Opinion

Dude, where’s my welfare?

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Patrick Chisholm
Writer/Editor, PolicyDynamics.Org
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      Patrick Chisholm

      Patrick D. Chisholm is a writer/editor whose articles have appeared in numerous publications including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Baltimore Sun, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, National Review, and South China Morning Post. From 2002 through 2006 he was an opinion columnist for The Christian Science Monitor. He is creative director of <a href="http://www.accentance.com/">Accentance, Inc.</a>, a video production company in Chantilly, Virginia, and runs the website <a href="http://policydynamics.org/">PolicyDynamics.Org</a> which includes articles, a blog, and VideoViews. Prior to founding Accentance in 2001 he was managing editor at KCI Communications (a financial publishing company), a staff writer at International Executive Reports, and a foreign affairs analyst in the State Department's Office of Mexican Affairs. He graduated from American University’s School of International Service with an M.A. in international affairs/international economics, and from Colorado College with a B.A. in history.

So much for “hope and change”; “Yes, we can”; and the grammatically questionable “change we can believe in.” After three years of Barack Obama, the verdict is in. The official slogan for the era of Obama should be: “Dude, where’s my welfare?”

Also right up there is “Dude, where’s my job?” But top honors should go to “Dude where’s my welfare?” because it so embodies the swelling number of Americans becoming dependent on government handouts under Obama.

There were high hopes when Mr. Obama got elected that he would be viewed, to use Colin Powell’s phrase, as a transformational figure. Oh, he’s been transformational all right — transforming millions of people into wards of the state.

At least six million more, so far. When he took office about 62 million, or 19.8 percent of all Americans, received government assistance. In 2010 it was about 68 million, or 21.8 percent. Obamacare is set to increase that figure by tens of millions.

There’s a pretty good chance that you, reader, either are getting government handouts or live with someone who does. Or if you’re not, you probably know people who do. In 2010 (the most recent year for which stats are available) 48.5 percent of the U.S. population lived in a household that received some type of government benefit. That was up from 44.4 percent in 2008.

The government’s main function is now wealth redistribution: coercing money from some people and giving it to other people — in the form of food stamps, Section 8 housing, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Social Security Disability, unemployment benefits, government pensions, etc.

According to the White House’s own statistics (Table 6.1), in 2010 welfare spending — called “payments for individuals” — accounted for a whopping 66 percent of all federal government spending. When Obama took office, that number was 61 percent, which was monstrous enough. In the 1950s, wealth redistribution accounted for a manageable 15 to 20 percent of total government spending.

Things have gotten so bad that all of the taxes Americans pay to the federal government don’t even cover welfare spending. Using the Obama administration’s statistics, total tax receipts are about $2.2 trillion. Total federal spending on welfare programs is $2.3 trillion.

Another way of looking at it: Every penny you pay in taxes just goes toward welfare spending. Your tax money is simply redistributed to someone else. Everything else the government spends its money on — like law enforcement, transportation infrastructure, defense, embassies, national parks, space exploration and environmental protection — has to be paid for by borrowed money.

Woe to the society where a critical mass of people receive income and benefits that they never earned. That’s what Rep. Paul Ryan and others call the tipping point, when more voters receive benefits from the government than there are voters paying for those benefits.

Then it becomes practically impossible to reverse the entitlement state. Long-term economic growth slows, and the standard of living stagnates. Already, median household income has fallen to 1996 levels. That’s frightening — usually median income rises over time.