Commentary by James H. Shott
First it was Greece where big-government socialist policies ran the country into bankruptcy and forced self-serving politicians to confront fiscal responsibility, and where in reaction to fiscally necessary change people who had become dependent on government largesse rioted in protest of the frightening prospect that they might actually have to take responsibility for their own lives and well-being.
And now we see Great Britain experiencing the same sort of behavior. As Omri Ceren describes things in Commentary online, “the British government slashes benefits in a desperate attempt to move toward fiscal solvency. Then British citizens angrily take to the streets because they think that ‘stuff costs money’ is a capitalist fiction” invented solely to disturb their comfortable existence. Most recently, he reports, an increase in student tuition resulted in riots breaking out as “UK’s cradle-to-grave welfare recipients try to wreck London.”
Reflecting a national media that, like ours, is largely incapable of honest reporting or accurate analysis, Mr. Ceren writes that “rather than hold the children responsible for their temper tantrums, … papers like the Guardian castigated London police for ‘criminalizing’ the poor dears,” as if violence and looting are allowable “tantrum” behavior.
Our forefathers broke away from Mother England 235 years ago because they disliked the way it was treating them, and now when we look around we see the high degree to which we have followed Britain’s lead in allowing government to grow like a cancer and screw up what was the most enlightened form of government yet devised by man. This has put us on a path to devolve into nothing more than another failed European-style socialist state.
If you challenge that assertion, perhaps some facts will enlighten you.
In the United States in 2009 there were 37.2 million food stamp recipients (12%), 4.1 million on welfare and 9.1 million receiving unemployment support (4.3%), and in 2010 Medicaid had 58 million participants (19%). Allowing for duplicates, that number is close to one-third of Americans who receive financial assistance from the federal government, and that doesn’t include Medicare or Social Security (which recipients pay for), student loans or government subsidies.
And, 51 percent of the households in the country paid no income taxes to support their federal government in 2010, while fifteen million American households, or 10 percent of all taxpayers, received cash back from the IRS, thanks to ‘refundable credits’ that can make wage earners the recipients of tax monies paid by their fellow Americans.
Despite spending billions of dollars on Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, record numbers of Americans get federal assistance today, and some of them are taking advantage of the situation our self-serving political class gave them, which means taking advantage of their fellow Americans who pay the taxes that support them. We’ve made it easy for people to forsake self-reliance in favor of dependency, and they are availing themselves of this opportunity by the millions.
The result is that many Americans now believe they are due these government handouts as a feature of citizenship, just like the Greeks and the Brits and other Europeans do.
The UK Monitor reported, “And now the worst riots in living memory, which seem to have less to do with politics than with opportunistic, loosely networked lawlessness and looting. ‘We’ve shown we can do what we want!’ two young women rioters told the BBC. They described smashing into shops to obtain ‘free alcohol’ as ‘a laugh’ and said they would definitely be at it again the next night.”
“The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form,” Theodore Dalrymple writes in the City Journal. “A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class),” he continues.
So while venerable, historic old Europe implodes from decades of socialistic foolishness, the leaders of the United States seem content to follow along the same path, apparently without even a suspicion of the disaster their ideological obsession holds for their country.
Britain has been taken over by young people taught to believe the public owes them something. They are unconstrained by civility, morality or personal responsibility. However, the United States is not far behind.
We give people welfare money, rent subsidies, food stamps, health care. Never mind that many of these programs began with the goal of providing basic support, they have grown to over $1.5 trillion a year.
As government pays more and more money to more and more people, the entitlement mentality grows and the sentiment among recipients that society owes them taxpayer support deepens. Millions of people now expect to get something for nothing.
This is the United States of America, and it provides its citizens the opportunity to be whatever they can make of themselves. But beyond that opportunity, we aren’t entitled to anything else.
Cross-posted from Observations