What do we celebrate on this Independence Day? It’s not just independence from Britain — it’s America’s independent spirit and commitment to free markets. Some call it the American Dream.
As we watch fireworks, eat barbeque and reflect on our history, our independent spirit is threatened by increased government dependence. The Heritage Foundation reports that today more than one in five Americans, or about 67 million, depend on the federal government for assistance, more than ever before. Thanks to Obamacare, we are set to become even more dependent on federal programs.
There are federal programs covering many parts of life. Mike Brownfield reports that “a full 70 percent of the federal government’s budget goes to pay for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance, with recipients ranging from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries.” To implement these programs, Congress has exercised powers not authorized by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers would be surprised by the growth of the federal government and Americans’ dependency on it. Patrick Henry said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.” When one in five Americans depend on government and fewer than half pay income taxes, people are not restraining the government.
Congressman Allen West doesn’t see the dependency trend reversing any time soon. As he wrote in a February blog post, “With the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers and the continued liberal march toward government involvement in all parts of life, the trend in the number of Americans dependent on Washington seems to have only one direction: up.”
However, he does have confidence that “the essence of the American spirit does not want to be obliged to government for our daily routine. Americans want to fight for their independence and be successful providers for themselves and their families.” This is the independent American spirit that we celebrate on the Fourth of July.
Ronald Reagan said the government is the problem, not the solution. This Independence Day, let’s celebrate our nation’s independent spirit and keep an eye on increasing government dependence.
Roger Custer is the executive director of America’s Future Foundation.