Have Americans Become Too Comfortable Receiving Government Assistance?

As the economy continues to stagnate and disability claims skyrocket, a potential solution to America’s problem with the dole: shame

Jobs on a puzzle pieceThe great fish moved silently through the water, and into immortality. Without question, Jaws was a classic, filled with memorable lines. But the one that best reflected the attitude of the times was Quint’s blunt speech to the business owners.

“(Killing the shark) will bring back the tourists. That’ll put all your businesses on a paying basis. Now you gotta make up your minds. Do you wanna stay alive and ante up, or you wanna play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter?”


Without hesitation, they anted up. Why? Because being on welfare carried a huge social stigma. It was a humiliating message to the community that you couldn’t “make it,” instead relying on the government for your existence. And no one wanted that.

But how things have changed.

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A recent segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes took an in-depth look at America’s disability entitlement program. The main interviewee was Oklahoma’s Republican Senator, Tom Coburn, whose investigation revealed widespread fraud.

Upon watching, several things came to mind:

1. Coburn, who is not running for reelection, came across as a genuinely compassionate conservative, articulating that, while a necessary program, disability needs a mammoth overhaul to remain solvent. He discussed the skyrocketing number of Americans on disability (up 20 percent in the last six years), and zeroed in on corruption, point out that far too many healthy Americans (possibly one-third of recipients) are collecting benefits they don’t deserve.

2. It might behoove those constantly maligning the “Main Stream Media” to compliment a national network for a job well done. Doing so will lead to more bias-free, watchdog-type investigative reporting, which is desperately needed.

3. Not surprisingly, there has been virtually no congressional oversight on this entitlement program. As a result, the disability trust fund will run out of money in less than two years. Even with significant changes, payroll taxes will almost certainly increase – another example of taking from those who work, and giving it to those who don’t. How long can a society remain functional with that type of class warfare?

4. A disturbing pattern has emerged. As people’s unemployment ends, a proportional number of new disability claims appear. Translation: Because of the still-stagnant economy, with scant job opportunities, many have “new-found” disabilities, allowing them to continue life on the government dole until their Social Security benefits take effect. Since disabilities include back and joint pain, anxiety and depression – all subjective and unverifiable “ailments” – the disability checks roll in, with no end in sight.

Compounding the situation, Medicare benefits kick in after two years on disability, regardless of age, providing an added incentive to keep up the charade. When individuals, families and indeed entire communities come to wholly rely on the government for their existence, while providing nothing in return, it’s called socialism. For years, Europe has championed that system, and look at the results.

5. There is no short-term solution. None. That said, four things are needed to begin improvement:

  • Create good-paying (read: non-government) manufacturing jobs to get people off government rolls. This can only occur if America uses its vast natural resources to generate the world’s most inexpensive energy, offsetting cheaper overseas labor costs.
  • Implement sweeping oversight on all entitlement programs, especially disability, tightening eligibility requirements. That’s the least that can be done when paying out Other People’s Money – namely, ours.
  • Enact term limits, the only measure which would force Congress to do what is right, not what their entitlement-addicted constituents want. Elected officials are too beholden to entrenched special interests, so the right thing takes a back seat to that which prolongs one’s time in office.
  • Most important, bring back shame. While it will take a generation, it’s essential if America is to once again pull itself up by its bootstraps. Shame works, but America has become so politically correct, so averse to “hurt feelings,” that it shuns, even shames, using shame.

But look at what happens when we do:

  • Whereas smoking was once so common, even on planes, it is now viewed with disdain, if not outright disgust. Proof? Just ask your kids.
  • Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign shaming drug use accomplished more in the War On Drugs than anything;
  • The shame of obesity (the 99.9 percent not caused by a “thyroid problem”) provided an incentive to drop weight and live a healthier, more disciplined lifestyle.
  • Likewise, the shame of being considered a racist has led to a more color-blind society.

Going on welfare, as Quint masterfully reminded the townspeople, was the last resort that no one wanted. The shame of being on government rolls propelled people to work that much harder and maintain their dignity.

Yet now, absent shame, government entitlements have become as expected as the sun rising, and personal responsibility has disappeared.

And, given America’s extremely precarious situation, failure to enact these reasonable solutions would be the biggest shame of all.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at CF@FFZMedia.com