I was just half-watching Fox News (Shep Smith is annoying, but he can be entertaining on occasion), and they tossed out a little factoid that left me positively gobsmacked. As a bit of background on the federal debt ceiling situation, they noted that during the month of June, the government issued checks (or equivalents) for Medicare, Social Security, active duty and retired military, Disability/SSI, and Food Stamps. 211,800,000 checks.
Over two hundred and eleven million checks. Two hundred and eleven million checks for people who depend on the government for their income. And that’s not even counting civilian employees.
Let’s knock off active duty military. According to Wikipedia, there’s about 3 million (rounded up) between the active duty forces and the reserves — and I’ll presume that the “factoid” included reserves. The best number I can find for the number of military retirees says about 620,000, but I’ll round that up, too, and call it 800,000 just to simplify matters slightly. However, I consider these “payment for services rendered,” and will argue like hell that it qualifies as an “entitlement.” That leaves 208 million checks.
Now, Social Security retirement checks. The lie we’ve all bought into (literally) is that it’s an insurance policy, and we get back money we pay into it. I’ll pretend I believe that for the sake of this argument. The last number I can find is from 2009, and it says there were about 52.5 million checks each month. I’ll extrapolate and fudge and round up (fancy talk for “one step above pulling numbers out of my ass”), and say it’s now 54 million checks. That leaves 154 million checks.(Yeah, I’m rigging the numbers to make my point here. The precise numbers aren’t important, as long as they’re in the ballpark, and each of my fudges actually weakens my argument slightly. Honest.)
150 million checks, divided among Medicare, Disability/SSI, and Food Stamps. These are out-and-out “entitlements” — aid to those who cannot care for themselves for whatever reason. They have not “earned” these payments, as military and Social Security recipients have.
OK, another fudge factor here. I have absolutely no rationale for this number, I’m completely pulling this one out of my ass. But I understand that a lot of people receive multiple forms of support — the requirements for Food Stamps and Medicare have considerable overlap. So let’s pick a number out of the air and say the average recipient of one of these programs actually gets 1.5 checks. (If anyone has better numbers, I’ll cheerfully thank them and adjust the following numbers.)
That means that those 154 million checks go to 77 million people.
And with the current US population being 312 million people, that means that essentially one in four Americans gets some kind of public support.
One in four.
One in four.
And it’s always going up.
If that doesn’t freak you the hell out and scare the crap out of you, then nothing will.