Rushville Republican

August 13, 2013

The US has become a "nanny state"

By Paul W. Barada Rushville Republican
Rushville Republican

---- — Fellow columnist, Bill Ward, is right. We, as a people, used to take care of each other. As he has written, if you knew your neighbor had troubles, everyone would rally around and do what they could to help. If a barn burned, no one expected the federal government to provide the farmer with a new one. All the neighbors pitched in and helped the farmer rebuild.

Churches were one of the primary sources of assistance. If someone was down on his luck for reasons not their fault, the congregation, as well as others, would do whatever they could to help that individual, regardless of the nature of the need. If someone lost his job, parishioners were there to help out – everything from providing food, taking up a special collection, to helping the individual find another job.

Part of that “sense of community” so many people talk about came from the fact that people in cities and towns like this one helped each other. It would never have occurred to people during Bill Ward’s youth to expect, let alone feel entitled to, help from the federal government.

A modern day version of self-help is our local food pantry. The federal government has nothing to do with our food pantry. It’s staffed by volunteers, and all sorts of non-perishable food are donated to it and given to those in need. Another contemporary example is the “Changing Footprints” organization, which is essentially the same sort of operation as the food pantry. And, again, the federal government has nothing to do with it. Both of these local initiatives demonstrate that Bill Ward was, and still is, right. We, as a people, are perfectly capable of helping each other in times of need.

How did the “nanny-state” get started, you ask? It essentially began with The Great Depression, which started with the stock market crash in October, 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or middle 1940s; this was the beginning of the explosion of federal assistance programs. It is important to note that The Great Depression wasn’t just limited to the United States. It was a world-wide phenomenon that, among other things, gave rise to National Socialism in Germany which, eventually, led to World War II. Some historians contend that it was actually the Second World War which brought The Great Depression to an end. By that time, however, we were well on our way to creating an entitlement society.

One of the first programs created in the 1930s was Aid to Dependent Children, which was designed to provide cash payments to families in poverty with children. It also provided money to widowed mothers to help them make ends meet.

The Social Security Act was signed by President Roosevelt in 1935. Other programs, such as the Works Progress Administration, were part of the larger social welfare system known as the “New Deal.” Other programs that have appeared since the end of World War II include public health and medical programs, child welfare services, school lunches, food stamps, surplus food distribution, slum clearance, and public housing.

What’s particularly interesting is the fact that, according to the Office of Management and Budget, for 2013, out of every tax dollar we pay to the federal government, at least 55 cents goes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, (CHIP), and other safety net programs. Of the remaining 45 cents, 6 cents go to paying the interest on the national debt, 19 cents goes to defense and International Security Assistance, 7 cents goes to retirees and veterans, 3 cents goes for transportation infrastructure, 2 cents goes to education, another 2 cents goes into science and medical research, and 6 cents for all other federal programs. It is important to note that the implementation of “Obama Care” is not figured into the distribution of each of our tax dollars. It seems safe, however, to conclude that more cents out of every dollar will go into the main social welfare programs that already make up over half of every tax dollar we send to Washington – not even considering the mounting federal debt

Taking all of the foregoing into consideration, who can argue that we are not becoming a “nanny state” when at least 55 cents of every tax dollar is just a transfer payment. For the uninitiated, in economics, a transfer payment is the governmental redistribution of the wealth within the economy. More specifically, transfer payments occur without the purchase of either goods or services by the consumer. Put bluntly, transfer payments are nothing more than taxes which are collected taken from those who earn it and giving it to those who don’t. Prior to the beginning of the government’s efforts to help the average American during The Great Depression of the 1930s and early 1940s, there was no such term as a “transfer payment” because, as Bill Ward wrote, we used to take care of each other.

The sad part is that choosing to be a good neighbor has morphed into being forced into a social welfare system that, on balance, doesn’t work nearly as well.

That’s -30- for this week.