The media, the occupiers, and others engaging in “the bitter politics of envy” have it all wrong. If they were concerned with anything other than dividing Americans and punishing success, their full attention would be on the 21%, not the 1%.
Who are the 21%? They are the Americans who, according to The Heritage Foundation, “rely on government subsidies for their existence.” Read that again: rely on government subsidies for their existence. That is a fundamentally un-American idea. And in 2009 (the last available data), 20.9% of the entire population in America was dependent upon government programs for their existence.
Of course, many of these folks have no desire to be dependent upon government. They have become a byproduct of relentless growth in government programs, which combined with the rapid growth in the number of Americans not paying federal income taxes, has created a dependent class. As Heritage’s Bill Beach notes, “Dependence on the federal government for life’s many challenges strips civil society of its historical and necessary role in providing aid and renewal through the intimate relationships of family, community, and local institutions and governments.”
For this dependent class, the American Dream is nothing but a mirage. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are words without meaning. Individualism and self-worth are whittled away. Economic growth is the answer, but it will not solve the dependency problem entirely; in part because government is not the only source of dependency.
Last week, the president of a Chicago-area International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local called a nationally syndicated radio show and expressed his outrage that some of his coworkers were open to voting for one of the Republican candidates this fall. Look at how this union boss describes his colleagues: “These people, whatever wealth they have, whatever affluence they have, and the fact that they still have jobs, they owe it to a union.”
Now, you may be tempted to dismiss this as typical union boss versus evil employer rhetoric. (Of course, we all know those jobs would not exist but for the employer and the free market economy.) But it is more insidious than that; it goes beyond anti-employer rhetoric. The union boss went on to say: “Some of the members voted to leave because they thought the reason they had all these benefits [was] because they themselves were that good.”