A Nation of Takers

  • Entitlement transfers — government payments of cash, goods and services to citizens — have been growing twice as fast as overall personal income.
  • The burden of entitlement spending now amounts to over $7,400 per American man, woman and child.
  • Entitlement programs account for nearly two-thirds of federal spending.
  • Nearly half (49%) of Americans today live in homes receiving one or more government transfer benefits.
  • The share of 30-somethings neither working nor looking for work appears to be higher in America than in practically any Western European economy.
  • More than 12.4 million working-age Americans obtained disability income support from all government programs in 2011. That’s more than the total number of employees in the manufacturing sector of the economy.

See entire article on entitlement transfers by Nicholas Eberstadt.

Comments (10)

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  1. Evan Carr says:

    Many of these entitlement transfers are not counted as income either. If they were, many would be above the poverty line and no longer qualify for as many benefits.I firmly believe that as citizens of a society we have a moral responsiblity to make sure others in our society are taken care of. Particularly when as Americans we are so wealthy. I think it is also important to distinguish between different entitlements and to eliminate waste and fraud in the system.
    How we accomplish that is a different story! Laziness should not be subsidized. As a young man excited to head into the professional world and earn my keep, these statistics make me frusterated. The government should follow the role described in the constitution. Perhaps that would inspire people to work harder and strive to live the life we are capable of in America.

  2. Ken says:

    Who is going to keep on producing so all these takers can keep on taking?

  3. Evan Carr says:

    @Ken After reading the last article on Dr. Goodman’s blog, I would suggest that we clone Neanderthals. We could have a whole army of them performing menial tasks. Of course, the $7,400 per American figure would rise because surely we would have to care for them too!

  4. Studebaker says:

    Unfortunately, it’s much harder for politicians to convince people they should be self-sufficient and resilient than it is to convince people they deserve a benefit paid for by society.

    The other day I was reading an article in Slate.com about child care and family leave policy in the United States compared to countries in Northern Europe. Under the comments section, there were all manner of people talking about how important children are to our future and how society needs to adopt family leave policies that pay wives to stay at home for, say, 18 months after the birth of each kid. Many of these were also in favor of government-supported, free-child care. They (no doubt) are huge supporters of universal public (free) education. Most probably would be hard pressed to give up their $1,500 per child tax credit. I bet it wouldn’t be a hard sell to convince them they deserve student loan forgiveness – especially in the name of couples starting families (paid for by taxing the wealthy). Already, nearly half of all babies born are delivered by Medicaid. Most of the remainder of births are likely paid for by requiring employee health plans to offer maternity benefits (i.e. collectivizing labor & delivery by).

    It’s not just young people who feel entitled. Couple with college-age children feel their kids are entitled to Pell grants for college. They become enraged if told their elderly parents cannot get free care in a Medicaid nursing home and they will have to sign over the family home to compensate the state.

    Try having a discussion with a senior citizen about what a great deal they’re getting from Social Security and Medicare and how reform should cut back on benefits. Try convincing an old person that Medicare Part D drug plans were a bad idea and they should pay for their own drugs. You’d be lucky if you escape without being beaten about the head and neck with their cane!

  5. Tyrus says:

    What is mind boggling, is that Congress can pass a humantarian bill like the 50 billion Sandy Relief package, but not find it neccessary to cut that much out of entitlement spending. Im not aware of any indivudual, or business that can operate with out ammending their budget to adjust for spending!

  6. Evan Carr says:

    Nice post Studebaker. You’re correct. Once an entitlement is given, it is almost impossible to rescind. Some entitlement transfers occur because of free riding but I think a lot of it is simply wanting more money for life’s pleasures. If the Joneses got a child tax credit for Johnny and Pell grants for Susie, why can’t I get some of the government money too for my Timmy and Tammy? I mean that is why I pay taxes right? Entitlement reform is just such a tough political pill to swallow. Taking someone’s prescriptions or college away is a hard fact to base a re-election bid on.

  7. Andrew O says:

    The perpetual debate in this country: entitlement. I agree that far too many people take advantage of the system, and, if allowed, why not? It’s human nature. Reform is necessary but how to bring about reform and how to change culture is a far more complicated task. Yes, more self-responsibility and less dependency is necessary, but in order to get there, you need to create a system where those options are more viable. In today’s society, there does exist an ever-growing cycle of stagnation and poverty and a number of the people trapped in that cycle, are, well, trapped. In some cases in today’s society it is nearly impossible to get yourself out of the poverty trap. Establishing a culture where opportunity is truly present and available and self-determination and responsibility is the norm is a complicated transition and will not occur by an abrupt end to entitlement programs. With gradual change, I think policymakers and society should focus on establishing communal collaboration so that people under dire circumstances know they can count on an extra hand when truly needed. I refuse to live in a society where, for example, something out of my control ruins my finances and health (ex cancer) and there is a way to fix that problem with external support but I am unable to find ways to get that help because of a cut-throat competitive culture obsessed with self-reliance. In any modern society, interconnectedness and interdependence is automatic, so the notion that a responsible person would not be entitled to external help when that person’s contributions to society benefit someone else in some shape/form/fashion is simply uncivilized. In that scenario, I’d rather go back to hunting and gathering and disintegrate myself from a pseudo-civil society. I think the problem contemporary societies face is how to incorporate liberal economies while still ensuring society has humanistic and civilized social foundations – and I’m afraid there is simply no simple solution in the horizon.

  8. Andrew O says:

    “The share of 30-somethings neither working nor looking for work appears to be higher in America than in practically any Western European economy.”

    Appears? What kind of assumption is that? If there is no evidence-based data and observations to account for, then why should I believe in such a comment? I rather base my perception on my own observations in that case. The article talks about a growing base of empirical evidence…but never mentions what specific evidence? I know it’s an opinion article, but even then, I think it’s important to inform the reader where you are drawing your conclusions from.

  9. Sadat says:

    I quote directly from the article, “contrary to what the Obama White House team suggested during the election campaign, this leap is not due to the aging of the population. In fact, only about one-tenth of the increase is due to upticks in old-age pensions and health-care programs for seniors.” This is interesting, all this time I thought most of our entitlement were due to an aging population, this is a scary reality to wrap my head around indeed.

  10. H. James Prince says:

    The crux of the article:
    “Generosity is a virtue, on that we can all agree with President Obama. But being generous with other people’s money is not the same thing.”

    It is all to easy to donate money to the poor if the money didn’t come from your pocket.