According to the Census Bureau 49.1% of the population in the United States lives in a household where at least one member collects a government benefit check. The figure is a dramatic increase from thirty years ago when the percentage stood at 30%. In 2008 the percentage was 44%. No doubt the Great Recession, or some would say depression, contributed to the rise in the number of people receiving taxpayer assistance. But roughly fifteen percent live with someone collecting Social Security or Medicare benefits. As the demographic make-up of the country grows older the number of people colleting some type of old-age assistance will surely increase. The census data spells political trouble for those attempting to show fiscal restraint and looking to cut the national debt. People receiving taxpayer-funded benefits also vote. It is illogical to think of people on the dole voting for a representative or President that runs on a theme of drastically reducing or eliminating their check. In a Gallup Poll taken last year 56% of the respondents opposed changes to Social Security or Medicare. The two entitlement programs alone represent forty-four percent of the budget.
The Census Bureau did not indicate whether subsidies to farmers or businesses or students were included. If they were not part of the data, then the percentage of the population living with someone colleting a government benefit check would climb well above fifty percent.
Europe paints a good picture of what happens when the word austerity enters the conversation. The face of rioters in Greece, Italy, and Spain belong to people depositing a government check. Anger resulted in the socialist gaining power in France, a new Greek government threatening to leave the Eurozone instead of tackling their mountains of debt, and Merkel recently suffering regional losses in Germany. The hostilities in the Wisconsin recall elections are in reaction to legislative actions attempting to control the state’s budget.
Many speculate that the economy will be Obama’s undoing at the polls in November. Conservatives rubbing their hands together in anticipation of a Republican victory best not count the votes before they are cast. With nearly half the population living in a household where the mailman delivers a government check, the economy may not be the number one priority for a good number of people in the country.
As Benjamin Franklin noted, “When the people find they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.