How We Became the United States of Welfare - Part 2

by Robert Morley
(United States)

Big Government = Big Spending

In fact, big government coupled with even bigger spending is so rapidly degrading the nation’s finances that David Walker, the government’s top financial auditor, says it will be virtually impossible for the economy to grow fast enough for America to meet its financial obligations. He says the economy would have to grow at double-digit rates for the next 75 years to meet its obligations. During the 1990s, the economy averaged 3.2 percent per year.

So why can’t the spending stop?

Simple: As Alexander Tyler indicated, once people learn that they can vote themselves handouts, politicians learn that the best way to get elected is to promise more than their opponents—more services, more benefits, more spending, whether or not the nation can afford it. Voters punish those who might actually slash spending or reduce government employment by cutting government waste—in essence, anyone supporting financial responsibility. Voters enjoy the short-term benefits of big spending and leave the consequences for the next generation.

There are only two ways government programs can be paid for: additional taxes or increased borrowing—and increased borrowing just means even more taxes in the future.


That’s the problem with the American system; as Frédéric Bastiat put it: “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state lives at the expense of everyone.”

Political vote-buying has spiraled out of control. Politicians have promised Social Security and Medicare benefits to Americans to the tune of $70 trillion; that is money America does not have and can’t hope to get. Again, the whole economy is only valued at $13.1 trillion.

Between 78 and 100 million baby boomers are rapidly approaching the date when they can quit their jobs and rely on Social security and Medicare. That’s a growing wave of retirees, nearly the size of Japan, that will not dissipate until around 2027. These people have based their retirement plans on government promises that can’t be kept.

The economic consequences of vote pandering are about to be felt. Yet the price of becoming a welfare state may be much steeper than many realize.

Social Problems

There are also huge social consequences.

Government has become so large and all-encompassing that it acts like a big mother hen still nurturing her 40-year-old children who refuse to leave the family nest.

This big-mother approach promotes a culture of irresponsibility. Take the effects of welfarism on family life, for example.

Despite the welfare reforms of the late 1990s, the U.S. government still requires the state to meet every material need of a child despite the actions of his or her parents. The welfare solution is to provide money for disadvantaged children by taxing everyone else. Nobody considers that by rewarding certain lifestyle choices, welfarism only encourages negligent behavior by detaching it from its consequences.

Welfare continues to act as a giant engine powering the production of fatherless children, and consequently child misery and poverty. Millions of young girls get pregnant out of wedlock—and the state, instead of focusing on the cause of the fatherless children, deals with the effect by providing a range of welfare benefits including generous “income disregards,” government accommodation, and in-home visitation by nurses. Other young girls see their peers experiencing a life that looks appealing; young men see no consequences. So there is little deterrent, and the welfare cycle continues, drawing in more young mothers and creating more fatherless, disadvantaged children.

In essence, welfare programs often undermine the role of the father in the home. The welfare culture tells recipients that the father is not necessary to the family; the breadwinner is a welfare check. But an ethereal state figure cannot provide authority and love that helps build proper character that keeps adolescents out of crime.

The welfare mentality has also eroded basic individual responsibility for things like planning for the future and determining how you will put food on your own table once you retire. Before big government welfare programs and the mandated Social Security tax, “social security” meant family, a good work ethic and responsible planning. If an aging parent could no longer work, his children would provide for his needs. Family came together to take care of Mom and Dad. Elderly parents weren’t left for the state to pay for. If someone slipped through the cracks, these real needs were taken care of by charitable organizations and churches. (Again, the biblical economic model does have a system of welfare to provide for the truly needy.)

With Social Security, because the government has plundered the Social Security fund to finance its spending, the younger generation is taxed, effectively, to pay today’s retirees. It is a similar situation with Medicare and other government-sponsored programs. Aging parents don’t need kids—the state takes care of them. And kids don’t want to care for parents because it is cheaper and easier to foist them on the state—which is actually the taxpayers.

The problems with welfare in America are even worse in Britain. Commenting on that system, Melanie Phillips wrote, “It is the welfare state which, more than anything else, has created a culture of incivility, irresponsibility, family breakdown and disorder .… Yet no politician, even Conservative ones, will go near this subject. For all the windy rhetoric about irresponsibility and state interference, the root cause of these problems—the welfare state—remains a political untouchable” (Daily Mail, April 26).

Man’s Solutions Inept

Welfare and big government are untouchable issues because politicians are more worried about their own party interests than those of the nation or the people they are supposed to serve.

That is why democracy is doomed to fail. Voters just don’t seem to realize that you can’t get something from nothing no matter how much politicians might like you to believe otherwise. Eventually, all government-promised benefits must be paid for. And as they are, the tax burden will steadily grow, and more people will experience financial hardship. If history stays true, voters will be only too happy to elect the next politician promising the quick fix of additional government programs. How those programs are to be paid for and their social consequences will be lost in the euphoria.

Any nation that succumbs to this trap will continue to experience the effects of big government and oppressive taxes that Samuel warned about in 1 Samuel 8. God says He will let that nation suffer the consequences of rejecting His rule. “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day” (verse 18).

God is letting America and the world in general get sick and tired of man’s rule, but He has a purpose. After enough punishment, the world will then be ready for God’s government in the soon-coming World Tomorrow.

The future will be very different from today.

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