There is a dying breed in America — those of us who were raised to
believe that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Generations of
us, however, have not been raised to believe this, thanks mostly to
government and congressionally mandated, court-ordered handouts provided
to us by our friendly neighborhood taxpayers.
Once upon a time, Americans considered it shameful to accept
government handouts, but millions of us have since been indoctrinated to
believe that government entitlements are somehow constitutional rights
on the same level as freedom of speech and the right to keep and bear
arms. So much so, in fact, that if a political candidate dares attack a
sacred cow like Social Security, he or she is figuratively crucified on
the altar of political correctness.
Well, millions of us toiling taxpayers are sick of financing these
political boondoggles and these social freebies. It’s time to reapply
the old United Negro College Fund axiom to our society and give
Americans “a hand up, not a handout.” After all, charity starts at
home, does it not? Furthermore, when it comes to giving, only we can
best decide when and where we want to give — not some bureaucrat in
Washington, D.C., or in some state capitol.
Now, how to put the genie back in the bottle?
For one thing we could start by disassembling the wall of regulations
built around charities. Over the past decade giving to charities has
declined significantly not because Americans are less generous but
because it is so difficult to cut through the red tape just to make a
donation. It’s ironic that even as bureaucracies and politicians make
it harder to simply give your money to the charity of your choice, they
have made it easier to contribute to their political campaigns. Go
Secondly, how about getting rid of much of the bureaucracy taxpayers
fund? Officials much more accountable to local voters can do most of
this stuff on the state and local levels in a much more efficient
manner. In fact the latest statistics show that for every dollar
Americans give to federal bureaucracies, only an average of 25 cents is
even used for the purpose the agency was established for in the first
place. The rest is eaten up by bureaucratic overhead. Contrast that
with, say, Catholic Charities USA, where 92 cents of every dollar is
used to help people.
Third, it would be nice if we could begin teaching our children —
again — to expect no free lunches, to expect to have to work and work
hard for everything they get, and then teach them to expect to keep most
of it when they do succeed. At the same time, if the regulatory
processes were eliminated, we could also teach our children to be kind
to those less fortunate, to be generous with their wealth, and to ensure
that an America free of government interference should expect more help
from a neighbor in times of need than from some faceless bureaucrat
hundreds of miles away.
These are the principles this country was founded upon. If you doubt
that, then explain why there were never any government schools, welfare
programs, social safety nets or disaster relief prior to this century?
Can you even imagine today’s Congress having such a debate? Can you
even imagine many of today’s citizens objecting to a politician’s
reelection bid on the grounds he or she gave away too much to too many
people? We can’t even get an emergency military funding bill through the
House these days without dozens of members tacking on various unrelated
spending amendments — and it is that way precisely because people
expect their congressman to bring home the bacon.
Yet, every time they do it seems as though many of the same people
then complain about the level of taxes they pay. It’s ridiculous.
When Uncle Sam began taxing our income with the implementation of the
16th Amendment, we began to see more extravagant spending by Congress
and the government. Each new department or agency created has to be
funded, and each year agencies always cry poverty and cite numerous
reasons to have their budgets increased.
All in the name of helping us, by the way, because you know,
we just can’t help ourselves, right?
Americans, however, used to be resourceful and largely
self-sufficient. What happened to us? Simple. We shouted, “Gimme!” too
many times and our politically savvy politicians were only too happy to
give us what we wanted — along with miles of red tape and strings
The U.S. budget this year will close in on $2 trillion. That’s
almost a fifth of our gross domestic product. That is also absurd.
Instead of demanding that Congress stop handing out our money
as though the well will never run dry, it’s time to start demanding
frugality from our spendy little cash-mongers in Washington, D.C. It’s
not healthy for a society to depend so much on government-provided
relief and handouts. It’s also not very productive because the more
government does for us, the less we tend to do for ourselves.
Ultimately, we will discover that an unproductive society cannot remain
a superpower for long.
Many of us, as parents, discourage our kids from shouting, “Gimme!”
every time we’re in a store with them. What’s wrong with applying that
practice to our legislators and our governments?
It’s time we learned how to take care of ourselves again.