America has reached a tipping point in its citizens’ dependence on government, according to a new report by the Heritage Foundation.
2009 was a “historic” year for the increase in American dependence on government, said Heritage’s 2009 Index of Dependence on Government. The index reports the growth of federal programs geared towards providing aid to people in need.
“Are Americans near a tipping point in the nature of their government and the principles that tie it to civil life?” wrote William Beach, head of Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA), after describing the ever-larger numbers of Americans who look to the government for entitlements while expecting to pay little or no taxes.
“A fair reading of these trends and the data contained in this Index leads almost inescapably to the view that yes, Americans have reached that point,” Beach writes.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), spoke on the panel with Beach, at Heritage’s conference titled “Is America Sinking into the Dependency Abyss?”
Sen. DeMint stated that the spirit of independence has made America great, and yet the ever-increasing dependence of Americans on government assistance for health care, welfare and education, will prove perilous to American independence.
“I don’t think we’ve gone past the tipping point, but if we go past this November, I will say this: Without an electoral earthquake, I don’t think it’s recoverable,” the senator told the audience.
“If the healthcare bill goes into effect, what it’s going to do is bankrupt our country, and destroy healthcare…I’m not sure it is retrievable,” DeMint added.
The number of Americans dependent on government assistance for entitlements has swelled considerably, while the number of taxpayers has shrunk. The report said that in the last eight years, the index of government dependence has grown by almost 33%.
Members of the panel made the following points in their discussion of American dependence:
1. For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans are receiving more aid from the government than they are paying in taxes.
2. Since 1980, when the base year of the Index stood at 100, the CDA Index has ballooned to 240, based on data ending in 2008.
3. Unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare are now estimated at $100 trillion, and 10,000 “baby boomers” are retiring every day.
4. More Americans are not paying taxes. An estimated 34% of all taxpayers have zero tax liability, and the U.S. is approaching levels of one-third of taxpayers not paying taxes for federal benefits that they receive.
5. Housing assistance is at the second-highest level in history.
“Remember that when governments get bigger, citizens get smaller. It’s an equation,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) told the audience at Heritage.
“It becomes a very big problem in a free country like this when you’ve got nearly half of the voters who are dependent for essential personal services on the federal government,” said Sen. DeMint.
“We have more poor people today than when we started the War on Poverty,” DeMint told the audience. “And in the process we’ve destroyed families and really a whole culture in a lot of ways, and created so many spin-off costs, that it’s almost inestimable of what we’ve done to our society.”
Beach echoed DeMint’s remarks as he explained the network of “natural” dependence that exists in communities, families, churches, and local governments.
“Around everybody is this bubble of aid-giving that starts with families, that goes out to communities larger than that, to networks, churches, local governments, the Red Cross, the food bank,” Beach said. “That is the natural aid-giver, and it’s a good aid-giver, because the moment you’re able-bodied, you get back to work.”
“When the federal government gives aid for food, aid for shelter, aid for education, it crowds out and maybe even destroys the ability of the local community to do the same thing,” Beach said.
“We built the Index of Dependence on Government not to condemn dependence,” Beach continued, “but to measure the shift from the community to the federal government. Because when you’re dependent on the federal government … it may be to the advantage of that government to keep you dependent, and to move you further on in dependency. And there are members of Congress who use the dependent relationship to expand their power and influence.”
“If I don’t need the government for my income and health care when I retire, I’m going to keep those rascals accountable,” Sen. DeMint said. “But if I’m afraid, if they cut, it’s going to affect me, I have to vote differently. And I become a pawn of politicians."
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