on Entitlements

“A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mindsets from ‘How do I take care of myself?’ to ‘What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?’ Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems. The kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others.” Star Parker, author of the book, Uncle Sam’s Plantation

As our newly elected Congress grapples with the ballooning national debt and a budget in financial chaos, politicians on both sides seem reluctant to deal with the heavy albatrosses that are the U.S. entitlement programs. So many Americans right now are receiving some sort of government entitlement that is it understandable why our politicians are hesitant to commit what is tantamount to political suicide. While I am sympathetic to their plight, our country is now at a place where political martyrs will be necessary for our very survival.

Entitlement spending is based on the socialistic principle of spreading the wealth of others to those less fortunate. The problem with that principle is that not only do you eventually run out of other people’s money, but you also create the whiney entitlement mentality that this government largess breeds. When people rely on the government for their food (food stamps), health care (Medicare, Medicaid), rent (HUD housing), and income (welfare, unemployment, social security), they cede all of their power over to another and eventually become a modern-day slave.  So what happens when this government master, that provides all of your needs, can no longer give those to you? Do you start getting out and doing more for yourself? Unfortunately, the answer to this is “no”. Entitlements do not encourage self-reliance; when people cannot eat, buy food or pay their rent, they will riot in the streets like we have seen in England, France, and Greece. Entitlements cause people to forget how to provide for their own basic needs; and when these needs cannot be met any longer, people will make decisions out of a sense of fear and crisis.

So how do we solve this issue? How do we balance taking care of our elderly, infirm, and poor without creating a culture of dependency? First off, we need to honor the commitments we have already made to those that truly need it, while weaning the rest of us able-bodied folk off the government teat.  Second, we must place restrictions on those that actually qualify for welfare. We are making too many of our fellow citizens (and teaching their children) to be easy in their poverty; while leaving the remainder of us to carry their burden. Third, we must make welfare temporary, so as to encourage self-sufficiency. After those in need are given a temporary hand up, we must expect them to become contributors to society, instead of being consumers of it. Fourth, we must punish those that would take advantage of the generous nature of Americans. Entitlements are not a right, but an exchange.

If we do not do these four things, we will fracture the blessed unity we have as Americans. Entitlements are creating a schism in our society – with those that are on the government dole being resented by those that are not. Americans are a generous people – we are the first to open up our wallets to help someone in need, no matter where they are in the world. However, we are also historically a self-reliant people; and those that carry on that heritage are growing ever more frustrated with those that are not. As we see more of our fellow Americans (and now even non-Americans) with their hand out, we wonder why we should continue to allow those who are fully capable of working hard to be content to remain hardly working.

I truly believe that entitlements came about due to the goodness of America, the desire to take care of the “the least of these”. However, it is time to balance this with the wisdom of experience regarding human nature: that all of us can be selfish and self- serving when no one is looking. Knowing this, we must place checks and balances on entitlements – we do a disservice to ourselves and those who utilize them if we do not. This is not being mean; it is honoring the dignity of both those that receive and those that give. It not only calls both sides to greatness, but there is the expectation that greatness will occur.  This is the quintessential American attitude: a continual hope for the future, not only for each of us individually, but for all of us as a nation. This is what makes us great, and it is what lifts us up.

Entitlements are becoming the new normal. Time to get weird. 

“In the late Twenties, when I was a sophomore at USC, I was a socialist myself — but not when I left. The average college kid idealistically wishes everybody could have ice cream and cake for every meal. But as he gets older and gives more thought to his and his fellow man’s responsibilities, he finds that it can’t work out that way — that some people just won’t carry their load…. I believe in welfare — a welfare work program. I don’t think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I’d like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.” John Wayne (1907-1979), American actor, director, producer

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