Welfare: Now the Single Largest Budget Item

A recent CRS report indicates that welfare is now the single largest budget item in the United States.  This doesn’t reflect government benevolence.  It simply indicates that an unhealthy dependence on government has grown in this country.

Programs in all categories for people with limited or low income have gone up since 2008.  Federal spending for these programs grew 23% from FY2008 to FY2009.  The growth of spending was slower in the two following fiscal years, at 6% and 2% respectively.

There are undoubtedly times when people need help, financial or otherwise, and the government can intervene as a liaison between the members of our society who have the means to help and the people in need.

But it should be considered a safety net, not a hammock.  And the jarring reality is that this growing government dependence is accompanied by the “eve of the largest retirement of people in world history—at the same time that the number of “taxpayers” who pay no taxes is growing steadily,” according to Heritage’s William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell.

For the government to act as a proverbial crutch for increasing numbers of people is not going to strengthen our economy; it will only cripple us as a people economically and in terms of weakening our civil society and families, which have traditionally been a significant source of help for those in need.

Most reasonable people would agree a limited safety net of some sort is necessary, but agreement about the nature and necessity of government’s role in accomplishing that largely ends there.

Heritage asks:

“Do Americans want a republic that encourages and validates a growing dependence on the state and a withering of civil society? Do Americans want to further accentuate class lines between those who pay for programs that advance dependence, and those who unquestioningly accept—and expect—the assistance from those programs?”

The CRS numbers indicate that this is the case for many people.  Nevertheless, there is reason for optimism yet.  There was a time when, according to Alexis de’Tocqueville “every honest calling [was] honorable.”  During his time in the United States he noted, “Equality of conditions not only ennobles the notion of labor, but raises the notion of labor as a source of profit.”

Moreover, he did not see Americans as individualistic or selfish because of their love of labor.  Rather, he noted that Americans were “fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of self-interest rightly understood; they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist one another and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.”

In other words, working for the betterment of one another and for America as a whole came naturally as a result of hard work and each citizens acknowledgement that if his neighbor excels, he himself excels all the more.

Conservatives want to maintain this spirit, wherein we excel as individuals and succeed together, not where the option to “fall together” even exists, as the liberals would have it.

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