This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
According the Wall Street Journal; September 15, 2010
Efforts to tame America's ballooning budget deficit could soon confront a daunting reality: Nearly half of all Americans live in a household in which someone receives government benefits, more than at any time in history.
At the same time, the fraction of American households not paying federal income taxes has also grown—to an estimated 45% in 2010, from 39% five years ago, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research organization.
A little more than half don't earn enough to be taxed; the rest take so many credits and deductions they don't owe anything. Most still get hit with Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes, but 13% of all U.S. households pay neither federal income nor payroll taxes.
Yet even as Americans express concern over the deficit in opinion polls, many oppose benefit cuts, particularly with the economy on an uneven footing. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll conducted late last month found 61% of voters were "enthusiastic" or "comfortable" with congressional candidates who support cutting federal spending in general. But 56% expressed the same enthusiasm for candidates who voted to extend unemployment benefits.
As recently as the early 1980s, about 30% of Americans lived in households in which an individual was receiving Social Security, subsidized housing, jobless benefits or other government-provided benefits. By the third quarter of 2008, 44% were, according to the most recent Census Bureau data.
The Newark, Del., resident knocked $40 a month off her mortgage payments through the federal Making Home Affordable Program, designed to keep people in their homes by helping them modify or refinance their mortgages. But when her unemployment benefits ran out, Ms. Mueller-Holden and her husband, a government employee, couldn't afford the $1,008 monthly payments.
She turned to the Delaware State Housing Authority which, under a federally subsidized program aimed at helping families with children stay in their homes, gave her $1,000 a month for five months toward mortgage payments. She and her two sons ate lunch for free at the local school this summer, and she has applied for free lunch for one of her sons who will be a first grader this year.
An aging population is adding to the ranks of Americans receiving government benefits, and will continue to do so as more of the large baby-boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, become eligible. Today, an estimated 47.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare, up 38% from 1990. By 2030, the number is projected to be 80.4 million.
The U.S. government first offered large-scale assistance during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. The Social Security Act, passed in 1935, created the popular retirement program as well as unemployment compensation, the early stages of what became known as "welfare" and assistance to the blind and elderly. In the 1940s, the G.I. Bill offered unemployment benefits, education assistance and loans to veterans. That same decade, Washington began offering free or reduced-price lunches to children from low-income families and, a decade later, monthly benefits to the disabled.
Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs brought food stamps plus Medicare and Medicaid. In the 1970s, Supplemental Security Income was created on top of routine Social Security benefits for the poorest of the elderly and disabled, and so-called Section 8 vouchers began subsidizing rental housing. The earned-income tax credit was launched in 1975 to offer extra cash to low-wage workers, and grew in the 1990s to become one of the government's principle antipoverty programs.
Benefits for children were expanded in 1997 with the State Children's Health Insurance Program during the Clinton administration—and were expanded again in 2009. Shortly after President Barack Obama took office, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus bill, which among other things extended unemployment compensation and offered incentives for states to cover more workers.
All this is expensive. Payments to individuals—a budget category that includes all federal benefit programs plus retirement benefits for federal workers—will cost $2.4 trillion this year, up 79%, adjusted for inflation, from a decade earlier when the economy was stronger. That represents 64.3% of all federal outlays, the highest percentage in the 70 years the government has been measuring it. The figure was 46.7% in 1990 and 26.2% in 1960.
Federal Authority to redistribute wealth VS. The Constitution
"I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth, I traveled much. I observed different countries that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves and, of course, became poorer. And on the contrary, the less that was done for them, the more they did for themselves and became richer."
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy."
Alexander Fraser Tytler
(over 200 years ago)
We the People:
Government intervention encourages financial dependency because it discourages the beneficiaries from adapting to their environment. And the supporting elected officials gain power over them. The federal government paying 90% of these benefits is anathema to the 10th amendment and Madison’s concept of few and defined powers. And the Constitution, our source of liberty, is circumvented by us whom it is designed to protect.