Entitlement is a disease, much like cancer. I fought and won my personal war against cancer, but have thankfully never suffered from entitlement. If there is indeed a divide in our country, as liberals in both political parties are all too willing to espouse and exploit, it may very well be between those Americans who feel entitled to guarantees of health care, retirement income and protections of their self-defined class, and the rest of us who have read the Constitution.
Our nation was founded upon the notion that government should protect individual rights while individual citizens pursued their own version of happiness. The founding fathers acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence the self-evident truth that our Creator endowed upon us the right to pursue happiness. The right afforded Americans is the pursuit, not the outcome. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution guarantees happiness as an outcome.
Nearly 200 years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for the same principle. His pursuit was not economic entitlement for racial minorities who felt the cruel sting of discrimination at the ballot box and an unequal access to economic freedom, but for the equal opportunities afforded all citizens as envisioned by our founders.
Too many Americans and too many political leaders currently ignore the founders’ and King’s shared vision. Instead of recognizing the awesome potential within individuals to achieve their dreams and support themselves and their families, power-loving politicians are spreading entitlement like a plague.
The problems inherent in our health care system provide an instructive example. Health care costs of all types are high because individual Americans do not pay enough for their own care.
The costs are subsidized by the government and employers, which causes gross distortions in the health care market. Government created this mess by enacting tax laws that actually penalize individual purchasers of health insurance, and by enacting programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to finance health care for those deemed by government as too poor to pay for it themselves.
The disastrous result is not only the fiscal cost to taxpayers, but that entire generations of Americans have been socialized into believing they are entitled to health care coverage.
Instead of legislating reforms to eliminate the tax burden on the self-employed and instill free market forces and individual choice in the health care system, liberals want to mandate even more employer and state-paid coverage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is clear about her desire to mandate universal health care for all Americans. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have made universal coverage a centerpiece of their issue agendas.
According to Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, the recently enacted “universal” health care plan in Massachusetts, which isn’t yet in effect, will cost nearly double the original projections. The Massachusetts plan is pure socialism. Individuals must purchase health insurance by July 1, 2007 or face significant tax penalties.
Further, as Turner notes, “State agencies will be checking on individuals’ insurance status, monitoring their income to see if they qualify for subsidies, and tracking individual health habits to determine how much they should pay for their health insurance.”
Entitlement disease is also spread by the class warriors who want to punish success by taxing individual achievement. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, is holding hearings to find “solutions” to non-existent fiscal challenges affecting the so-called middle class. A February 1 Washington Post story noted, however, that median household net worth grew by 35 percent from 1989 to 2004, including increases in all income groups.
Schumer stated, “We have big plans. The party that can create a model paradigm…will not only win in 2008 but could create a long-term majority.” In other words, more entitlement spending, government mandates and class warfare rhetoric might create long-term power for liberals.
Unfortunately, Schumer is not alone. In a January 31 speech on Wall Street, President Bush stated, “The fact is that income inequality is real; it’s been rising for more than 25 years.” With all due respect, Mr. President, that statement is false. A recent study released by the Congressional Joint Economic Committee found that from 2001 to 2005 there was no statistical change in income inequality. The president is simply pandering to the entitlement addicts.
History has taught us that the constitutional protections of equal opportunity do not yield equal outcomes, nor can government legislate equal outcomes. As economist Ludwig von Mises once wrote, “Government can’t make a man rich, but it can make a man poor.”
Government will not aid us in fighting the entitlement disease, because most in government have a vested interest in perpetuating the disease. The only cure is for individuals to educate themselves and each other on the principles of free market economics.
We must elect a president and members of Congress with the will to reverse the threatening growth of entitlement disease on the American people.
Herman Cain is the National Chairman of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. He is the former president and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., and currently is CEO and president of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc., a business and leadership consulting company.
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