We are at a moment where, if government’s growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America’s best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.
In a thoughtful response to President Obama’s vacuous State of the Union Address, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan completely nailed it with that one passage. In a country where we once valued independence and a strong blue-collar work ethic, we have a group of entrenched statists in both parties who have figured out that the path to power is in making as many people dependent on government as possible. Accordingly, just as the stray cat on your back porch will start to expect you to put out food every morning, a large group of Americans have come to expect and feel entitled to regular payments from those of us in the productive sector of America.
I have been reflecting for some time on the reality that the safety net has instead become a lifestyle subsidy, filling the recipients with an unwarranted sense of entitlement while allowing them to spend their money on luxury items, expecting the rest of us to fund the necessities of life. But as he often does, Paul Ryan articulated it in a very clear and meaningful way by pointing out that the system that was intended to temporarily help people in need has instead become a lifetime lifestyle subsidy. My only disagreement with Mr. Ryan is that I contend that this is not a future scenario; the safety net is already a hammock for an astounding number of Americans, and unsurprisingly they are angrily indignant at the very idea of giving up their baseless claim on the property of others.
We have all seen people in the grocery store with two piles of food items at the checkout line. One pile is generic food that the taxpayers are paying for via a redistribution program while the other pile includes luxury food items like alcohol, tobacco, and expensive food. They free up their money for luxury items by making taxpayers pay for their basic items. For a similarly clear example, take a look at this picture, which accompanied a story about the Home Heating Assistance program in Macon, Georgia:
Showing her Georgia Power bills in the one warm room of her home, Raymeica Kelly explains how her mother, sister and herself were turned away from the Energy Assistance Program on Wednesday morning after standing in line for four hours. All three complained that the system the Macon-Bibb County Economic Opportunity Council uses to give out the assistance needs improving.
Take a good look at that picture. Do you notice anything out of place given the description of this individual as someone who needs help paying her heating bills? I see a huge wide screen TV and an X-Box 360, which seem to be luxury items for someone who expects the taxpayers to pay her heating bill. Further, it is a safe bet that she is not just pulling a couple of broadcast channels out of the air. No, she likely has two hundred cable channels for that huge and expensive television. But of course, she has hard working taxpayers paying for large parts of her daily needs, freeing up her money to spend on fun things.
By definition, a safety net is a system designed to temporarily help people in their time of need. This is most decidedly not what we have in America. We have a huge group of people who want us to pay for the necessities of life so that they can have a big TV, a nice car, and a high-end cell phone.
Like it or not, these people are societal parasites.
Our so-called safety net must be retooled in order to prevent these perennial parasites from living their entire lives subsidized by the rest of us. With over $100 trillion of unfunded liabilities to be paid to people who have actually paid money into the system with the expectation of getting some of it back down the road, lifestyle subsidies like those given to Ms. Kelly are luxuries that we can no longer afford.
A good start would be a time limit. For example, you get six months of payments while you get back on your feet, then cannot receive welfare payments for another 5 years. That should clear out some of the stray cats on our national back porch.