Changing the Entitlement Mindset

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”  Bob Dylan – Subterranean Home Sick Blues

But apparently you need to be something other than a career politician to understand that the country continues in a severe economic crisis. While economists agree that the recession technically ended in the summer of 2010, the effects of the recession have continued virtually unabated to today and may, in fact, be worsening with the prospect of a double-dip recession increasing everyday.

During the first year of the Obama administration 4,282,000 jobs were lost according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since that time 1,762,000 jobs have been added back. However, in a recent report by CNN, economists estimated that the United States would have to add 150,000 jobs per month just to keep pace with population growth. That would suggest that in the seventeen months since the job numbers began to increase, they have failed to keep pace with population growth by 788,000.


Unemployment has risen to 9.1% based on unemployment claims being paid. However, virtually every economist acknowledges that these numbers fail to account for those who have given up looking or who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. Most of these economists agree that unemployment claims understate unemployment and underemployment by about fifty percent. Thus the country’s real unemployment rate is somewhere in the 14% range.

But, again, most working men and women do not need the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Wall Street, or the professional politicians to tell them of the depth of the economic problems. They see their friends and relatives out of work for extended periods. They see their own wages and hours diminished. They see business after business closing and the parade of empty storefronts throughout their communities. They see the price of gas at $4.00 per gallon and moving steadily toward $5.00. They see food prices increasing dramatically and home values falling. Many are underwater on their mortgages with no relief in sight. The largest single asset for most working families – the equity in their homes – has disappeared.

But what the American people see most is a government either incapable of or unwilling to solve the problem. And most people understand what the problem is today. It isn’t a cyclical recession superheated by an artificially inflated housing market and accompanying debt. It is a government that continues to spend far in excess of its means with no serious intention to reform.

We are a country that is technically broke. Our government spending exceeds our tax revenues by over $1 Trillion annually. The Social Security that seniors thought they had has been spent – all of it – every penny, and in its place are a bunch of notes from a government that can’t pay its current debts let alone its Social Security obligations.

But the career politicians, safe in their comfortable environs – fueled by taxpayer dollars and lavished by sycophant lobbyists – are immunized from the problems caused by their own indifference. To paraphrase a pervious president – “It’s the spending, stupid.”

It’s the spending right now – not ten years from now, not the cumulative effect over a dozen years, not a projection from some faceless bureaucrat. It is the spending now. Unless Pres. Obama and Congress stop spending in excess of revenues this year, we will continue to add to a debt that is already unmanageable and probably unpayable.

And the fact of the matter is that you cannot reduce spending now or in the future without attacking the entitlement culture. Contrary to the Democrats, reform of the entitlement programs does not mean elimination of them. It does not mean throwing the sick, the hungry and the elderly out into the streets. It means reform and reform means changing the programs so that only those actually in need benefit.

Here are a number of programs that can be reformed with minimal difficulty and maximum savings.

  1. Change the requirement that emergency rooms have to provide medical services to all by restricting that requirement to American citizens and those legally here. No other country in the Western Hemisphere requires free medical services to those illegally in their country.
  2. Eliminate Obamacare and all of its attendant new bureaucracies and programs.
  3. Restrict all welfare programs to American citizens and those legally here. Again, no other country in the Western Hemisphere provides welfare to those illegally in their country.
  4. Restrict unemployment benefits to those actually seeking work. Recipients should be able to pursue jobs equivalent to their previous employment during the first twenty-six weeks but thereafter should be required to accept any job offered. (There was a recent story out of Washington state bemoaning the fact that they had to import workers from Jamaica to pick apples because the local unemployed would not accept the work – and why would they when a combination of unemployment and welfare resulted in income equivalent to the pay offered to pickers.) Work or starve is a significant incentive.
  5. Eliminate the entire Department of Energy and every one of its programs that suck up tax dollars without addressing rationally the very purpose for which it was created – energy independence. (Pie in the sky dreams of a landscape crowded with windmills and solar panels is foolish and deceives the public into thinking that it is a realistic and achievable solution. The nation’s energy producers will do a better and more efficient job of achieving energy independence.)

And finally, I would suggest that we end our troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Pres. Obama has no desire to win; in fact, he cannot succinctly identify a goal in either Iraq or Afghanistan. He is fighting not to lose – a posture reminiscent of Pres. Johnson and Nixon during the Vietnam War in which thousand of the nation’s young men and women were sacrificed for nothing.

Pres. George H.W. Bush rebuffed those who called for “nation building” in the aftermath of the Gulf War. His son should have listened to his advice. The invasion of Iraq should have ended when Saddam Hussein’s war machine was destroyed and he was captured. It should have ended with a stern warning and a firm resolve to periodically destroy any evidence of a rebuilding of an offensive armed forces or support for terrorists. The same applies to Afghanistan. For nearly forty years this country was able to avert nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union through the concept of mutual assured destruction deterrent (MADD). A new policy of a unilateral assured destruction deterrent (U-ADD) should be used to hold the terrorist of Islamic fundamentalism at bay. And for those who cannot ADD, say hello to the next Middle East parking lot.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal indicates that political observers agree that the first trillion in spending reductions is easy but unpopular among Democrats, the second trillion is doable but painful, and all of the rest requires systemic change. These suggestions can be a part of the systemic change.

But don’t hold your breath, the professional politicians have proven that they are incapable of retreating from any program once implemented.