American Paradise Lost (?)

After ten years of living in the United States, German journalist (and mathematics professor) Francis Grund wrote in 1837,

“I have never known a native [born] American to ask for charity.  No country in the world has such a small number of persons supported at the public expense…An American, embarrassed by his pecuniary circumstances, can hardly be prevailed upon to ask or accept the assistance of his own relations; and will, in many instances, scorn to have recourse to his own parents.”

Today, nearly one in five Americans is receiving direct government financial assistance, with about 50 million on food stamps alone.  With the average household size at 2.6 persons, it means that someone in every other home is proving Grund wrong.

More than anything else, this is the reason why I am pessimistic about America’s future.  What once defined our nation, what set us apart from most of the world, is lost.  I fear it is lost forever.

American industriousness is dying.  Need more proof?   These facts are absurd.

In 2011, just shy of 20 percent of American men aged 25 to 34 are still living at home.  As of January, 49.5 percent of Americans paid no income taxes.   The Obama Administration last year spent $1.6 billion to provide free cell phones and 250 minutes of monthly airtime to welfare recipients.

If the income-tax-paying 50.5 percent was shouldering the expense of caring for the other half of the population, things would be bad enough.  But it is worse.  The federal debt increases by around $4.2 billion every day.  Our total federal debt is zooming past $15.4 trillion – up 160 percent from the $9.4 trillion debt of 2008.

With so much of our financing coming from overseas, we as a nation are essentially living off a government assistance program of the Peoples Republic of China.

“The U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills… we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.  Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

Senator Barack Obama said that in 2006.   He was right.  Yet under his leadership we have merely accelerated our “debt problem.”  As much I would like to blame Obama, he is only the latest manifestation of a long-standing debt problem.

I wish I had some optimism, or could find some silver lining, but I cannot conceive how a country on welfare, both individually and nationally, can make a change.  What the United States needs is not merely an alteration of government policy, but a dramatic shift in American culture.   We are living through the prediction of H. L. Mencken who said, “people deserve the government they get, and they deserve to get it good and hard.”


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