A USA TODAY analysis of federal data, published this week, shows Americans are receiving more in various welfare payments today than at any time since the government started compiling data in 1929. (Read it here.)
A total of 18.3 percent of personal income in the United States in 2010 came from a government program, whether through unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicare or Social Security. And yes, Social Security is a welfare program. I say that even though I intend to collect it some day. This recent column by Robert J. Samuelson explains it well.
Here’s part of what he says, “First, it (Social Security) taxes one group to support another group, meaning it’s pay-as-you-go and not a contributory scheme where people’s own savings pay their later benefits. And second, Congress can constantly alter benefits, reflecting changing needs, economic conditions and politics. Social Security qualifies on both counts.”
The USA TODAY piece says wages accounted for only 51 percent of the nation’s income last year, which was a record.
This shows a couple of things. The recession may be officially over, but a lot of people still are hurting. Also, the federal government is growing, and retiring Baby Boomers aren’t making it any easier to shrink government dependency.
The problem is that a nation that becomes too dependent on the government for subsistence will not be nimble enough to solve its economic problems, nor will it be able to foster the kind of creativity and innovation to fuel the private sector into creating more wealth.
I’d like to believe a strong economic recovery would solve this problem, but I’m afraid the trend toward government dependency will be hard to stop.