When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. ~ Benjamin Franklin
The 2012 Index of Dependence on Government published today by the Heritage Foundation shows many disturbing trends. This Index tracks the growth in government dependence dating back to the early 1960s. Some of the most troubling trends are:
- One in five Americans—the highest in the nation’s history—relies on the federal government for everything from housing, health care, and food stamps to college tuition and retirement assistance. That’s more than 67.3 million Americans who receive subsidies from Washington.
- Government dependency jumped 8.1 percent in the past year, with the most assistance going toward housing, health and welfare, and retirement.
- The federal government spent more taxpayer dollars than ever before in 2011 to subsidize Americans. The average individual who relies on Washington could receive benefits valued at $32,748, more than the nation’s average disposable personal income ($32,446).
- At the same time, nearly half of the U.S. population (49.5 percent) does not pay any federal income taxes.
- In the next 25 years, more than 77 million baby boomers will retire. They will begin collecting checks from Social Security, drawing benefits from Medicare, and relying on Medicaid for long-term care.
- As of now, 70 percent of the federal government’s budget goes to individual assistance programs, up dramatically in just the past few years. However, research shows that private, community, and charitable aid helps individuals rise from their difficulties with better success than federal government handouts. Plus, local and private aid is often more effectively distributed.
As a corollary to the Heritage Foundation study, Stephen Moore poses a series of questions in the WSJ worth pondering concerning fairness:
Is it fair that the richest 1% of Americans pay nearly 40% of all federal income taxes, and the richest 10% pay two-thirds of the tax?
Is it fair that the richest 10% of Americans shoulder a higher share of their country's income-tax burden than do the richest 10% in every other industrialized nation, including socialist Sweden?
Is it fair that American corporations pay the highest statutory corporate tax rate of all other industrialized nations but Japan, which cuts its rate on April 1?
Is it fair that the three counties with America's highest median family income just happen to be located in the Washington, D.C., metro area?
Is it fair that soon almost half the federal budget will take income from young working people and redistribute it to old non-working people, even though those over age 65 are already among the wealthiest Americans?
Is it fair that wind, solar and ethanol producers get billions of dollars of subsidies each year and pay virtually no taxes, while the oil and gas industry—which provides at least 10 times as much energy—pays tens of billions of dollars of taxes while the president complains that it is "subsidized"?
Is it fair that in 27 states workers can be compelled to join a union in order to keep their jobs?
~ Stephen Moore, from A Fairness Quiz for the President