For some time now, President Obama and his PR department (the mainstream media) have contended that our nation’s biggest problem is inequality. Not unemployment, not lack of GDP growth, not the national debt and deficit, not the growing number of people on food stamps and other government assistance. The most important problem, according to them, is the gap between the rich and the poor.
Defining rich and poor is subjective and difficult. Most often lately, “rich” has been defined as a couple who earns more than $250,000 per year. Presumably the threshold is lower for singles.
“Poor” is almost never really quantified. Some of us are old enough to remember the television ads showing skinny Appalachian kids leaning on stick-built porches, wearing rags and sad faces. I’m not saying those were the good old days, but times have sure changed. Kids on food stamps today are, as often as not, obese. Recipients of federal disability payments has increased by 50% in the last ten years. Since January 2009, the number of individuals on food stamps has skyrocketed from 31.9 million to the current record high 47.1 million. By comparison, in 1969 just 2.8 million Americans received food stamps.
If you are reading this, I’m pretty sure you have never seen the federal government’s “Benefits” website (see graphic above). The banner headline is: “Looking For Benefits?” Apparently plenty of people are – 70% of federal spending in 2010 went to “dependence-creating” programs, compared to 28% in 1962. Our Secretary of “Labor” (see Hilda Solis’ statement above) now promotes benefits, not labor.
According to the 2012 Index of Dependence on Government:
The great and calamitous fiscal trends of our time—dependence on government by an increasing portion of the American population, and soaring debt that threatens the financial integrity of the economy—worsened yet again in 2010 and 2011. The United States has long reached the point at which it must reverse the direction of both trends or face economic and social collapse.
Programs considered “dependency-creating” are federally paid housing, health care and welfare, retirement, federal payments for higher education, and agricultural subsidies. One could argue that retirement is not a benefit, because it is supposedly self-funded. Or that agricultural subsidies are not a benefit – but much of that budget is food stamps, and the rest is mainly farm subsidies to large corporations, both of which cause dependency. I can think of other spending that creates dependency too, like corporate bailouts and other government investments in chosen industries. In any event, we are looking at the same spending categories from 1962 to 2010 – and they jumped from 28% of the budget to 70%.
We can argue until the subsidized cows come home about what is fair, or whether taking property from one American to give it to another is even constitutional.
But anyone who thinks we can continue our current spending habits, or continue to encourage the use of government benefits – regardless of how much tax is paid by the “rich” - is dangerously ignorant.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel no where could be much colder
If we don’t change the world will soon be over
Living just enough, just enough for the city.
Living For the City – Stevie Wonder