Entitlements and the Natural State of Bears


By F. J. Tamel

Image I was reading somewhere, perhaps on the Internet, that nearly half of all Americans qualify for some kind of government entitlement. FDR began the cycle in an attempt to bring relief to Americans in response to the great depression. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society made FDR’s New Deal look like a piker. Now Obama’s spending is making the Great Society look like an inner city soup kitchen.

Entitlement spending grew from $32.3 billion in 1962 to $711.2 billion in 1992. It topped $1.36 trillion by 2002. 30 percent of the federal budget was earmarked for entitlements in 1962. Entitlement spending is now just over half of all federal outlays and will exceed 60 percent in a few years. The Medicare/Medicaid expenditures alone, nonexistent in 1962, grew to over $600 billion in 2002. Barak Obama’s legacy will be nearly $10 trillion in debt to our children, well over 60 percent of which will be future entitlement spending.

It’s been noted that most Americans are politically right of center. That means that most people claim to want less government. They also believe that government should curb spending, as evidenced by the recent tea parties across the country. But, when asked, most citizens consider, as careless spending, other people’s entitlements. Take away someone else’s entitlements and leave mine alone.

That’s why politicians who want to get elected always accuse their opponents of planning to remove entitlements. Obama said that McCain planned to tax a portion of employer insurance benefits as income. It is income, but the McCain plan became one of many nails in his political coffin. It’s ironic that this week Obama unveiled a health insurance tax plan that is eerily similar to McCain’s.

Members of the party in power, regardless of the capitol letter after their names, throw more entitlements into the mix to assure that they will stay in power. In order to get the vote, you have to give the people something. Even the most fiscally responsible politicians wouldn’t dare a plan that could remove or even reduce existing entitlements. That would be political suicide. Long gone are the good old days when you could by a vote for a pack of cigs.

Many years ago, when my children were small, we packed up our car and a small camper trailer and drove across the country to vacation in Yellowstone National Park. As we entered the park I noticed that the roadway was lined with bears. Every hundred yards or so, a bear stood at roadside waving at the automobiles, posing for photos, or doing a little act. The reward for those entertaining actions was food thrown from the open windows of automobiles. Often we’d encounter a mother bear in the process of teaching one or two cubs to panhandle. Why not? Free food for nothing but being cute was a bear entitlement, after all.

The natural state of bears is to live in the wild. Bears are among the few animals in nature that are at the summit of the food chain. Bears are supposed work hard for their food. They hunt and fish and forage. And, like all wild animals, they are supposed to mistrust humans. But the Yellowstone bears learned very quickly to detest their natural state and had become dependent on humans for their livelihood.

There were occasions when the bears became belligerent. People sometimes got out of their cars to feed the cute bears marshmallows or cookies, which the bears greedily consumed. But when the marshmallow or cookie package became empty the bears became agitated and some of the tourists were bitten or mauled. So the DNR decided that the bears would have to return to their natural state and posted signs warning tourists to not feed the wildlife. It took a while, but the bears eventually returned to their natural state. They stopped being panhandlers and became bears again.

Had the Yellowstone bears had a choice, they would have voted for the continuation of handouts. It wouldn’t matter if their health was in junk-food jeopardy, or that their children had stopped being bears. In the same way, Americans feeding at the government entitlement tit keep voting for progressive politicians who increase the nation’s debt each year, even though our country’s health is in entitlement jeopardy and our children are no longer interested in being the hard-working, self-sufficient citizens who made this country great.

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