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Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The signers of the historical document declared themselves a sovereign and independent nation free from tyrannical British rule.
Before we eat BBQ and watch the fireworks to celebrate, ask yourself: are we truly free and independent?
Our founders had numerous grievances with King George III of England. Some of their grievances seem rather tame compared to what we are facing today. Particularly over the past hundred years, the government has grown exponentially and is now involved in nearly every aspect of our lives.
The sad part is that Americans are more dependent on the government than ever before.
Since the recession began in December 2007, the enrollment and cost of government programs have grown at an alarming rate. According to the Heritage Foundation, 128 million Americans or more than 41 percent of the population now receive benefits from one or more federal assistance program. Between 1988 and 2011, the amount of the population that receives government assistance grew by a significant 62 percent.
One of the most obvious examples of government dependency is welfare programs. Examples of welfare programs include food stamps, subsidized housing, “free” medical care, “free” child care, and home energy assistance. According to the Senate Budget Committee, the federal government has spent $3.7 trillion on about 80 different poverty and welfare programs over the past five years.
However, that amount does not even include Social Security and Medicare. These entitlement programs are the real budget crushers and must be addressed if lawmakers are serious about cutting spending. Here’s a chart from the Heritage Foundation showing how 49 percent of the federal budget goes to major entitlement programs:
It’s well known that these programs are unsustainable. Annual reports from the programs' trustees show that Medicare and Social Security have an unfunded liability of $63 trillion. That’s about 4.5 times the entire U.S. gross domestic product.
Of course, everyone is forced to pay into the terribly mismanaged system. A better idea would be allowing individuals to opt out of Social Security. People could then stay in the insolvent Social Security system or invest on their own. Private sector retirement plans can provide safer plans with higher benefits than Social Security. There’s no reason that Social Security should be mandatory for everyone.
Another sometimes less obvious form of government dependence is corporate welfare. Big wealthy corporations are dependent on the government to stay in business. We often think about poverty programs when the topic of government dependence comes up, but corporate welfare is a huge problem.
According to the Cato Institute,
“The federal government will spend almost $100 billion on corporate welfare in fiscal 2012. This includes direct and indirect subsidies to small businesses, large corporations, and industry organizations. These subsidies are handed out from programs in many departments, including the Department of Agricultural, Commerce, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.”
Surely, this is not what the Founding Fathers intended for us.
A record number of people being dependent on the government will be harmful to America’s future prosperity. Let’s, instead, strive for a society where all individuals are able to attain self-sufficiency and economic independence. We can help accomplish that by helping out our neighbors in need instead of promoting a big government that often traps people into long-term dependency.