Robert Knight

Social Security removed the advantage of having children, since it guarantees income based solely on age (and previous employment). Someone who has no children gets the same amount as someone who had six children who grew up to pay into the system, thus supporting the childless retiree. Children are very expensive, as any parent can tell you. Social Security makes having them less advantageous. Of course, Social Security has allowed millions of older Americans to live in at least minimally comfortable circumstances. Political talk of privatizing any aspect of Social Security is hazardous, and any hint of ending Social Security as we know it is political suicide. Americans have come to count on Social Security, so the challenge is how to sustain it without bankrupting the next generation.

The same can be said of Medicare, Medicaid and many other enormous federal programs. The advantages are obvious, but the downsides are not so obvious – except for America’s $16 trillion-and-growing debt. To pay for all this, the average American family’s tax burden has risen from a mere 2% of income in 1948 to something approaching 40 percent when all taxes are accounted for.

This has forced many mothers into the workplace who would, all things being equal, rather spend the time raising their children. It’s also created a huge market for paid childcare, with the government subsidizing it. Families pay taxes to create a system that offers incentives for them to spend less time with their own children.

On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed a bill, the “Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act,” tripling the size of the federal government’s paid “volunteer” programs, including AmeriCorps. The plan will spend $5.7 billion over the next five years and $10 billion over the next 10 years, and put 250,000 paid “volunteers” on the government payroll.

Why would anyone think that government involvement would improve volunteerism? On the Senate floor, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) warned:

"…Our history shows us when Government gets involved, it tends to take something that is working and make it not work nearly as well. Civil society works because it is everything Government is not. It is small, it is personal, it is responsive, it is accountable.”

In 2009, Harvard economics Prof. Martin Feldstein warned that Obama’s plan to target charities could severely hurt nonprofits:

“President Obama’s proposal to limit the tax deductibility of charitable contributions would effectively transfer more than $7 billion a year from the nation’s charitable institutions to the federal government.”

Taken together, a massive increase in government aid to paid “volunteers” and reducing incentives for charitable giving are a double-barreled shotgun aimed at the private sector.


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.


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