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Friday, January 13, 2006

Entitlement Epidemic

Rationalizing the Entitlement Epidemic is a little like avoiding a Category Five Hurricane by booking passage on the Titanic. The Left wails and rants about the money spent to liberate a country from tyranny, while planting the seeds of democracy for an entire region, but nary a peep is heard from them, or anyone else, about the financial Tsunami right here at home. The hundred or so billion per year we are spending in Iraq pales to the money we squander, mismanage and waste right here. For instance, America spends over $340 billion per year on Medicaid and Medicare. The annual price tag for Medi-Cal alone is over
26 billion. Federal Agricultural Aid runs about $100 billion, Food Stamps alone is $27 billion while FEMA trails with a paltry $6 billion.
But with the Gulf Coast hurricanes, disaster relief ballooned to over $100 billion. And America’s dirty little secret Security Supplemental Income (SSI) is our rising star at just under $40 billion last year.
Now I don’t want to go and pick nits here, but many beneficiaries of medical entitlements, have spent a lifetime abusing tobacco, alcohol, drugs and unhealthy diets, while shunning exercise. Combining these costly and unhealthy lifestyles with runaway increases in medical services, and as a result of decades of litigation, puts medical
insurance out of reach for many. But medical entitlements only
scratch the surface. Agricultural entitlements probably comes in a close second. Billions are paid to the wealthy that don’t need it, to special interests that don’t deserve it, to hucksters and shysters that scam it and a bureaucratic behemoth paid to mismanage it. Make no mistake, programs, policies and procedures that were originally enacted to provide a ‘safety net’ or insurance against catastrophic losses to farmers, to families and to children have become an established and
ballooning entitlements. Add to this the US Forest Service, once an
integral ingredient in rural economics, is now a gargantuan drain on the General Fund. Formerly a responsible contributor to the health of the forests and economic growth, they are now little more than billion dollar baby sitters for old growth forests, spotted owls and assorted critters, who will still be here long after we are gone. The USFS would do the taxpayers better if they closed up shop and went home, as their jobs have become little more than entitlements.
We should not forget that natural disasters, both foreign and domestic, are a magnet for abuse, mismanagement, corruption and fraud. FEMA, Homeland Security and the Congressional Cookie Jar are the sparkplug for wanton waste as well, with tens of billions spent each year with little or no oversight. Call me a cynic, but each time a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, flood or wildfire devastates cities counties or countries, the calls for fraud investigation, blue ribbon commissions, congressional hearings and indictments are not far behind.

It’s not just the able bodied sitting around waiting for the dream job, collecting their welfare checks-- while migrants work the fields, it’s not just the temporarily inconvenienced refusing menial but honest work, it’s not even the highly educated beginning on the bottom rung on their way up the ladder, that has bent the system sideways. It is the professional deadbeat that wile away the hours dreaming of ways to ’game’ the system, the ‘conveniently’ ill who live on alcohol, cigarettes and fast food, while lounging away the hours with Maury, Jerry and Oprah. It is the opportunists playing the minority victim card to extort millions from agencies fully prepared to avoid lawsuits over race, sex, sexual orientation and endless Native American issues.
It’s the ‘entitlement televangelists’ that dream up more ways to get between the entitled and the entitlements.
Bad enough that the ‘entitled’ squander valuable time watching cable or satelite T.V., but they are bombarded by a ’cottage industry’ developed to access yet more entitlements. Yes, we can now hire someone to get free money, diabetes testing supplies, drugs and scooters at no cost.
Folks, there is nothing free about your scooters, testing supplies, drugs, lawyers lunches, breakfasts, groceries, medications, hospital stays They all carry a price tag, a huge price tag. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the public money spent to provide legal defenses to killers, rapists and pedophiles. Hundreds of millions, or more, are paid each year to attorneys, investigators, expert witnesses, and appellate attorneys to defend those not just convicted of heinous crimes, but those who have confessed to them. Bad enough that we provide legal counsel to the presumed innocent, we must now pay for the guilty as well.
Of course, this exercise has been very disconcerting. It is impossible to wrap one’s mind around the kind of money I have illustrated here.
And we haven’t touched the other agencies with their own inefficiencies, mismanagement and waste. The cold reality is that every 4 years we can change the captain, every 2 years we can change some of the crew, but the entitlement system just continues to grow, with no end in sight. So far entitlements appear to be billion dollar drops in a two trillion dollar bucket, being carried by some two bit politicians, many of whom can be bought for a dinner and an evening in a NBA skybox. We, the passengers on this cruise, depend upon this captain and crew. Unfortunately we hit the iceberg many years ago and all the rhetoric about Rowe v Wade, and the Iraq War is about as relevant the temperature of the ship’s swimming pool.

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