I Am Entitled
About 3 years ago my wife and I went to East Austin to help with a group called Mission Possible who ministers and empowers the poor and homeless. We helped clean up some buildings, aided in projects for low income families, and we gave food to the homeless. It was an eye opening experience and changed my perspective about the poor. I can remember many things, but the thing I most remember is talking to the Mission Possible director and asking him what was one of the most difficult challenges that he sees when trying to help the poor. He said it was government entitlements like welfare and medicaid. He said he tries to help the poor become productive, but most do not want a job or job training because they would rather collect government entitlements. It opened my eyes to some of the shortfalls of entitlements. So this brings up the popular question. Do entitlements help those in need or do they create a life-long dependency? Everyone agrees that there are needy people that cannot sustain themselves with the burden of children, disabilities, and unfortunate circumstances but are government entitlement programs the answer? Today, I would like to discuss this debate and attempt to convince you about why entitlements in the U.S. are problematic.
My first reason that entitlements in the U.S. are problematic is that it causes a visious cycle of dependance on welfare. As the director of mission possible explained, those who are recieving government entitlements don't want to work. He also explained that those who depend on entitlements teach their children to depend on entitlements instead on teaching personal responsibility. Why would a person work if they were given entitlements for free? This dependency on welfare fails to teach able bodied cititizens how to improve their own condition.
My second reason that entitlements in the U.S. are problematic is because of the abuses of the entitlement systems. How many have ever seen a person paying with food stamps who is wearing expensive clothes driving away in an expensive SUV? Now, it is difficult to tell how frequently this occurs, but does it seem like that person needs government entitlements? There are some entitlements that are going to people who find loopholes in the system. How many of you have heard stories of single mothers living with their partners who have many children just to get welfare checks. Or how about the many abuses of the medicaid and medicare systems by the health providers and patients. The FBI conservatively estimates that over 10% of medicaid is lost to fraud. Some examples of medicaid abuse reported by the General Accountabilty Office are
• doctors billing for over 24 hours of work
• phony companies invoicing for phantom services
• pharmacists filling prescriptions for dead patients
• prescriptions written by dead physicians
• home health-care companies demanding payment for treating clients who are actually in the hospital
This oversight with entitlements is rampant and it is difficult for large government entities to keep track of where the money goes.
Thirdly, government entitlements cause a social divide between those who work and pay taxes and those who depend on entitlements. Remember the person paying with food stamps driving away in an SUV? It can be frustrating if you are paying into a system that is supposed to help the poor yet you see this abuse. It can also be frustrating when those who are able to work choose not to because they would rather recieve entitlements. Because of this abuse of the system, my natural inclination is to look at an entitlement recepient with disdain. You can see how this can foster resentment between the working class and the poor.
Fourthly, to me the main problem with entitlements is that it is unsustainable. This table shows the US federal, state and local government expenditures on entitlements which includes welfare, social security, and medicare/medicaid. Not to overwhelm you with too many numbers, but we can see from this table that since 1970 the percentage of total governement spending on entitlements has increased from 37% to over 77% of total government spending. This trend cannot be sustained. Governor Schwarzenegger is learning this firsthand with a $19 billion budget shortfall in CA in which he had to make some difficult decisions and proposed to reduce entitlement spending. To me, this is just the beginning of budget shortfalls due to the burden of funding entitlements.
Finally, with all my arguments against entitlements, a person may ask what about those who are helpless like the disabled, injured, the single mothers? What would happen if we ended entitlements? They may say, isn't it our moral obligation to help those in need? To that answer I say yes, but is it the governments responsibility to force taxpayers into that system, or would it be better to have a system where people actually have the choice to give to a reputable charity? Before entitlements, churches and charities were able to give local hand's on care for poor people and could more easily distinguish those who had a real need. To those who say it is a moral obligation then give time and money to charities who help the poor. Simple as that.
In conclusion, I have given you my reason for why the entitlement system in the US is problematic. I have explained the problems of dependency on the system, the abuse of the system, the resentment that can occur between taxpayers and those who are unwilling to work. I have also explained how the funding US entitlements is becoming more and more unsustainable. We can all agree that we should care for the poor and the destitute, but the methods to help them have been and will continue to be debated. In my opinion, help for the poor should not be mandated by a large government system but rather a local charity or church who can personally care for the needy.