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So many Americans now look to their government expectantly for every need and desire that our system of entitlements has largely replaced self-reliance, industriousness, and independence. A huge segment of the population now reflects plodding mediocrity. To paraphrase author C.S. Lewis, we sought “a benevolent leader who likes to see people enjoying themselves, and at the end of each day a good time is had by all.”
Our founding principle of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been twisted to become a guarantee of happiness. Entitlement-spending by government is known as “auto-pilot” spending if Congress has little or no power to control it. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid have long been on auto-pilot with expenditures over which Congress has had little or no will to control. Now nationalized health care is an entitlement. It has even been called a “right.” A Newsweek article last year quoted then-Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) as saying that “we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American …will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right.”
As the give-away Obama Administration and Congress provide more and more entitlements, we are fast becoming an entitlement nation. In time, this can bankrupt us. Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, compared the unsustainability of the federal budget to a “cancer.” He said also, “This is a challenge for America.” Democrats will slightly out number Republicans on the commission, appointed in February. It is to recommend putting the budget in balance (achieving deficits of about 3 percent of GDP) by 2015.
The Obama budget for fiscal 2011 calls for $3.8 trillion in spending. About 60 percent of it now is mandatory entitlement spending. Nearly $678 billion was for Social Security, $425 billion for Medicare, and $251 billion for the federal share of Medicaid. Some $607 billion is for other mandatory spending programs. About 5 percent of the federal budget now has to be paid out for interest on the national debt.
On Jan. 16, 2009, Obama was all about entitlement reform pledging to put a hold on entitlements, making them a “central part” of his plan to curtail federal spending. At that time he said, “What we have done is kick this can down the road. We are now at the end of the road and are not in a position to kick it any further…making sure some of the hard decisions are made under my watch….”
How quickly matters change. First, the trillion dollar socialized health care was foisted on the nation. Now, Obama wants to add guaranteed education to the country’s plethora of entitlement programs. In an August 9 speech at the University of Texas in Austin he declared: “The single most important thing we can do is to make sure that we’ve got a world class education system for everybody. This is a pre-requisite for everybody.” He called for 8 million more college graduates by 2020. He said college must be made more affordable and promised “the best education possible from cradle through a career.”
Enter realism: Only about half of the freshmen entering four-year colleges eventually graduate. Freshman-to-sophomore drop-out rates, according to other studies, increased to 27 percent. The notion that all young people will go to college is an impractical dream. Nearly 6.2 million students in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 drop out of high school, CNN reported last year. That totals 16 percent of all those of that age in the county. Most were Latino or black, a study found at Northeastern University in Boston. Of the 30 occupations with the highest expected growth from 2008 to 2018, only 8 require a bachelor’s degree.
Acting so as to let no teacher be left behind, Obama Aug. 10 signed a $26 billion bill that Democrats in Congress said would save 300,000 teachers, as well as police and others—mainly union members—from lay-offs this election year, the AP reported. This entitlement, mainly for union members, is to be paid for in two ways. One is by raising $10 billion in taxes on U.S.-based multinational companies. The balance is to come from accelerating the phase out of an increase in food stamp payments. Food stamps were increased in last year’s stimulus package.
The new law provides that payments would return to pre-stimulus amounts in 2014, thereby supposedly saving $12 million. Does any one believe the food stamp entitlement of nearly $75 billion for 40 million people won’t be kept available. Someone said that “honesty may not be the best policy in politics, but it’s worth trying once in a while.”
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