Entitlement Nation

Will Obama soon bankrupt us all?

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.”

Some people stay on the food stamp entitlement program practically all their lives. According to a Yahoo.com blogger, food stamps are “not meant to be someone’s income for their entire life unless they are mentally challenged or injured. They don’t feel bad about spending other people’s money; they just seem to think it is the way it should be. They never feel bad or guilty that they are sucking money out of society. I work at Wal-Mart and see the same people every day buying things on food stamps. One time a man bought $87 on just candy and pop...that tells me this person does not really need to be on food stamps. While checking at Wal-Mart, this girl (commented) ‘food should not be taxed, because it is a need.’ While saying this, she was paying with food stamps.”

For more than 40 years the food stamp program, now called SNAP, for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has been a mainline entitlement program to aid low-income families. SNAP now puts food on the tables of 28 million people every month, according to About.com—U.S. Government Information. In general, people who work for low wages, are unemployed, work part time, get public assistance, are elderly or disabled and have a small income may be eligible.

The Democrat-controlled Senate barely missed giving retirees, disabled and veterans a $250 hand-out to make up for the loss of the cost-of-living increase (COLA) they normally get. Logic, of course, would dictate that because there’s no inflation, why is a COLA justified, especially at a cost of $13 billion? This COLA has been an annual entitlement since 1975.

TEFAP is the acronym for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, a federally funded, state assisted entitlement for low-income families providing them with emergency food at no cost. Not to be confused with TANF, which stands for Temporary Assistance For Needy Families. Its beneficiaries are families with dependent children and women in their last three months of pregnancy. It also helps recipients find jobs—if they want to work. Then there’s SSI, or supplemental security income. It’s a needs-based program for those who have never worked, or those whose earnings in recent years have been low enough to result in a small Social Security benefit, or no benefit at all. Subsidized housing or “social housing” is government-supported accommodation for people with low to moderate incomes. Forms of subsidies for housing include direct housing subsidies, non-profit housing, public housing, rent supplements and some forms of co-operative and private sector housing. Cost runs in the hundreds of billions.

George Bush helped create the prescription drug program for seniors, which made Medicare more expensive. Obama finally got his national health entitlement. ObamaCare was written to make it appear to improve Medicare’s financial picture. But one had to assume that the tough changes the law said would occur actually would take place.

Those assumptions, however, are implausible, according to Richard S. Foster the straight-talking Chief Actuary of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The actuary said the unfunded obligation for Medicare Part A (doctor visits) for was $13.4 trillion, not $2.4 trillion ObamaCare listed as unfunded liability in 2010.

All this does not mean there should be no help for the truly needy. But finally, there’s now the entitlement of wireless welfare. Namely, free cell phones and 250 calling minutes paid for all individuals eligible for food stamps, Medicaid, and other programs if they have an income at or below 133 percent of the poverty level of $14,404. The federal cell phone tab is over $1 billion.

In an Entitlement Society, a nation can stagnate. It’s a society fit for drones, rewarding sloth and blind obedience. It penalizes innovators, risk-takers, and achievers. Is that what we want for America?