How Much Should America Spend on Social Programs?

economics, politics, small businessMost politicians say we are not doing enough or spending enough to alleviate suffering among Americans. Of course you can’t really say we’re spending enough without sounding like a cold-hearted snake. It’s really not politically correct to suggest that we ARE spending enough. However, consider this. America’s welfare state has been growing steadily for almost a century. Spending took off with the launch of the New Deal in 1932 and accelerated with the Great Society initiative in 1964. Adjusted for inflation and population growth, federal welfare state spending was 58% larger in 1993 when Bill Clinton became president than it had been in 1977 when Jimmy Carter became president. By 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated, it was 59% larger than it had been in 1993. Both Democrats and Republicans have continued to increase spending. In 2013 the federal government spent $2.279 trillion - $7,200 per American, two-thirds of all federal outlays, and 14% of the Gross Domestic Product – on the five big program areas that make up our welfare state.[i] In addition, state and local governments spent more than $200 billion making the total expenditure around $3 trillion for all government welfare state expenditures, or just under $10,000 per American. The interesting question raised by William Voegeli in his book Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State is this:  Is there a Platonic ideal when it comes to the size of the welfare state? Is there a point at which the welfare state has all the money, programs, personnel, and political support it needs, thereby rendering any further additions unnecessary? Voegeli concludes that the welfare state is a permanent work-in-progress, and its advocates [most politicians] believe that however many resources it has, it always needs a great deal more. Most Americans would probably agree that the government’s track record on spending is that it is extremely inefficient in practically every area. In reality, due to the bureaucracy and all the different hands in the pie, government programs (and spending) will always be extremely inefficient. When you consider the progress we’ve made in reducing poverty and helping people become self-sufficient, government social programs are also extremely ineffective. So no wonder there’s always a cry for more and more and more! I suggest we spend NO MORE, but instead challenge ourselves (and our politicians) to find a way to get a 10-fold increase in effectiveness using the current dollars we’ve allocated. All indications suggest that more spending does not improve efficiency or effectiveness. In business and all free-market systems the competition forces us to do this, and we see it happen all the time! Let’s demand a balanced budget and increased effectiveness. Businesses can do it, why can't government? Politicians need to learn from small business owners.[ii] Just a perspective I hope you will consider.
  [i] The five program areas that make up our welfare state are: 1. Social Security; 2. All other income support programs, such as disability insurance or unemployment compensation; 3. Medicare; 4. All other health programs, such as Medicaid; and 5. All programs for education, job training, and social services. [ii] Unfortunately I think there is no intent among politicians to learn and improve like businesses do. I think the aim of politicians is to literally create a socialized America where they have more power and control. Continuing to spend more than we have and continuing to feed the demand for more government subsidies and entitlements will do just that. Ultimately the only ones who win in a nationalized economy are the politicians and the crony capitalists.

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