Tuesday’s election was not the beginning, but rather an acceleration of a trend that started decades ago under Franklin Roosevelt.
The original intent of social programs was to take care of the very poor who, literally, might be eating grain and not having a roof over their heads. Now, of course, any retiree is eligible for medical care, unless he or she is covered by another plan.
Don’t even think about the crop subsidies that provide hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to wealthy Midwest farmers. Of course, we just had an example of the government’s – actually taxpayers’ – largess, when they poured a totally useless a half-billion dollars into Solyndra, a solar panel company that wouldn’t even work as a bathroom mirror. And Solyndra was just one of many government-funded failures that poured probably another half-billion dollars down the solar toilet.
These are just small examples compared to the tens, no, hundreds of billions of dollars spent on entitlement programs. An entitlement program is one in which the participant is not required to make any contributions but may collect indefinitely. The numbers, when you total Women, Infants and Children; Medicaid; Medicare; MediCal; Earned Income Tax Credit; and who knows what additional cost the Affordable Care Act will run up, are astronomical.
There is, or course, Section 8 housing, which provides support for those who couldn’t otherwise afford to remain in the apartments or homes in which they live.
Speaking of homes, one of the greatest financial messes took place when impecunious homebuyers were encouraged to sign mortgage applications even if they were in the infamous NINJA category. NINJA stands loosely for no income, no job, no assets. The result of all the help given to homeowners, or foreclosed homeowners, in Detroit was that the thousands of homes still standing had an average value of $16,000. That’s less than one-third of the fee that a builder or owner pays to get a permit to build a house in Fairfield.
OK, so we passed Measure P, which will allegedly keep us out of a financial situation resembling Vallejo, or even worse, Stockton. But Tuesday’s election, sadly, taught us one thing: More people voted out of fear that they might lose their entitlements than those who paid tax on income they actually earned. To use author Malcolm Gladwell’s point, we’ve reached the tipping point.
You can probably figure out what the tipping point is, at least when it applies to elections. Voters seemed to ignore the dangers we face in the world around us and instead proudly waved the flags that said, “What’s in it for me?”
This is a situation that feeds on itself, like a snowball turning into an avalanche. The more there are of those who are getting something for nothing, more or less, from the government – specifically one party – the more support their candidates will get. And if some Republicans, who themselves may be supporting ethanol and other wastes of taxpayers’ money, try to cut back on entitlements for the 47 percent, to use Mitt Romney’s malaprop, there is a steep price to pay.
In short, it’s almost impossible to do anything about it, even with a $17 trillion debt hanging over us.
Bud Stevenson, a stockbroker, lives in Fairfield. Reach him at [email protected]