End of the Line for the Welfare State?

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The Congressional Budget Office did not exactly say Obamacare would cost the nation 2.5 million jobs.

But what it did say is vindication of what conservatives have preached since Barry Goldwater stood in the pulpit 50 years ago:

The more liberal the welfare state, the greater the disincentive to work and the more ruinous the impact upon a nation’s work ethic.

The CBO has just given us a statistical measure of that truth.

The Obamacare subsidies, it said, will cause some to quit work, others to cut back on the hours they work, and others to hold off going to work, so as not to lose the benefits.

The cumulative impact of all these decisions will be equal to the loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2024. A devastating blow to an economy where the labor force participation is at a 30-year low.

The CBO has put a number of what everyone knows to be true: If people don’t have to work to provide the needs of their daily lives, some will drop out and become permanent charges on the public purse, deadbeats.

The father of modern liberalism, FDR, never disputed this. As he warned in 1935, welfare is “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”

This used to be called common sense. Growing up, we all knew or read that those who inherited great wealth often ended up never holding a “real job” and spent their days in a life of self-indulgence.

However, a related and larger question is raised by the CBO:

If Obamacare alone will cost the equivalent of 2.5 million lost jobs to the U.S. economy, what is the impact of our entire welfare state on the vitality and dynamism of the U.S. labor force?

As Robert Rector of Heritage Foundation wrote in January, if we judge Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society only by the dollars spent to improve the lives of the poor and near-poor, an astronomical $20 trillion, it was a success. Rector describes its dimensions.

“The federal government runs more than 80-means tested programs that provide cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted social services to poor and low-income Americans.

“Government spent $916 billion on these programs in 2012 alone, and roughly 100 million Americans received aid from at least one of them, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient. (That figure doesn’t include Security or Medicare.)

“Federal and state welfare spending, adjusted for inflation, is 16 times greater than it was in 1964.”

Yet, if we judge the Great Society by its goal, providing the poor with their basic family needs so they can go out into the marketplace and find jobs and join their fellow Americans, it has been, writes Rector, “a catastrophe.”

Scores of millions of Americans are today less able to achieve self-sufficiency through work than were their grandparents.

And by providing for all the needs that the father used to provide for his family, the Great Society has helped make fathers superfluous. We have created a system where a teenage girl who becomes pregnant can have all her basic needs met by government.

This is a primary cause of the rise in illegitimacy in America from 6 percent of all births in 1963 to 41 percent today, and to 53 percent among Hispanics and 73 percent among African-Americans.

And that record illegitimacy rate is directly tied to the drug use rate, the dropout rate, the crime rate and the incarceration rate.

If the goal of the Great Society was to turn America’s tax consumers into taxpayers, it has been a total failure. We have now a vast underclass of scores of millions who are dependent upon government for most or all of their basic needs, a class among whom many, if not most, have lost the ability to survive without government money, food and shelter.

This is something new in America, something we did not know with the Irish boat people of the 1840s, the Okies in Dust Bowl days or during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Monday’s New York Times reveals a relevant and startling fact.

Only 8 percent of the cab and rental car drivers in New York City are native-born Americans. Three times as many yellow cabdrivers in New York were born in Bangladesh than in the USA.

What is happening in America is that the vast cohort of working men and women, immigrants, illegal and legal, who have come in recent decades, 30 to 40 million, have displaced, have dispossessed, the native-born.

But we may be coming to the end of the line. From Detroit to Greece to Puerto Rico, government’s ability to expand the benefits of the welfare class by taxing the working and middle class is reaching its limit.

Taxpayers are rebelling, budgets are falling dangerously out of balance, and the welfare state is beginning to buckle under the load.

Perhaps T. S. Eliot was right:

“This is how the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”

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