“The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013
Unfortunately, the President is incorrect in that observation. Let the numbers tell the true story about the decline and fall of American individualism.
1. Since 1960, entitlement transfers have increased twice as fast as overall personal incomes. Government transfers now account for 18 per cent of all personal income in the United States – up from 6 per cent in 1960.
2. Entitlement benefits currently run at $2.3 trillion annually. This represents an annual burden in excess of $7,400 for every man woman and child in the United States.
3. In 1960, social welfare programs accounted for less than one-third of all federal spending. In 2012, social welfare programs ccounted for two-thirds of all federal spending. In other words, welfare spending is nearly twice as much as all other federal spending, including justice and defense, combined.
4. The United States has experienced a long-term expansion in public reliance on means-tested programs (i.e. programs intended for the poor). In 2012, some 35 per cent of all Americans – well over 100 million people – are accepting money, goods or services from means-tested government programs. This percentage is twice as high as in the early 1980′s. Only one-third of such recipients are seniors on Social Security and Medicare.
5. As entitlement transfers have increased, so has male flight from the workforce. Thew proportion of men 20 and older working or seeking work fell by 13 per cent between 1948 and 2008, before the recession began.
6. More than 7 per cent of men in their late 30′s – the prime working age-group – had completely checked out of the workforce before the 2008 recession began. This percentage is twice that of Greece, the poster-nation for work-place dysfunction. The percentage is higher than that of any Western European economy.
7. The route to this labor market dysfunction is the government disability program.In December 2012, more than 8.8 million working-age men and women received Social Security disability payments from the government – nearly three times as many as in December 1990. There is now one disability recipient for every seventeen workers. The total swells to 12.4 million when all government programs are included. Incidentally, that number exceeds the total number of employees in the manufacturing sector of the economy.
8. In recent years the biggest increases in disability claims have been for musculo-skeletal problems and mental disorders (including mood disorders). It is almost impossible for health practitioners to ascertain conclusively whether or not a claimant is suffering from back pain or sadness.
So, Mr President, had you bothered to check the facts before indulging in communitarian rhetoric, you would have known that the lines in your Inaugural Address cited above were categorically incorrect.
The United States is becoming a nation of takers, Mr. President, not least because you are determined to make once-independent Americans utterly dependent on D.C. And such dependence does not create an environment conducive to risk-taking, save for one powerful exception. Those who truly care about retaining their independence depart for better lands. Pay particular regard to the outward migration of America’s best doctors as the dead-hand of your name-sake – Obamacare – weighs down upon their shoulders.
Atlas will shrug, Mr. President – as you you squeeze the juiciest oranges until their pips finally squeak. In this respect, perhaps you might pick up the White House hotline and ask President Francois Hollande to inform you about recent migratory patterns among wealthy French citizens.
Hat Tip: Nicholas Eberstadt, ‘Yes, Mr. President, We Are a Nation of Takers’, The Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2013