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Big Dream?
Topic: Just When You Thought It Could Not Get Worse
Posted by Everyman - 20:34:36 EST

Utopian nightmare.

The Great Society.

lbj

A wet dream of Progressives that - again, and quite predictably - turned out to be not so great after all.

Gone bad for more than half a century now . . .

And still counting.

Suffice it to say, the United States arrived late to the 20th century’s entitlement party, and the hesitance to embrace the welfare state lingered on well after the Depression. As recently as the early 1960s, the "footprint" left on America’s GDP by the welfare state was not dramatically larger than it had been under Franklin Roosevelt — or Herbert Hoover, for that matter.

In 1961, at the start of the Kennedy Administration, total government entitlement transfers to individual recipients accounted for a little less than 5% of GDP, as opposed to 2.5% of GDP in 1931 just before the New Deal.

In 1963 – the year of Kennedy’s assassination – these entitlement transfers accounted for about 6% of total personal income in America, as against a bit less than 4% in 1936.

During the 1960s, however, America’s traditional aversion to the welfare state and all its works largely collapsed. President Johnson’s "War on Poverty" and his "Great Society" pledge of the same year ushered in a new era for America, in which Washington finally commenced in earnest the construction of a massive welfare state. In the decades that followed, America not only markedly expanded provision for current or past workers who qualified for benefits under existing "social insurance" arrangements, it also inaugurated a panoply of nationwide programs for "income maintenance" (food stamps, housing subsidies, Supplemental Social Security Insurance, and the like) where eligibility turned not on work history but on officially designated "poverty" status.

The government also added health-care guarantees for retirees and the officially poor, with Medicare, Medicaid, and their accompaniments.

In other words, Americans could claim, and obtain, an increasing trove of economic benefits from the government simply by dint of being a citizen; they were now incontestably entitled under law to some measure of transferred public bounty, thanks to our new "entitlement state."

The expansion of the American welfare state remains very much a work in progress; the latest addition to that edifice is, of course, the Affordable Care Act.

Which, mirabile dictu, turns out to be not so affordable at all.

When will we ever learn?

Alas, no time soon.

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