America is rapidly turning its safety net into a comfortable cocoon.
President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget contains a welfare surge that will raise social spending by 42 percent above 2009 levels, according to an analysis by the Heritage Foundation. State and local welfare spending will total $953 million.
The goal is to close the quality of life gap, so that nobody in America is too prosperous or too poor.
In the process, the federal government risks making the dependent class even larger by destroying the basic incentive to work.
Already, landscapers say they can’t compete with unemployment checks to fill jobs that pay $10 to $12 an hour. Jobless benefits now stretch to nearly two years, allowing some laid-off workers the luxury to refuse job offers. Similar generosity in Europe has institutionalized the jobless rate at twice the U.S. level.
You can defend extended unemployment benefits in an economy that isn’t creating jobs. But having established two years as the high water mark, it’s unlikely Congress will pull it back as the jobs outlook improves.
Washington is much better at creating new entitlements than trimming existing ones. The war on poverty launched by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 has grown 13-fold in terms of spending, and yet the enemy is still alive and well.
So now we’re trying new weapons. Like cell phones.