Yes, Mr. President, We Are a Nation of Takers

Friends of MacIver know that we have spent a great deal of time talking with Congressman Ryan about the rise in entitlement spending and the threat is poses to America and our children’s future. Comedian Jon Stewart even used a MacIver video this week in a segment on his show, The Daily Show, to make light of Congressman Ryan and his focus on entitlement spending. In response, Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute presents some sobering data on the social-welfare state that is a must read.

Since 1960, entitlement transfers have grown twice as fast as personal income–to $2.3 trillion annually.


Mr. Eberstadt is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic” (Templeton, 2012).

The Wall Street Journal | OPINION | January 24, 2013

In President Obama’s second inaugural address, he not only outlined an ambitious agenda for his second term but also seemed intent on shutting down debate about the social-welfare state and its impact on American life.

“The commitments we make to each other–through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security–these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,” Mr. Obama said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” In other words, the president is tired of listening to critics of America’s entitlement programs, and as far as he is concerned, the discussion is now over.

It is not over–and won’t be anytime soon, because the country’s social-welfare spending is generating severe and mounting hazards for the nation. These hazards are not only fiscal but moral.

A growing body of empirical evidence points to increasing dependency on state largess. The evidence documents as well a number of perverse and disturbing changes that this entitlement state is imposing on society.


• Over the 50-plus years since 1960, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, entitlement transfers–government payments of cash, goods and services to citizens–have been growing twice as fast as overall personal income. Government transfers now account for nearly 18% of all personal income in America–up from 6% in 1960.

• According to the BEA, America’s myriad social-welfare programs (the federal bureaucracy apparently cannot determine exactly how many of these there are) currently dispense entitlement benefits of more than $2.3 trillion annually. Since those entitlements must be paid for–either through taxes or borrowing–the burden of entitlement spending now amounts to over $7,400 per American man, woman and child.

Read Eberstadt’s entire column here.