Entitlement Madness: Is There a Way Out?

shutterstock_money_whirlpoolAccording to a recent Fox News poll, 73 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction of the country, up 20 points from 2012. Americans sense that there’s a lot going wrong in our nation, but most don’t have a clue about the true nature of our problem. If they had a clue, most would have little stomach for what would be necessary to arrest our national decline. Let’s look at it.

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of federal spending, in contravention of the U.S. Constitution, can be described as Congress taking the earnings or property of one American to give to another, to whom it does not belong. You say, “Williams, what do you mean?” Congress has no resources of its very own. Moreover, there’s no Santa Claus or tooth fairy who gives it resources. The fact that Congress has no resources of its very own forces us to recognize that the only way Congress can give one American one dollar is to first — through intimidation, threats and coercion — confiscate that dollar from some other American through the tax code.

If any American did privately what Congress does publicly, he’d be condemned as an ordinary thief. Taking what belongs to one American to give to another is theft, and the receiver is a recipient of stolen property. Most Americans would suffer considerable anguish and cognitive dissonance seeing themselves as recipients of stolen property, so congressional theft has to be euphemized and given a respectable name. That respectable name is “entitlement.” Merriam-Webster defines entitlement as “the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something.” For example, I am entitled to walk into the house that I own. I am entitled to drive the car that I own. The challenging question is whether I am also entitled to what you or some other American owns.

Let’s look at a few of these entitlements. More than 40 percent of federal spending is for entitlements for the elderly in the forms of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing and other assistance programs.

The Office of Management and Budget calculates that total entitlement spending comes to about 62 percent of federal spending. Military spending totals 19 percent of federal spending. By the way, putting those two figures into historical perspective demonstrates the success we’ve had becoming a handout nation. In 1962, military expenditures were almost 50 percent of the federal budget, and entitlement spending was a mere 31 percent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that entitlement spending will consume all federal tax revenue by 2048.

Entitlement spending is not the only form of legalized theft. The Department of Agriculture gives billions of dollars to farmers. The departments of Energy and Commerce give billions of dollars and subsidized loans to corporations. In fact, every Cabinet-level department in Washington is in charge of handing out at least one kind of subsidy or special privilege. Most federal non-defense “discretionary spending” by Congress is for handouts.

Despite the fact that today’s increasing levels of federal government spending are unsustainable, there is little evidence that Americans have the willingness to do anything about it. Any politician who’d even talk about significantly reining in unsustainable entitlement spending would be run out of town. Any politician telling the American people they must pay higher taxes to support handout spending, instead of concealing spending through deficits and running up the national debt and inflation, would also be run out of town. Can you imagine what the American people would do to a presidential candidate who’d declare, as James Madison did in a 1794 speech to the House of Representatives, “Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government”?

If we are to be able to avoid ultimate collapse, it’s going to take a moral reawakening and renewed constitutional respect — not by politicians but by the American people. The prospect of that happening may be whistlin’ “Dixie.”

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  • Hass

    Entitlement Madness: Is There a Way Out?

    Yes, tell them to get a job.

    • kill a Muslame

      Don’t forget, the Hair Cut!

  • Jason

    Sorry, but this was quite poorly written. I agree with your premise that entitlements are too high, but you’ve turned that into an anti tax spiel. Taxes are necessary for government to function, they are not confiscation, or theft. Further, you haven’t even identified ways to solve this problem.

    No doubt that it is necessary to cut spending. I would propose reductions to foreign aid, food stamps and an overhaul of the unemployment and disability payments to ensure fairness, and to eliminate waste. These programs seem to eat into federal spending more than anyother, and thus deserve scrutiny.

    • davarino

      Talk about poorly written, what you wrote above is BS. Taxes are necassary for government to function? Really? So the Trillions taken away from people is for our precious Government to function, and all of it is necassary. And yes, it is confiscation, because it is un-constitutional therefore it is theft (read your constitution).
      The microscopic amount you propose saving by overhauling unemployment, food stamps, and foriegn aid shows you dont understand the vastly HUGE amount that is in entitlements, and how that snowball rolling down hill is going to crush our economy. It all sounded good in the beginning, but how good is it if in the end it destroys everything, and everyone suffers, EVERYONE. Including you

      • Jason

        If you do away with taxation, how do you propose government fund police, education and the military? The point I was making is that some services are essential, and thus tax is necessary. I do not support government handouts anymore than the next person. I’m only saying that tax is needed to fund basic essential services.

        • davarino

          Your right, taxation for basic government functions that are constitutional. I wouldnt argue against that, and the author was not auguing against that. Its the largesse that he and you agree on.

        • Rob

          I agree that some taxation is necessary, but not for all of the handouts to people that are well capable of working.
          Police funding should be handled by the states, not the government.
          National Education Agency should be abolished. Education can be handled just fine by the state. The top down approach has proven to be a tool of the leftist to dumb down the populace.
          Military is a function of the government’s responsibilities according to the constitution. That is the only valid funding in your list.
          A flat tax makes more sense than the monstrosity that is currently implemented through the IRS.

        • Spyderman

          Jason, I have heard this liberal hogwash for years: “We need taxes for the government to function.” I agree, but your definition of what governmental functions are mine completely differ.

          Our government has expanded into areas that were never envisioned by our founding fathers, resulting in the need for higher and higher taxes from producer/taxpayers to those who produce nothing and who hardly deserve one dime from the rest of us.

          Unbridled charity in the form of subsidies, food stamps, disability payments, etc., should not be decided by some government bureaucrat, nor should it be decided by vote-seeking Congressmen and women. Those who truly deserve help should receive it on a limited and well-controlled basis. Such is certainly not the case at this time.

  • OregonCityTom

    Jason: You might want to read again. The plunder — theft — is the taking by force of law for distribution to others, not the taxes levied to fund such things as national security. In this distinction, Prof. Williams is following a very well-defined and defended path, predating the founding of this country and eloquently expressed by men like Frederic Bastiat (“The Law”, et al.)

    The entitlements are one symptom of the bigger problem: class warfare embedded in the laws of this country, with the first major defeat for liberty being the ratification of the “progressive” cause, the income tax amendment. With that tax, Americans became instantly and institutionally set at each others’ throats, with the “rich” — being wealthy but small in number — being the easiest target.

    Martin Luther King had a dream, a grand one. Let me add this: I also dream of a day when people will respect and honor each other because we are all created by God, and not find reasons to hate because of differences in monetary success or failure. Class warfare is truly a war we cannot win.

  • antioli

    Yes, a policy that creates full employment.

    • Steve Bryant

      And what policy would that be?