About that Entitlement Society

Do you hate those welfare queens (and kings) who collect benefits and squirt out kids every year? Do you agitate for the abolition of the welfare safety net because of that perception and hatred? 

Then consider that 90% of entitlement benefits in the “entitlement society” go to the elderly, the disabled, and to working families who aren’t making enough to feed, clothe, and house themselves. In other words – it’s operating exactly the way it should, and whatever cheating of the system might be taking place, it’s minimal. 

In a December 2011 op-ed, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney warned ominously of the dangers that the nation faces from the encroachment of the “Entitlement Society,” predicting that in a few years, “we will have created a society that contains a sizable contingent of long-term jobless, dependent on government benefits for survival.”  “Government dependency,” he wrote, “can only foster passivity and sloth.”[2]  Similarly, former Senator Rick Santorum said that recent expansions in the “reach of government” and the spending behind them are “systematically destroying the work ethic.”[3] 

The claim behind these critiques is clear: federal spending on entitlements and other mandatory programs through which individuals receive benefits is promoting laziness, creating a dependent class of Americans who are losing the desire to work and would rather collect government benefits than find a job.  

Such beliefs are starkly at odds with the basic facts regarding social programs, the analysis finds. Federal budget and Census data show that, in 2010, 91 percentof the benefit dollars from entitlement and other mandatory programs went to the elderly (people 65 and over), the seriously disabled, and members of working households.  People who are neither elderly nor disabled — and do not live in a working household — received only 9 percent of the benefits. 

Moreover, the vast bulk of that 9 percent goes for medical care, unemployment insurance benefits (which individuals must have a significant work history to receive), Social Security survivor benefits for the children and spouses of deceased workers, and Social Security benefits for retirees between ages 62 and 64.  Seven out of the 9 percentage points go for one of these four purposes.

Dismantle what we have, and these people are dead or begging on the streets. Read the whole thing


  • Yeah, we should dismantle our DoD and defund our black hole agencies instead. But you don’t want to do that either, because Snowden or Russia or some shit.

    • Where did I write that we shouldn’t defund the DoD? Oh, nowhere? Alrighty, then.

      • As to the DOD the recent “sequester is the best thing that ever happened. Those mandatory cuts are finally allowing our generals to make the cuts that didn’t contribute to national defense.
        You know, all those bases and weapons systems that for years our generals told us we didn’t need but ate up huge sums functioning primarily as politician’s jobs programs.
        National defense is just that. It’s not a jobs program and isn’t supposed to be.

    • I think we need to break out….THE MANUAL BUZZER…for that utterly pointless take!

  • Having worked in subsidized housing units for nigh on twenty years I have often wondered what would happen to these people without government aid. Sure there are the scofflaws but the vast majority simply do not have the capacity to function at the level needed to support themselves. The government is doing what families and churches used to do.

    My wife and I lived in Santa Barbara in the 80’s when Reagan decided to open the doors to mental wards. Voila, homeless people. Suddenly there was a whole pile of people walking down State St. talking to themselves and crapping in the storefront entries. But the nasty old government cut its budget by god.

  • Once you work among the poor, things sort themselves out. Working in a retail pharmacy while going to college in the mid 80’s—I saw families where nobody went to work in 3 or 4 GENERATIONS. You also see the elderly who couldn’t afford the meds so the Pharmacist cut his own throat to help them. Jails are full of people who never saw an adult go to work–turn 18 and “Apply for your checks”. You also see families where everyone of working age is working full or part time and still have trouble making it. My local soup kitchen has seen a 100% increase in folks showing up for the daily lunch–the only decent meal many will have all day. My mom lives at the foot of Hertel Av in an apartment building for seniors that is subsidized by the city. You pay rent proportional to your income.
    There’s 2 sides to every coin. The problem is historical. Used to be WEALTHY people (Shaq is rich–the guy who used to sign Shaq’s checks is Wealthy) who pre 1917 weren’t taxed assuaged their guilt for being wealthy by helping the poor. They were by no means progressive or liberal. Today, we have the liberal whose heart goes out to the poor. But they aren’t coming off THEIR money—They wish to assuage any guilt they feel for the poor by using SOMEONE ELSE’S MONEY through Good Old Government. The Government needs to get out of the business of helping the poor, and get things to go the old fashioned way—get all these wealthy people to fund non-profits who utilize the money better, screen the applicants better, and overall do a better job.

    • Ah, yes, charities can feed the poor. Well, a few of them anyway. And the rest? Just thinning the herd, right?

    • Does it not bother you that pretty much everything you just said is wrong? Go ahead and go click on that reference link in the main article: It lays out pretty clearly where benefits go, and it’s not to “families where nobody went to work in 3 or 4 generations,” as if such a thing could even exist outside of the imagination.

      Welfare and food stamps are NOWHERE near enough to support families. The average welfare benefit is $350 per family per MONTH. And a person is limited only a few years benefits in an entire lifetime. Only 9% of benefits go to people who aren’t elderly, disabled, or working, and seven of that nine percent goes to unemployment benefits, which you have to have been laid off to get, and Social Security survivor or early retirement benefits.

  • Mr. Bedenko makes a good point but the facts and figures he uses are suspect.
    It’s all in the definition and semantics.
    Our “entitlement” expendatures are much larger than stated. That’s because we define things that go to the elderly, the working poor, the unfortunate of circumstance, etc as entitlement.
    Oddly in these matters large government subsidies to things like the oil industry, pharmacutiicals and such, the “corporate welfare” to those who hardly need that help are not in the definition.
    Not to mention the real “entitlement” nightmare…that of providing tax breaks to the least in need. Is not relieving one man’s tax burden only to place it on the rest not an entitlement?
    Does not taxing money made by labor at a higher rate than money made by money…investment income et al not an entitlement to those who receive that selective and arbitrary break?
    Now…let’s not even get into what is socialist and what is not. That gets really murky.

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