Former Texas senator Phil Gramm and economist Michael Solon have written a piece about an underreported political dynamic that is unique to 2012. It’s the elephant in the room of American politics that Mitt Romney brushed up against with his misguided quote about the “47 percent.” Gramm and Solon aren’t as blunt as I am, but their op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal suggests that a substantial number of voters may be moved to cast their vote in furtherance of their dependency on the government. The fact is, under President Obama, more people than ever have a selfish interest in voting in favor of their own government benefits, not in support of private-sector employment. This is uncharted territory in American politics.
Gramm and Solon point out that spending for the federal government’s means-tested programs has grown 2 1/2 times faster under the Obama administration than under any other president, today totaling more than $1 trillion. Six percent of the American labor force now collects disability benefits — twice the percentage it was 10 years ago — and 40 percent of unemployed Americans qualify for these disability benefits.
The article also notes that in the 2008 election, Obama won by a “landslide” of 10 million votes. Well, since he has become president, 18.5 million more people have enrolled in the food stamp program.
Another op-ed that caught my eye this week was one in the New York Times, written by my old friend Gary MacDougal, author of “Make a Difference: A Spectacular Breakthrough in the Fight Against Poverty.” Gary presents a jaw-dropping analysis that I haven’t seen before. He adds details to what Gramm and Solon wrote yesterday, explaining how a trillion dollars is spent by government in trying to help the poor. Gary points out that a trillion dollars equals approximately $21,700 per poor person in this country, meaning that a household of four could receive up to $87,000 per year.
The problem in the United States isn’t a shortage of money; it’s the lack of efficiency in Washington. Obama doesn’t want to address the inefficiencies; he wants a giant plus-up of these programs. He doesn’t think the trillion dollars is enough. His offer to the American people is the narcotic of government dependency. Sounds harsh, but the facts speak for themselves.
It’s underreported and difficult to talk about, but a big part of what makes this election important is whether we have turned the economic corner and whether more people want something from the government than want to be left alone by the government. Obama is making one offer; Romney the other.