There's one number I want to talk to you about today. Just one. And that number is 80 million.
That's the number of folks on the government dole - the number of people Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says his federal agency sends out checks to.
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Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, jobless benefitsthe list goes on and on. Lots of programs and lots of money.
Whether you are a fan of the programs or not, the sheer size of Americans on the public dole is astonishing. Having 80 million people receiving checks is like having folks in the nation's 50 biggest cities -- all of them -- bankrolled by Uncle Sam.
There's New York with 8.2 million, Los Angeles with 3.8 million, Chicago with 2.7 million... and on and on Philly, Dallas, and San Jose. All the way to Honolulu.
If that doesn't impress you -- consider this -- more than a quarter of Americans get federal dollars. Add in state benefits, and the proportion moves closer to one third. A third of us relying on the government for a handout -- that's not who we are. Entitlement nation? Isn't that France or Spain or Greece for goodness' sake?
We are a lot further down that road than many of us would like to admit to ourselves. A recent study showed that nearly a third of people on Medicaid don't even think of as government help.
Federal spending as a proportion of the total economic output of the U.S. is 40 percentthe highest since World War II. Our economy produces $14.5 trillion -- and government is crowding out other investments.
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After all, a dollar spent by Uncle Sam isn't used to find the newest consumer product or tech innovation. The government doesn't make anything. Government takes wealth -- it doesn't make it.
Look, before you tweet me or fire off an email get me right I'm not saying these programs shouldn't exist. What I am saying is that we can't continue to afford them.
Back in 1960, entitlement spending was 27% of GDP and today it is 37%. By 2038 it will be 50 %--half our economic output going to folks on the dole.
Making all this worse is that a smaller and smaller proportion of Americans even pay taxes in the first place. Half of the people you see walking down the street are relying on you to send in your 1040.
So, I bring up the 80 million of us who are on the dole for a reason -- it goes to the debate over the debt ceiling. I think a lot of Americans think Republicans want to cut spending because they are just plain mean or worse they want to give any benefits to the wealthy.
That's just not true -- debt hawks have existed for a long time -- on both sides of the aisle and they are righteous about capping spending because they want America to remain the kind of place where people don't have the financial shackles of a Greece or a Spain. They want you to do what you want with your money -- to make your own choices -- to have freedom.
And that friends, is a good thing.