Rasmussen Reports released poll results yesterday showing that 23% of Americans say they receive some form of cash benefits from the government. This is remarkably close to the truth. As The Heritage Foundation’s 2010 Index of Dependence on Government documents, 21% of the total U.S. population (64.3 million people) receive some level of assistance from dependence-creating federal programs.
Contrast that with the United States in 1962, before President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Pverty, when only 11.7% of the population (21.7 million people) were dependent on the government. Once federal programs are created they almost always grow. As the chart to the right shows, only after welfare reform in the 1990s did the percentage of Americans dependent on the government fall. But now its coming back. The Heritage Foundation’s Director of Center for Data Analysis Bill Beach writes:
There was such a rapid growth in dependence in 2009 that the twin concerns—how much damage this growth has done to the republican form of government, and how harmful it has been to the country’s financial situation—have deepened significantly. Not only did the federal government effectively take over half of the U.S. economy and expand public-sector debt by more than all previous governments combined, it also oversaw the largest single-year expansion in total government debt in U.S. history. Much of that growth in new debt can be traced to dependence-creating government programs.
The Rasmussen survey also found:
Of those who do receive government money, just 34% are at least somewhat willing to cut some of their own benefits to reduce the size of the federal budget, with 14% who say they are Very Willing to do so. But 63% are not willing to consider any benefit reductions, including 33% who are Not At All Willing.
This is not news to conservatives. Beach also writes:
Worse, dependence-creating programs quickly morph into political assets that policymakers all too readily embrace. Voters tend to support politicians and political parties that give them higher incomes or subsidies for the essentials of life; but no matter how well-meaning policymakers might have been when they created government aid programs like Medicare, unemployment insurance, and subsidized housing, these same programs quickly grow beyond their mission and turn into a mechanism that creates and sustains a never-ending cycle of dependence—and entitlement thinking.