J. D. Heyes
January 13, 2013
Politicians spin, dodge and lie their way around “inconvenient truths,” so to speak, but it is hard to explain away cold, hard facts and raw numbers – though they still try.
No doubt more than a few of Washington’s elite will try to dance round this disturbing statistic: The total number of Americans receiving some form of government assistance has surpassed 128 million. That’s more than 1 in 3.
According to a recent in-depth study from the Heritage Foundation, “128,818,142 people are enrolled in at least one government program,” based on U.S. Census Bureau information, the bulk of which receive one or more benefits considered politically untouchable.
‘Publicly held federal debt will exceed 100 percent of GDP’
Not only are more people getting these benefits, Congress has greatly expanded them, meaning the amount recipients receive have grown exponentially.
“Between 1988 and 2011, the amount of the U.S. population that receives assistance from the federal government grew by 62 percent,” says an abstract of the study. “That means that more than 41 percent of the U.S. population is enrolled in at least one federal assistance program. To make matters worse, per capita expenditures on recipients are rising as well. In 2010, over 70 percent of all federal spending went to dependence-creating programs. That growth is unsustainable, as baby boomers are now retiring every day and their entitlements cost more each year.”
The think tank estimates that, using current numbers and trends, “publicly held federal debt will exceed 100 percent of GDP in 2024.”
And while the numbers are high now, they weren’t always that way, as a percentage of the population. Indeed, the ratio of takers-to-makers has increased most dramatically in just the past decade.
According to the Census Bureau, Heritage scholars noted, 94 million people were receiving government-(read taxpayer) funded benefits in 2000; by 2011, that figure had grown to more than 128 million.
“That means that 41.3 percent of the U.S. population is now on a federal government program,” said the study. “The 128 million is an estimate based on the recently released March 2011 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS), which, due to the survey methodology, most likely undercounts the actual number.”
Here is a breakdown of government programs and numbers of recipients, as presented by Heritage researchers:
– 128,818,142 people are enrolled in at least one government program
– 48,580,105 people are on Medicaid
– 35,770,301 people receive their retirement income from Social Security
– 43,834,566 people are on Medicare
– 39,030,579 people are living in a household where at least one person accepts food stamps
– 6,984,783 people are living in subsidized rental housing
– 2,047,149 people are receiving a higher-education subsidy
“It is important to note that the above categories overlap; for example an individual may receive both subsidized rental housing and food stamps,” says the study. “The total number…on at least one government program does not double count individuals, however.”
The future is – no future
While there are a number of lawmakers and advocacy groups in Washington and elsewhere calling for reform of these programs, most seasoned politicos know that it will be virtually impossible to do, because there is no political will to do so.
Programs like Medicare and Social Security are untouchable because every lawmaker who’s been in D.C. longer than 10 minutes knows it is political suicide to even hint at reforming them. Anyone who does – think Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, the most recent politician who actually put forth a plan – is ravaged in the press and public sector.
Nevertheless, something has to be done; any serious economist knows that the current ratio of takers-to-makers (which is only becoming more skewed against the makers) is unsustainable.
“In 2010, over 70 percent of all federal spending went to dependence-creating programs,” said the study. “The government today is borrowing from future taxpayers to pay the current government program enrollees. The game will soon be up as debt approaches 100 percent of GDP.”
This article was posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 8:28 am