Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dependence on Government

                    The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the fact that dependence on government destroys economic independence and also has moral and cultural consequences.  Dependence in and of itself is not a bad thing because it is a natural part of life.  As individuals look to family, friends, neighbors and churches for support, we tend to strengthen relationships and build character as we work together for the good of all.  Dependence on government handouts has the opposite effect; being government dependents weakens individuals, families, communities, and nations.

                    Dependence on the government grew by 8.1 percent in 2011 while the taxpaying population is shrinking.  Approximately fifty percent of U.S. households do not pay any income taxes while seventy percent of our annual national budget goes for entitlement programs.  Our nation is now facing historic budget deficits, which are causing a lower rate of economic growth.  This increase on government subsidies is threatening our civil society as the gap between rich and poor increases and more problems divide our communities.  Our nation is not only staring bankruptcy in the face, but we are facing social collapse as well.

                    Bill Beach, director of the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation, stated, "With government dependence, a person goes to a bureaucrat and is given aid without any expectation of anything in return.  As a consequence, people don't have an incentive to get off of that aid, and they're not building personal strength or community bonds.  The only thing expanding is the power of the state" (Heritage Member News, Spring 2012).

                    The same publication included a good explanation for the difference between the effects generated by private support activities and government subsidies.   Representative Allen West (R-FL) explained this difference very well when he wrote the following in a guest post on The Foundry, Heritage's blog.  "The social safety net - in conjunction with generosity from neighborhood groups, churches, charities, and private companies - can help lift Americans out of poverty and toward the path of self-reliance and individual prosperity.  However, that `net' should never turn into a `hammock.'"

                    Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received a lot of bad publicity when he stated that he was "not concerned about the very poor.  We have a safety net there…."  Even though Romney could have phrased the situation better, he was entirely correct in his statement.

                    Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation wrote an article about the safety net for the poor.   Rector included this statement in his article:  "The federal government operates more than 70 means-tested welfare or anti-poverty programs, among them Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the earned income credit, Supplemental Security Income, Food Stamps, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) food program, Medicaid, public housing, low-income energy assistance and the Social Service Block Grant.  These programs provide cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted services to poor and near-poor Americans.
                    "In fiscal year 2011, federal and state government spent $910 billion on these programs. (This sum does not include Social Security, Medicare or Unemployment Insurance.)  How much is $910 billion?  Well, that comes to around $9,000 for each lower-income American.
                    "Federal means-tested welfare spending has jumped 40 percent since President Obama took office.  Of course, it is not unreasonable for welfare spending to rise during a recession.  But the big secret is that, under Obama's budget plans, this spending will not go back down when the recession ends….
                    "Discussions about welfare and poverty in America often are confused by a lack of understanding about what it means to be `poor' in the U.S."

                    None of us wish to see starving children roaming our streets, but we must use common sense.  We must bring fiscal security to our government and nation, and we must do so in a way that increases personal responsibility in every American where possible.

                    The "nanny state" vision of liberals/progressives does nothing more than destroy personal initiative and self-reliance and keep Americans in the "hammock" described by Representative Allen West.  The Left believes that government entitlement programs are compassionate, but they are wrong except maybe in the cases of truly needy people.  Government subsidies enslave people and destroy their capabilities to meet their own needs.  Every wise parent - including Heavenly Father - knows that children of all ages must accept responsibility to meet his/her own needs before asking or expecting someone else to do so.  I had my own experiences of giving my children too much assistance and seeing them sit back and let me do their work.  These experiences plus experiences outside my family have taught me that we do not help people by assisting them without requiring them to work for what they receive.      
The Heritage Foundation issued The 2012 Indexof Dependence on Government, written by William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell, under the date of February 8, 2012.  The Index begins "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.  Yet policymakers made little progress on either front since the 2010 Index of Dependence on Government was published.  Today, more people than ever before - 67.3 million Americans, from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries - depend on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, and other civil society institutions.  The United States reached another milestone in 2010:  For the first time in history, half the population pays no federal income taxes. Related to these disturbing trends, publicly held debt continued its amazing ascent without any plan by the government to pay it back.  As if those circumstances were not dire enough, the country is about to witness the largest generational retirement in world history by a population that will depend on currently bankrupted pension and health programs.
                    "The 2012 Index of Dependence on Government highlights the gathering fiscal storm clouds.  Unsustainable increases in dependent populations predate the recent recession - and continuing economic morass - and have continued to rise since the economy collapsed in 2008 and 2009.  There is one silver lining to those clouds:  A few policymakers and independent public policy groups have advanced plans for restoring fiscal balance in Washington.  Among them is The Heritage Foundation.  Heritage calls its fiscal plan Saving the American Dream.  The Heritage plan reforms and funds those government programs that matter most to people who need the government's help, and it frees the private sector to create the millions of jobs that will dramatically reduce the growth of dependence on government.
                    "Virtually no issue so dominates the current public policy debate as the future financial health of the U.S. government.  Americans are haunted by the specter of enormously growing mountains of debt that suck the economic and social vitality out of this country.  Only the intrepidly stagnant and jobless economic recovery garners more attention, and many are beginning to believe that even that sluggishness is tied to the nation's growing burden of publicly held debt."

                    This is the tenth year that The Heritage Foundation has issued this report, warning us about our growing dependence on government programs.  The index was first measured in 1962 and is now 15 times the original amount.  The Index has some wonderful charts showing the stark situation our nation is in with one in five Americans dependent on government - that figure does not include government employees - and our national income shrinking due to fewer taxpayers.

                    Bill Beach and Bill O'Reilly discuss the findings of the experts at The Heritage Fountain in this video.   

                    I like Benjamin Franklin's idea on how to help the poor:  "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means.  I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.  In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer.  And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."  ("Management of the Poor" [1766] as quoted by Patriot Post) 

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