Government Entitlements Do More Harm Than Good


Michael Barone:

“This is painful for a liberal to admit,” writes liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in soul-crushing dependency.”

Kristof is writing from Breathitt County, Ky., deep in the Appalachian mountains, about mothers whose Supplemental Security Income benefits will decrease if their children learn to read. Kristof notes that 55% of children qualifying for SSI benefits do so because of “fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation,” far more than four decades ago when SSI was just a new program.

Evidently SSI administrators decided to be more generous to parents of such children. But, as Kristof notes, giving parents an incentive to keep children from learning to read works against the children’s long-term interest.

Entitlements that encourage parents to keep their children uneducated aren’t the only area where social policy has negative impact. For example, programs like Social Security and Medicare have removed the impetus for Americans to save for their retirement. Why put away money for your declining years when the government has programs available to take care of you?

Charity, too, has fallen victim to the entitlement state. Where churches and other private organizations were once the primary instruments through which humanity chose took care of one another, they’ve been replaced by state programs.

These, of course, were not the intentions of the designers of any of these policies. I don’t think anybody intended for parents to keep their kids dumb in order to keep the welfare faucets on. I don’t think anyone intended for Americans to stop saving for themselves, or taking direct action to help their fellow human beings. Yet, that has been the outcome of these policies.

It often seems as though we’re eternally pursuing some utopia through government policy. What we achieve is usually something worse than the original problem.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • HG

    And liberals don’t intend for the economy to contract and slow because they tax the hell out of economic activity, but it does. Liberals demonize what motivates people to work, and demoralize the indiviual. Pursuit of happiness involve a pursuit of profit, wealth, achievement, self-reliance, digniity, property, inheritance, etc. It’s as if they have no clue about themselves or others.

    • igx


    • Guest

      So we’re just spewing out demonizing caricatures now, HorridGas? Republicans would rather see families starve than see a billionaire pay another dime in taxes. Derp.

      • igx

        Neo Keynesian redistribution ultimately doesn’t work and makes everyone poorer. JMO, it’s feeding back on it’s self to the point of collapse.

        • Guest

          Keynesian economics gave rise to the economic powerhouse that the United States became. You’re retarded if you think drastically cutting government spending in a time of recession will help the economy. Look at all the Latin American countries that IMF imposed fiscal austerity drove into the ground. What a f*cking tool, go read a book sh*thead.

          • sbark

            actually not true………1880’s one of the best growth periods in USA history was in a price deflationary period

            from Stansbury research: The 1880s saw the greatest increase in per-capita GDP in American history. Unemployment fell to 2.5%, despite high immigration. Real wages rose 23% between 1879 and 1889. The country boomed, led by heavy capital investment. The amount of rail track laid, for example, grew from 2,665 miles in 1878 to 11,568 miles in 1882. The value of building permits increased by 150% between 1878 and 1883.

            And here’s the most fascinating part of the story… prices steadily fell from the end of the Civil War until the early 1890s, when they finally stabilized. You’d be hard-pressed to find a working economist today on Wall Street who could explain why the greatest decades of economic growth in American history could have been achieved during a period of deflation.

            Mainstream economists all believe prices ought to only fall during economic depressions because they’ve become so blinded by paper money. But I can explain what happened in the 1880s easily: With real money in place, investors were willing to make long-term investments.

            The result was an economy led by capital investments – not consumption.

            Everyone is born ignorant…..Liberals just work harder than most to stay so…….

          • WOOF

            “banking panics occurred in 1873, 1893, and 1907 with incipient panics in 1884 and 1890.”

          • igx

            Sbark knows what he’s talking about. What it comes down to is central banks should only help banks under really draconian rules and not help the economy at all.

            The Feds should’t overdo counter cyclical spending because they are too dumb and corrupt to get it right.

            We are running out of money because of this crap.

          • igx

            Read “Inflated” by Chris Whalen. I can’t recommend it enough.

          • igx

            Dude, the problem is they COMPLETELY OVERDID IT FOR DECADES. There is a huge difference between intelligently applied Keynesianism and what they actually did. Even Mar Faber says that. Now they can’t let the air out because of the danger, but the more it goes on the worse it gets.

      • willieB


        • SmallWillie

          Says willieb’s wife about her sex life with willieB

          • Anonymous

            Her sex life with everyone else is pretty wild though.

      • HG

        Figures. You know as little about republicans as you do about economics.

  • JLawson

    The law of unintended consequences… or phrased another way – “You get more of what you pay for.”

  • camsaure

    Rob, I am not entirely certain that was not the intention of at least some of the “central planners” in the first place. They should have noticed the destruction they caused over a hundred years ago with the native American population. And frightfully so maybe they did. It seems like now days they are attempting to get everyone into so called groups and getting them dependent on the govt. For examples: Blacks, native Americans, single mothers,Latinos,College students and yes, even farmers. It appears to me to be a progressive power grab.

  • SigFan

    When what was intended to be a safety net devolved into inter-generational and permanent dependency someone on the left should have been smart and honest enough to notice and speak up. Now it’s too late – far too many people have lost the abilities and desire to make their own way and prefer to keep taking the handouts. And maybe that was the intent all along.

  • Bea Kath

    We need to scale back entitlements if we want to seriously take on the fiscal cliff and take responsibility for out actions as a nation.

