Dude, where’s my welfare?

Patrick Chisholm Writer/Editor, PolicyDynamics.Org
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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.

Welfare spending is fueling calls to raise taxes on the top income earners. If that happens, marginal tax rates could reach 70 percent, and who wants to work harder or smarter when 70 cents out of each additional dollar you earn will be confiscated by the government?

“Most people won’t keep working hard for the greater good if they don’t receive the fruits of that work,” writes author Patrick Lencioni. The result, he points out, is “decreasing productivity, risk-taking, and innovation, along with increasing tax rates, government programs, and expectations.”

When you think of people on welfare, you usually think of the poor. But want to hear another outrage? Two-thirds of all welfare recipients are middle class and rich. Ryan points out that as of 2007, households in the lowest income quintile received just 36 percent of all transfer payments.

That’s largely due to Social Security and Medicare. I know — you’re gonna howl, “Social Security and Medicare aren’t welfare. I worked my butt off for my benefits!” No, you worked (or are working) your butt off to pay for someone else’s benefits. When you retire, someone else is going to work their butt off to pay for your benefits.

For that, you can thank the father of the welfare state, Franklin Roosevelt. He set up Social Security so that your contributions are spent immediately rather than saved. It and similar programs could be restructured to fix this blunder, but as long as Obama is in power, that won’t happen.

The New Yorker writer John Cassidy admitted what Obama would never admit in public. He wrote of Obamacare, “In terms of the political calculus of the Democratic Party and in terms of making the United States a more equitable society, expanding health-care coverage now and worrying later about its long-term consequences is an eminently defensible strategy.”

So he concedes that making more people dependent on government — whether they be rich, middle class or poor — is a high-priority strategy to pull more people into Obama’s party.

It’s a vicious circle. More welfare means more dependency, which means more voters for welfare. And so on.

The slogan for the Great Depression and FDR was “Brother, can you spare a dime.” For the Great Recession and Barack Obama, it should be “Dude, where’s my welfare?” What FDR started, Obama completed.

Patrick D. Chisholm is founder and creative director of Accentance, Inc. and blogs at PolicyDynamics.org.