Never has there been a clearer
manifestation of the absurdity that our entitlement culture has wrought than what
occurred recently in the state of Michigan—not once, but twice.
For several months after winning
a $1 million state lottery jackpot, 25-year-old Michigan resident, Amanda
Clayton, collected thousands of dollars in state assistance. Clayton reportedly
received approximately $5,500 in food stamps and public medical benefits. She
was exposed by a Detroit news station, WDIV-TV4, in March and has since been
arrested for welfare fraud.
When confronted by the Detroit
station and asked if she felt that she had a right to the money, Clayton
replied, “I mean I kinda do.” She further added, “I
feel that it’s okay because I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay. I
have two houses.” Clayton then declared that she intended to continue to use
her benefits until she was cut off.
Perhaps Ms. Clayton learned her
trade from 60-year-old Leroy Hick. In June of 2010 Hick won $2 million in a
Michigan state lottery TV show. In May of 2011, the Detroit News noted that,
according to Hick’s attorney, Michigan’s state “Department of Human Services
determined he was still eligible for food stamps.”
The News also noted that,
“Eligibility for food stamps is based on gross income and follows federal
guidelines; lottery winnings are considered liquid assets and don’t count as
income. As long as Fick’s gross income stays below
the eligibility requirement for food stamps, he can receive them, even if he
has a million dollars in the bank.”
Fick declared, “If
you’re going to try to make me feel bad, you’re not going to do it.” His
attorney added, “I am not going to sit and debate the ethics of this…from his
standpoint, he did what he was supposed to do — he informed the state, and the
state said he could keep using the card. The problem is with the state.”
No doubt that “the state” has its
problems. Among them is the fact that it has created generations of entitlement
leeches who are so embedded that, even when they come into a fortune, they are
loathe to be removed from their bloated (yet bankrupt) host.
Not only are Mr. Fick and Ms. Clayton guilty of defrauding the taxpayer,
they are an example of the worst kind of greed. Other than get “lucky,” neither
of them did a thing to accumulate their wealth. Yet they continued
unapologetically to seek more through other means that would again require them
to do almost nothing. They are the poster children for an entitlement society.
Certainly not everyone who
receives government assistance turns out like these two. How could they? I
mean, the number of million dollar lottery winners is, by definition, quite
small. Thus, very few would ever even have the opportunity to be as lecherous
as Fick and Clayton. Sadly, however, I’m afraid that
there are far too many who would choose the same path.
Also, note the logic of an
entitlement-driven government. Michigan has since changed its law, but how
ridiculous is it that, after winning his millions, Mr. Fick
was still eligible for government assistance?! I suppose that if he won $10
million he would have immediately been eligible for his Social Security
benefits and private lessons from the Secret Service on how to obtain the best
available local prostitutes!
The Congressional Budget Office
(CBO) just published
some interesting data and graphics. It reveals that in fiscal year 2011, the
U.S. federal government spent $3.6 trillion while taking in $2.3 trillion. Of
the $3.6 trillion spent, $2 trillion was “mandatory” spending that includes
entitlements. In fact, the vast majority of the “mandatory” spending was for
Social Security ($725 billion), and healthcare (Medicare/Medicaid $856
Also, the CBO estimated that one
in seven Americans received food stamps last year (and one in ten said they
would give them up if they won the lottery!). The CBO concluded that the number
of Americans receiving food stamps would continue to grow until 2014.
The reason that automobile giants
GM and Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009 is that they had, for the most part,
ceased to become car companies and had instead become pension and healthcare
providers for millions of Americans. (See my column here.) The U.S. federal government is not only a
pension and healthcare provider, but it also has massive housing, food, and
child-care programs as well.
What’s more, most of these
programs are quite popular. Too many Americans love their entitlements and have
a difficult time giving them up (see Fink and Clayton), or even accepting the
slightest reforms. This is one reason many liberals want to see Obamacare implemented. Once an entitlement begins, ending
it is harder than keeping Keith Olbermann happy.
Thus, not only do conservatives
have the task of reigning in current entitlement programs and preventing new
ones, but also of changing our very culture. The U.S. literally can afford
Copyright 2012, Trevor Grant
At the Intersection of Politics,
Science, Faith, and Reason