With Mitt Romney’s announcement this week that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be his White House running mate in November, entitlements is assured of being a campaign issue. There is even an outside shot that the election might see some serious discussion on the deficit, instead of the idle promises that every candidate makes to balance the budget sometime in the distant future.
I truly believe America is at a critical crossroads in terms of dealing with the deficit. As we’ve seen with the European bankruptcies, once a country descends into becoming a dependency state, people will not act fiscally responsible even when seemingly they have no other choice.
Recent research released from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of Senate Budget Committee, indicates that 107 million people in the U.S. are on some sort of means-tested welfare program. When you throw in the 46 million seniors receiving Medicare (minus the 10 million accounted for via other programs), and 22 million government employees, you have 165 million people relying at least partially on government programs! Considering there are fewer than 310 million people in the U.S., that represents a healthy majority.
For perspective, consider that since 2009, the eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits has increased by nearly 10 million. But those numbers pale in comparison to the number of voting-age Americans who don’t pay any income tax at all, which now stands at 50.6% of all voters!
Our founding fathers saw the problems with tyranny, but also recognized the drawbacks of a democracy where the rights of the few could be treaded on by the majority. That’s was the rationale for the Bill of Rights and why our founding fathers attempted to create a representative democracy instead of a pure democracy.
They saw the danger of democracy and its inherent flaws, but they relied on the belief that a country could create more statesmen than politicians, and that the country could maintain the ethics and morals that allow a democracy to flourish. Unfortunately, the trends are moving away from personal freedom and individual rights, as the majority gains control and runs roughshod over the others.
At one point, the fear was that big business or the wealthy would come to dominate the system at the expense of the working man. Today, the fear is that those reliant on government will demand more and more from those contributing to society until the system eventually collapses.
The very concerns that the founding fathers attempted to circumvent are now once again the overriding concerns – the mischief of factions and the tyranny of the majority. The constitutional limits on government have all but been removed. Instead of limiting government growth and powers, recent court decisions have broadened and created almost unlimited power for the federal government.
We shake our heads at the socialist European model, and how so-called “austerity” measures – measures that don’t even force a country to live within its means – cause riots in the street. But how much different are we, when we continue to create record deficits at a record rate, and label as “insensitive” those who merely advocate a reduction in the rate of increased spending?
If the debate doesn’t happen in this election, if some sort of fiscal sanity isn’t instituted, if the radical shift in the power of the federal government isn’t abated, then there probably will be no possibility down the road of righting this ship.
Our two-party system has created a situation where the party in control is all that matters, but this isn’t a problem that will be solved by the parties. Both parties have shown that the allure of mortgaging the future of the next generation results in election victories. The solution, if it is to emerge, will have to spring from an electorate clearly demanding a change of course. Given the demographics of dependency in this country, it appears our last best chance for change may well be the upcoming November elections.