Rebecca Hagelin

Believe me, I don?t want to ruin anybody?s fun preparing for Independence Day celebrations.

Like so many of you, I?ll be out there when July 4 rolls around enjoying family, food and fireworks and toasting everything that makes America great. But I can?t help raising an important question -- one that ought to concern everyone who cares about our country.

Is America, the country that produced the Declaration of Independence, becoming a nation of dependents?

Specifically, are we now a nation of people tethered to government, a society that has abandoned a proud and grand tradition of self-reliance and rugged individualism?

I want to believe the answer is no, but the facts suggest otherwise. A study from The Heritage Foundation called ?The 2005 Index of Dependency? shows that Americans today rely more heavily than ever on government for the money that pays for their education, health care and housing, among other things.

The Index measures the growth rate of federal government services and programs that displace private or community-based services and programs that meet the same needs. It shows that our dependency on government has more than doubled over the last 25 years, rising by 112 percent since 1980. The Index score was 100 that year. By 2004, it had risen to 212.

Take low-cost housing. Before World War II, limited housing assistance was the province of many private, community-based organizations -- churches and local charities, for example. But in the post-war years, that changed as federal and state governments stepped in to provide low-cost housing. Today, the Index notes, nearly all housing assistance comes from government.

The same is true of health care. No longer is health care and health insurance obtained through a local social club or church, as many Americans once did. Today, care comes from public programs such as Medicaid or Medicare. And those in need of general financial help don?t turn to local charities. They run to government for welfare, Social Security and other forms of public assistance.

Some readers may be tempted to say: ?So what? As long as people in need get help, it doesn?t matter where it comes from.? But when you consider our nation?s history of hard work, self-reliance and strong communities, you begin to realize that it does matter. Indeed, this question goes right to the heart of the American experiment in self-rule.

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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