Our national economy has fundamentally changed and a realistic discussion is warranted. Government payouts for Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance make up more than one third of the total wages and salaries for the U. S. population. That number is sure to rise as the majority of Baby Boomers enter retirement and an alarming number of people will be dependent on government for cash flow income.
The percentage of the population collecting social welfare benefits has increased from 10% in 1960 to 21% in 2000 and has now reached 35% according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This increase has been fed by a downturn in the economy and will soon escalate as the Baby Boomer generation begins to collect Social Security.
Our national problem simply put is our economic foundation for recovery and growth is weak if it is not supported by real wages and salaries. We are becoming as a nation too dependent on social welfare benefits. On the horizon we can expect our economic scale to tip with too many people relying on too few if, as a nation we continue along without change. So what are the alternatives?
On the extreme one of two things must occur; wages and salaries must increase by 35% or social welfare benefits would have to decline by 23%. In either case the dollars involved are well above a trillion. As a nation we can work on both areas at once by expanding jobs and altering benefits but it will not be an easy task.
Elected leaders are reluctant to move the age of Social Security eligibility. Public opinion and an aging population would see that change as taking away something that was promised and paid for over a lifetime of employment. While the change may be a reasonable step in the right direction it would not have been necessary if over the years the money collected for Social Security had not been appropriated for other priorities.
We now find our nation climbing out of an economic abyss with a boulder of benefits strapped on our backs. We let it happen by not being informed, by blindly depending on leaders, by not voting or supporting voices of responsibility. Instead we took the easy road, the walk was slow, it was down hill and we never noticed. Now we are faced with the climb back up shouldering responsibilities we are unwilling to carry.
Too many Americans today have become accustomed to instant gratification. We have abdicated responsible economic parenting in educating our children and we have weaned them on our bad habits of overindulgence. We have failed to see the long-term error of our ways. Now we are facing as a nation what may be our greatest challenge since World War II. We are faced with an economic challenge that must be solved or we will burden the next generation with a debt that could alter in a fundamental way the American dream, our very lifestyle.
This nation can no longer ignore the economic sins of consumption by government. The time has come to alter our views, take personal responsibility for our economic plight and to take action. We must control the expansion of government; we must demand leaders willing to make the tough decisions based on reality and not on voter emotion. It is our obligation as citizens in a democracy to be informed, to stand up and be heard and most importantly to vote.