In an American Enterprise Debate on Wednesday, Nicholas Eberstadt of AEI and William Galston of the Brookings Institution squared off on whether America has become a nation of takers. As Eberstadt pointed out, a huge percentage of the American populace now receives transfer payments such as food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, disability benefits, or Social Security. This indicates that the individualistic, hard-working fiber characteristic of American generations of the past has been supplanted by an entitled, self-centered mentality.
Galston countered by pointing out that while America's programs are not actuarially sound, most of their moral problems could be removed by balancing the budget and fixing the tax code. So long as we are a nation of givers, Galston contends, we can also continue to transfer revenues.
Over the past three decades, the percentage of American households receiving government benefits has risen from less than 30 percent to more than 49 percent, and despite 300 percent more per-capita spending on means-tested benefits as compared to the 1970s, America’s poverty level remains largely unchanged. Has the nation lost the American ideals of self-reliance and opportunity?
In this American Enterprise Debate, AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt will argue that over the last two decades, both Democrats and Republicans have fueled a radical transformation that has created an expanding dependency culture in America. William Galston of the Brookings Institution will respond that well-functioning societies are dependent on interdependence, and thus the rise of dependence in the U.S. is neither driven by government nor cause for alarm. The Urban Institute’s Robert Reischauer will moderate.
Full video will be posted within 24 hours.