This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, April 21, 2014:
The Census Bureau, teaming up with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, confirmed what many have long suspected: the United States is a welfare state, and the recipients are gaining on the taxpayers. According to their just-released Current Population Survey, there are nearly 150 million people on the dole compared to fewer than 90 million being squeezed to make the payments. And the longer the game goes on, the worse the score will get.
After Terence Jeffrey, former editor at Human Events and now senior editor at CNSNews, dissected the pages-long survey, he lamented:
As more Baby Boomers retire and as ObamaCare comes fully online … the number of takers will inevitably expand.
Eventually there will be too few carrying too many and America will break.
The score has been going against the taxpayers for years. As expected, there’s a survey for that as well: the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Dependence on Government. Its 2013 iteration showed an increase in dependence upon the federal government of 17 percent just since 2009. But the real news is that that index has tripled just since 1980, with no end in sight.
The Tax Foundation has been following the country’s decline from self-reliance to dependence as well, with its Fiscal Incidence project – designed to measure who is paying the taxes and who is getting the benefits. It shows that 60 percent of the population is getting more back from the government than it is paying in taxes – much more if one is in the lowest income bracket. They receive more than $10 for every $1 they pay. Middle-income families are also getting back more than they pay in: $1.15 for every $1.
That leaves the remaining 40 percent to carry the load, and, according to the foundation, that load is going to get very heavy indeed:
Obama’s policies will, as promised, increase the load on the wealthiest families by an average of more than $127,000 … while increasing the number of American families who are, on average, net receivers of [those dollars].
All of which is helping to erode America’s tradition of self-reliance. Said the authors of the Heritage index:
The greatest danger is that the swelling over time of the ranks of Americans who enjoy government services and benefits for which they pay few or no taxes will lead to a spreading sense of entitlement that is simply incompatible with self-government….
Instead of encouraging more virtue, such as self-reliance, personal responsibility, and mutual cooperation, dependence on government encourages citizens who pay little taxes to view government as a source of ever-expanding benefits … without any mutual obligations.
One of those authors, Patrick Tyrell, said that welfare is destructive:
Being paid not to work is harmful to the spirit. There is a certain dignity that comes with work. No one likes to be a freeloader … a self-reliant person isn’t poor, but one dependent on the government is.
Were she still alive, Linda Taylor from Chicago would likely strongly disagree. This welfare leech milked the welfare state for hundreds of thousands of dollars and did it with style: driving down to the welfare office in her Cadillac and flaunting her latest wardrobe in the process.
She’s the one Ronald Reagan referred to during his presidential campaign in 1976:
She has 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four deceased husbands.
And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.
Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.
Reagan was attacked for making this up, or for exaggerating. But when the Washington Post sent some investigators to Chicago to see if such a person even existed, they found Linda:
Known as the Welfare Queen, she is credited with taking in more than $150,000 a year in welfare benefits…[police detectives allege that she] had at least 26 aliases, with identifications to match; was listed at more than a score of telephone numbers; could show her address at more than 30 locations in and around Chicago; owned a portfolio of stocks and bonds under various names and a garage full of autos, including a Cadillac, Lincoln and a Chevy wagon; had three Social Security cards; was wed to several husbands who had died; had recently wed a 21-year-old sailor at a nearby naval training center; and was about to leave on a Hawaiian vacation.
When Josh Levin wrote about her last December at Slate, he found even more: she was far worse than just a welfare chiseler. She was a deceiver, an extorter, maybe even a murderer. He learned that she owned three apartment houses, financed through various welfare agencies. When she was finally brought to justice, the Illinois prosecutors opened with 31 counts of fraud, perjury and bigamy.
She did it with style. Wrote Levin:
Linda Taylor, the haughty thief who drove her Cadillac to the public aid office, was the embodiment of a pernicious stereotype. With her story, Reagan marked millions of America’s poorest people as potential scoundrels and fostered the belief that welfare fraud was a nationwide epidemic that needed to be stamped out.
This image of grand and rampant welfare fraud allowed Reagan to sell voters on his cuts to public assistance spending. The “welfare queen” became a convenient villain, a woman everyone could hate.
She was a lazy black con artist, unashamed of cadging the money that honest folks worked so hard to earn.
The Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Heritage or the Tax Foundations cannot measure the decline in morality that has been inflicted on the country thanks to the welfare state. There’s no measure for the degree to which the welfare state has taken over the traditional sources of assistance in the private economy such as churches, charities, and families. As that decline continues, the taxpayers will continue to lose. But so will freedom. Thomas Jefferson put it well when he said:
Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
Welfare is like a cancer, eating away at the moral fiber of society. America won’t break, as Jeffrey suggests, but it is being transformed from a republic into a dictatorship.
Heritage Foundation: The 2013 Index of Dependence on Government
Heritage Foundation: Self-Reliance: Better Than Government Dependence
Josh Levin’s article on Linda Taylor: The Welfare Queen