  • borborygmi

    Government Entitlements Do More Harm Than Good…..unless you are homeless and hungary

  • splined

    The clueless and or corrupt congress ever fixated on re-election has chosen to be oblivious to the economic carnage it is creating with the unfair and inequitable crop insurance schemes. It should be obvious to everyone that targeting the largest and most profitable farm businesses with the largest investment and income guarantees grants these operations with an overwhelmingly competitive edge in a highly competitive business. It should be noted that many of these operations have little or marginal land costs and that government has no business guaranteeing ever increasing land values with insurance schemes that cover land costs. It should also be obvious that smaller farm operations targeted with no or minimal government benefits have little or no chance of competing in such an economic environment. Considering the stratospheric levels to which land values have escalated it should be obvious to all that extreme government income and investment guarantees are capitalized into land values and that government has no business targeting the wealthiest with multimillion dollar business benefits and billions in insurance subsidies.

  • igx

    When the Fed was invented, they and the government, FDR, tried to suck all of the volatility out of the economy like it was a good thing. It’s better for individuals and their associations, (family, brotherhoods, churches) to just anticipate it and deal with it, but they don’t now and this is what we get. It lowers GDP and jacks up taxes.

    And we still end up with bubbles and financial cataclysms.

  • realitybasedbob

    Entitlements suck, just ask gop Paul Ryan and his mommy.

    • yy4u2

      Seems that he said he was grateful for them, they bettered themselves/their bad situation, and moved on leaving the program behind for others to use as intended. Too many on it fulltime. It is no longer a stepping stone but a landing pad for the masses. Forty-three million on food stamps and counting.

  • toppr8

    I don’t believe that SS is an entitlement program. I am not entitled to something that i have invested in, I am only asking to recieve back what I have invested and a reasonable rate of return. I am not in favor of the govt running such a program, but of course I have no choice in this part of the process. But to call SS an entitlement is not clearly true.
    Believe me I don’t favor entitlement programs that allow people to recieve aid by simply applying for it, without having to work, or by playing a system that allows for a system of low expectations but still allows for govt assistance. We need not fund those to under motivated to help themselves!

  • gene lalor

    Leftist-Liberal Arrogance and Ignorance

    President Ronald Reagan’s classic observation that “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so” only tells half the story about the liberal-left in America. The other half is equally damning and could be stated as, “It isn’t so much that liberals are arrogant. It’s just that they believe they’re so much better than the rest of us.”

    “Arrogance,” the obnoxious display of exaggerrated chutzpa, of self-importance, and hubris, is one signature characteristic of liberal-leftists in America. Another is ”ignorance,” the lack of knowledge, learning, and information.

    Unlikely as it is, stripped of their arrogant attitudes and clued in to reality, leftist-liberals would morph into conservatives! God forbid!

    Cases in point of both traits abound.

    Those incidents range from political arrogance which enables left-libs to enact legislation that few people want and they don’t even bother to read to celebrity arrogance founded on the grossly-mistaken notion that their fame instills wisdom; they range from ignorant people who vote for a candidate yet know little if anything about government and to stupid people who shouldn’t be allowed to vote in the first place.

    A very select sampling:

    ARROGANCE: To be a leftist-liberal is to be arrogant. I should know since I’ve been there, done that–before growing up and getting educated.

    Elderly actor and ardent leftist-liberal Ed Asner, the kindly, curmudgeonly Lou Grant of the old “Mary Tyler Moore Show” is still a curmudgeon but hardly kindly. He evidently hasn’t learned my life lesson.

    Asner represents the epitome of celebrity arrogance and false sense of superiority, so much so that he obviously thinks he can flout the most basic civilized decorum. He demonstrated his total disregard for fundamental decency when he publicly and vulgarly asked a FoxNews producer, “Do you have any money? Can I piss on you?”

    Reared in an Orthodox Jewish family from Russia, the wealthy, grizzled 83 year old Asner was reacting to a question regarding his narration on an animated video for the radical California Federation of Teachers which was geared for children and which featured a (now-deleted)stereotyped “rich man” urinating on protesting workers.

    The video was only slightly more classy than Asner’s arrogant supposition that he was free and entitled to utter a vile–and evasively irrelevant–rejoinder to a civil, honest question. He first said he couldn’t recall ”a thing” about the video and then asked the Fox producer, “Do you have any money? Can I piss on you?”

    Discounting senility, it has to be the height of arrogant hypocrisy as well as the depth of ingratitude and lack of dignity for a rich man like Asner to demean his own economic class–and himself.

    IGNORANCE: Ignorance is not synonymous with stupidity, though it’s close in meaning and the two often overlap. The chief distinction between them may be that ignorant people simply don’t know and stupid people absolutely don’t want to know.

    Sad to say, millions of Obama voters in the last election proved themselves stupid ignoramuses . . .
    (

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    The idea of a safety net is compassionate. The trouble is the unintended consequences. This is a great example. Our Reservation system is another example. Realistically, the safety nets will not disappear, but they should shrink, and we must always be mindful of the bad things that can happen as a result of our compassion and, more importantly, have a safety net that is flexible enough to change.

  • sbark

    What the Left does to people thru dependency on Govt is the cruelist thing anyone or anything could choose to do to a human being……….

    The Dem’cat would’ve been much more compassionate if they had just stayed with the KKK format……….at least people then had a chance to die on their feet, with welfare dependency people are forced to die on their knee’s begging govt for the next handout.

    ……and that is the crux of the arguement against ObamaCare….ultimatly hoping the Death panels wont choose to ration their health care needs.