, menu items from Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Starbucks [Hannah Bleau, “Eleven Things You Didn’t Know You Could Buy With Food Stamps”, The Daily Caller, June 30, 2014], as well as for gambling, casinos, horse race tracks, lottery tickets, and amusement parks such as Disney World [Mike Sunnucks, “Arizona Looks to Restrict Food Stamp Use at Liquor Stores, Casinos”, Phoenix Business Journal, April 29, 2013]. Further they can be used to purchase cigarettes and liquor, lingerie, and even provide bail for convicted felons [Bleau, “Eleven Things You Didn’t Know You Could Buy With Food Stamps”]. Some even exchange food stamps for cold, hard cash. Under the Obama administration Americans were actively solicited to receive and use food stamps, even paying bonuses for those states that sign up the most applicants the most quickly [TimesFreePress.com, “The Food Stamp Bonus”, June 23, 2012]. Under this program the number of able-bodied adults receiving food stamps has doubled [Philip Klein, “CRS Report: Number of Able-Bodied Adults on Food Stamps Doubled After Obama Suspended Work Requirement”, Washington Examiner, September 19, 2012].
Entitlement expenditures are now nearly one hundred times higher than they were in 1960 [Mary Kate Cary, “The Shocking Truth on Entitlements”, US News and World Report, December 19, 2012]. At that time, entitlement spending was less than one-third of the federal budget [Ibid]. However since 1960 entitlement spending has increased by an average of 9.5% every year and now comprises roughly two-thirds of the budget [Ibid]. With the current rate of growth, in only a generation from now the expense of the ever growing entitlement programs and the interest payment on the debt caused by them will be so high that they will consume all the tax revenues for each year. That is, all the taxes paid to the government each year will be used in their entirety just to pay for entitlement programs, with no revenue remaining for national defense or any other national requirement [Alison Acosta Fraser, “Federal Spending by the Numbers: 2012”, The Heritage Foundation, October 16, 2012].
Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson once said, “Entitlements are the engine on the train driving us to the cliff”. Adjusting tax rates won’t help. There is not enough money in all America to pay for this spending [Cary, “The Shocking Truth on Entitlements”]. Right in line with this uncontrolled government spending is a decline in public faith in the federal government which now stands at an all-time low [Karen Tumulty, “The Great Society at 50”, Washington Post, May 17, 2014]. In the 1960’s 80% of Americans said that they trusted the federal government to do what is right always or at least most of the time [Ibid]; today that number is 19% [Ibid]. And now today as most working Americans either are or have paid into Social Security their entire ‘working life’, the government has decided that it is an ‘entitlement’ and not a ‘government debt’. What else could one expect from a government that has been stealing from the Social Security trust funds for years and now is incapable of fulfilling its obligations in the form of IOU’s placed into the fund?
Where are our churches today on this plague that is threatening the very livelihoods of its congregations? The government today is in the process of trying to replace God…government, the giver of food, housing, education, healthcare, ‘freedom’. Our ‘ship of state’ is in much more serious trouble than many would like to admit. The ‘tide’ is receding, the ‘shoals’ are rising, and we are going to be left ‘high and dry’ with irreparable damage if we don’t soon make a move as a nation.
Next week we will take a look at ‘Welfare’, another program that is slowly destroying the economy of this nation and the self-respect of many of its citizens.
– Bob Munsey