Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote of America that "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money." Last week, it was reported by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service that welfare spending in the United States has jumped 32% in the past four years. Federal government spending combined with total state spending on 83 different welfare programs totaled an astounding $1.028 trillion in 2011.
The last four years our nation has seen an astounding increase in poverty and accordingly, in government welfare. For many, the effort to expand dependency on the government is a calculated effort to increase the size and power of the federal government by taking away individual self worth, self-determination and self-respect. This is particularly true when only two welfare programs require work or efforts to work in order to receive aid. All the rest, and there are many, make no requirements even on able-bodied adults who could look for work or work. For example, the Obama Administration suspended the work requirement from the food stamp program in 2009, and afterwards, the number of people on food stamps doubled.
The questions we must ask as a nation is how did we get here and how do we solve the problem?
The United States is a nation that has historically prided itself on personal responsibility and opportunity. Ours is a nation of immigrants who came seeking success through the promise of opportunity--but there was absolutely no promise of success, nor was there a promise or expectation that the government would take care of them. Indeed, immigrants are supposed to affirm that they will not become public charges.
Today, personal responsibility has been replaced with a political correctness that allows people to spend years and even decades living off taxpayer funded systems. These include government housing, government healthcare, government cell phones, government food subsidies and many more programs. Many of these services are rampant with fraud, waste and abuse, and they give little incentive or opportunity for Americans to succeed on their own. Further, a cradle to grave welfare system strips the individual of self respect and creates dependency and poverty. Further, the system is an obvious policy failure. Billions have been spent attempting to alleviate poverty through hand-outs, and yet the poverty rate only increases. Do not believe those who say, if only we dumped in another trillion or two then poverty would go away. Poverty is reduced by marriage and families. Family units have been found to be the best method out of poverty. As traditional family units decrease, poverty has increased.
We in the government must be vigilant and responsible, and must ensure proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars. We must not allow millions of Americans to become dependent on government benefits and breed apathy and counter-productivity within American culture.
If the Administration had made true progress towards an economic recovery over the past four years, there would be a decrease in welfare program spending rather than an increase. The president and his allies in Congress believe in heavy-handed government intervention. When a problem arises, their first solution tends to be to "throw money at it"--as was the case with the so-called stimulus package, the auto bailouts, and this dramatic 32% increase in welfare spending evident by these recent reports.
Americans must ask themselves if they really believe this is the best path for themselves and their children. They must ponder on what it was that made America into the successful economic power that it is today--was it redistribution and government dependency, or was it the drive of the American people to seek success through hard work and free-market opportunities?
Government dependency is a slippery slope. As Alexis de Tocqueville acknowledged our nation cannot endure so long as the public can be bribed with taxpayer money. It is a trend that must be responsibly but definitely reversed, lest we find our great nation in the same economic fate that is facing multiple European nations at present. A few of our friends in Europe believed so strongly in wealth redistribution and social benefits that they have spent themselves into disaster. The math is simple: when the government continues to expand spending on welfare programs, less real wealth is created. Ultimately, fiscal ruin, like Greece, is the result.
America is at a crossroads. Will we continue our current trend towards fiscal collapse? Or, do we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, reduce the size of government and the role it plays in U.S. citizens' everyday lives, and allow our great nation to regain its posture in the world?
The federal welfare system is increasingly becoming one of the primary drivers of our national debt. Congress cannot adequately address our national debt crisis without implementing reforms that get these programs under control while continuing to provide a true safety net. I strongly believe it is my job as a Member of Congress to make the difficult decisions necessary to get our country back on a path towards fiscal sustainability, and I will continue to advocate for solutions to this problem. Above all, it is our obligation to leave this nation to our children in a better state than we found it.