Commentary by James H. Shott
1. Why have so many Americans traded liberty for government control?
The federal tax code is 17,000 pages and involves more than 700 different forms. According to the IRS, Americans spend something like 5.1 billion hours each year preparing their taxes, and tax preparation drains an estimated $194 billion annually from the U.S. economy, according to the Tax Foundation.
The Code of Federal Regulations, the codification of the general and permanent rules created by Congress and the executive departments and agencies of the federal government, comprises a mind-blowing 163,000 pages, weighs more than 1,600 pounds, and stands 54 feet high.
Should government decide the kind of light bulbs we can use, or the kind of toilets we can own, or the kind of sheets hotels put on their beds, or be able to tell us we have to buy a particular item? Now that the feds have taken over General Motors, is it okay that they require us to buy a Chevy instead of a Ford or a Dodge or a VW or a Subaru? (Chevy dealers may not participate in this poll.)
The answers to those questions are: “No, no, no, no, and absolutely not.”
2. Why have so many Americans traded self-sufficiency for dependency?
In 2009 there were 37.2 million food stamp recipients, 4.1 million on welfare and 9.1 million receiving unemployment support. In 2010 Medicaid had 58 million participants. Allowing for duplications of aid for some Americans, it is likely that more than one-fourth of the people living in the U.S. receive one or more forms of financial assistance from the federal government, not including Medicare.
And, 51 percent of the households in the country paid no income taxes to support their federal government in 2010. The Atlantic magazine reports in its online edition that “about fifteen million American households, or 10 percent of all taxpayers, receive more cash from the IRS than they contribute in federal income taxes and payroll taxes. That's thanks to ‘refundable credits,’ tax credits that can bring your tax bill into negative territory.”
Since President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1964, welfare spending increased 13 times by FY 2008, rising from $50 billion to over $700 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Despite having spent trillions of dollars on the War on Poverty, record numbers of Americans get federal assistance today. Obviously, some of these folks genuinely need help, but some of them are taking advantage of the situation, and are taking advantage of their tax-paying fellow Americans. We’ve made it attractive for people to become dependent.
3. Why have so many Americans forsaken our traditional values, like marriage and family?
In 2007 nearly 40 percent of babies born in the United States were born to unwed females, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The 1.7 million out-of-wedlock births represent an increase of more than 25 percent over five years. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and 40 percent of them end with abortion.
Heritage Foundation senior researcher Robert Rector wrote last year, “The principal cause of child poverty in the U.S. is the absence of married fathers in the home,” yet marriage continues to decline.
Columnist Cal Thomas wrote recently about Robert Woodson, president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, an organization helping people rise out of poverty. He suggests that Mr. Woodson “would probably wince if you called him a ‘community organizer.’ That's because for the last 30 years … he has not spent time organizing the poor around ineffective government programs and other addictions, he has been helping them become self-sufficient.”
Mr. Woodson subscribes to the idea that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it, and says unlike other approaches, "takes time-tested principles and virtues and applies them to addictions, homelessness and other conditions. We have moral consistency," he believes. He also believes that "you can't learn anything by studying failure. If you want to learn anything, you must study the successful."
Cal Thomas recounts a day “visiting housing projects Woodson's organization supports and studying his success. I met former drug addicts, dealers, prostitutes and pimps – all of whom testify to having been through failed government programs – who now say they are clean, sober and off the streets.” The keys, Mr. Thomas concludes, are discipline, and raised expectations within a family atmosphere infused with tough love, imposed morality, and yes, hope.
Robert Woodson shows that what many, perhaps most, of the poor need in order to improve their lot in life is some good, old fashioned, traditional American values, personal liberty, and self-reliance. What they don’t need, and what has failed to help them, is more expensive government programs funded by high taxation and operated by a huge inefficient bureaucracy.
Tens of thousands of pages of government regulations, people depending upon government instead of themselves, and an eroding moral base reflect a society that has forsaken the standards that built it into the bright light of the world. Our infidelity to the founding principles is reducing the United States to another failing socialistic welfare state.
Cross-posted from Observations