April 22, 2016

Get’cha Honey for Nothin’, Get’cha Chips for Free

(I want my, I want my, I want my E-B-T!)

Editor’s Note: This article was originally written on August 16, 2015.

The quickest and surest way to make things more expensive for most of us is for someone in our government to attempt to make such things “free” for some.

As I noted earlier this year, the largest “charity” in the U.S. is government (which, of course, brags about it!). Americans gave a total of approximately $3.4 billion (about $2.4 billion from individuals) to private charities in 2013. In the same year, Americans received over $600 billion from means-tested (recipients required to be below a certain income level) government programs (housing, food stamps, WIC, Medicaid, and the like). When non means-tested programs (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and so on) are included, the total is a shocking and staggering $2 trillion dollars.

In case you missed it, for over four consecutive years now, the number of Americans receiving food stamps (transactions are now down with an EBT card) surpassed 45 million. About 20 percent of U.S. children receive food stamps. Thus nearly one-fifth of our future electorate is being conditioned to the idea that it is government’s responsibility to make sure they are fed.

Of course, with the current size and role the government plays in our everyday lives, people have come to expect much more than food from their Uncle Sam. And liberals are intent on growing these expectations.

Given the life-changing financial decision Michelle and I made 17 years ago, anytime I see a headline containing the phrase “debt free,” my attention is drawn. This is especially the case whenever the headline is a reference to a plan or scheme devised by a liberal. Most liberals’ ideas of “debt free” involves either printing massive amounts of money or heavily taxing those who tend not to vote for democrats (or at least have no lobbyist to create tax loopholes).

As her campaign falters, Hillary Clinton recently announced her plan to do more of what liberals do best: give away other people’s money. In an effort to politically capitalize on the massive $1.2 trillion in student loan debt that is held by tens-of-millions of Americans, Clinton proposed “to make public colleges debt-free for students, to cut interest rates for people struggling with debt from loans taken out to pay for college, and to expand some existing aid programs to cover more people.”

Her campaign says that the new program would cost $350 billion over ten years, which means that it will probably cost at least twice that much. Liberals are almost as bad at predicting the future costs of federal programs as they are at climate change predictions. (The interesting thing to ponder is which bad prediction will end up costing us more.) Of course, as is almost always the case with these things, Clinton’s plan will not make college less expensive, but more so.

Clinton isn’t alone in her plan to further expand the role of the federal government in education. According to Alexis Simindinger, writing in Real Clear Politics, “Affordable, debt-free college is now an economic policy plank for all the Democratic presidential candidates, who believe it resonates across political parties, across economic strata, and with young people as well as with their parents and grandparents.”

In other words, liberals have examined the political landscape and found the next new way — much to Benjamin Franklin’s dismay — to give the electorate the opportunity to vote themselves money. And “affordable?!” Social Security, the oldest, and arguably the most popular federal social welfare program, is, according to Andrew Briggs of the American Enterprise Institute, “the Titanic headed for the iceberg.” And there is virtually no political will in Washington, D.C. to do anything about it.

In 2014 Medicare — which is as popular as Social Security — cost the U.S. government $600 billion, which was just short of defense spending. This spending was nearly double Medicare’s receipts ($342 billion) for 2014. Put another way, Medicare brings in about 11% of federal tax revenue, while amounting to nearly 17% of federal spending. As John Graham of the National Center for Policy Analysis implies, “Medicare devours the federal government.”

In other words, with over $18 trillion in total federal debt, and an annual federal budget deficit of nearly $500 billion, virtually no Big Government social program is “affordable.” Of course, this includes Obamacare.

In spite of the oft-parroted notion that Obamacare is “working,” the law is much more expensive than promised ($2 trillion instead of $900 billion — Democrats will just make this up out of petty cash), fewer people are covered than promised, premiums are rising faster than promised (“23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota), fewer doctors are available than promised ("42 percent fewer oncology and cardiology specialists; 32 percent fewer mental health and primary care providers; and 24 percent fewer hospitals”), and so on.

As is often the case with these programs, Obamacare was sold on a mountain of lies. Because of the desire of many Americans to receive “free” stuff from the government, and because of the refusal of far too many Americans to recognize that such things are never free, we are now saddled with another massive government program that we may never be rid of.

The idea that Americans are getting things “free” from the government may be the lie of the century. A billboard near my home illustrates well this lie:

According to its website, “Peach State provides all of the medical services covered by Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids.” In other words, Peach State is government healthcare in Georgia. PeachCare is Georgia’s version of CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). As a result of the failed efforts of “Hillarycare,” but in order to get at least some expansion of the role of government in healthcare, SCHIP (as it was formerly known) was created in 1997 as a shared federal-state health insurance program for children and pregnant mothers in families whose incomes were too high for Medicaid.

Take note of the advertisement of “Free Dental & Vision Coverage” on the billboard. Such deception is replete when it comes to these Big Government programs. To quote Mattie Ross from True Grit, “You must pay for everything in this world in one way or another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” If only more Americans were as eager for God’s grace as they were for Obama’s stash.

Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of “Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World.” Contact him at [email protected]

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