Tipping Point Is Coming

Tuesday, 21 Feb 2012 05:31 PM

By Herbert London

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In an effort to bolster the political fortunes of President Obama, the media panjandrums have been cheerleading about the improvements in the American economy.

Recovery appears to be building, notes The New York Times. The GDP growth is now projected at 3.5 percent, a tonic for the sleepy start of the fiscal year. The unemployment rate has declined, notwithstanding those who no longer seek employment.

The lights are synchronized in green for Obama’s re-election, or that is the growing sentiment. But there is an argument, far more telling than present statistical improvement, which must be made.

The policies of Obama’s last four years have moved the nation down the road of serfdom. Give-away programs have tied free individuals to the shackles of the state.

As of 2011, almost 45 million Americans are on foodstamps, approximately one in seven people.

In New York City 1.8 million citizens collect foodstamps, one in four.

foodstampsign.jpg
Almost 45 million Americans were on foodstamps in 2011.
(AP Image)
Forty-seven percent of Americans do not pay a personal income tax and most of these people receive subventions from the government. Thirty-six percent of Americans who file tax forms do not a pay personal income tax.

The number of those in a condition of poverty increased 9.5 percent since 2009, with a total of 43.6 million. Again, almost all of these individuals receive government assistance of one kind or another.

My contention isn’t merely that we spend more than we can afford — an obvious and well treated concern.

I would assert that despite positive signs in the economic picture, we are nearing the “tipping point,” a transformative moment when a majority of Americans are dependent on government largess.

This is the path Americans have been on for some time, but it has been accelerated by the policies of the Obama administration.

Thomas Jefferson once noted, “a government that can give you everything you want can take everything you have.”

Frédéric Bastiat echoed this sentiment when he wrote “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else,” and Voltaire captured this concern with his claim, “In general the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.”

It is not surprising that in taking from Peter to give to Paul, Paul doesn’t complain.

This isn’t merely the essence of class warfare, it is the entrapment of leviathan. Former President Bill Clinton said “the age of big government is over.”

By any standard this comment is absurd. Big government is alive, well, and growing. There isn’t the slightest sign it can or will abate until a crisis arises.

Moreover, it is difficult to envision what happens at that point since depending on one’s calculation, the majority is already feeding from the public trough. Will a majority vote to reduce its benefits? Will a president about to be re-elected on the basis of public give-aways tell the truth about economic conditions?

This presidential campaign offers a unique opportunity to tell the truth about what ails us. But the Republicans are afraid of third-rail repercussions if they bring up unfunded liabilities in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

And the Democrats want to create the illusion they are the compassionate party, eager to assist the poor and downtrodden, a stereotype that is inconsistent with Big Labor support and the endorsement of the Plaintiffs Bar.

As a consequence, the truth is buried and the Hayakian scenario of the Road to Serfdom is ominously palpable.

Perhaps it is time for both parties to accept Edmund Burke’s admonition that “No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

My hope is that this campaign is the beginning of a “little,” to reverse the emerging tipping point in the American economy.

Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Books).

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