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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.
Registration and Lunch
Robert D. Reischauer, The Urban Institute
Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI
William A. Galston, The Brookings Institution
Robert D. Reischauer, The Urban Institute
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Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist and a demographer by training, holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at AEI. He is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He is the author of numerous monographs and articles on North and South Korea, East Asia, and countries of the former Soviet Union. His most recent book is “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic” (Templeton Press, 2012).
William A. Galston holds the Ezra Zilkha Chair in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, where he serves as a senior fellow. A former policy adviser to President Clinton and presidential candidates, Galston is an expert on domestic policy, political campaigns, and elections. His current research focuses on designing a new social contract and the implications of political polarization. Galston is the author of eight books and hundreds of articles in the fields of political theory, public policy, and American politics. He recently contributed a response to Nicholas Eberstadt’s book “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic” (Templeton Press, 2012).
Robert D. Reischauer is president emeritus of the Urban Institute. He led the Urban Institute for 12 years before he stepped down in February 2012. Between 1989 and 1995, he served as the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and was CBO's assistant director for human resources and deputy director of CBO from 1977 to 1981. Reischauer was previously a senior fellow in the Economic Studies Program of the Brookings Institution (1986–89 and 1985–2000) and senior vice president of the Urban Institute (1981–86). A nationally recognized economist, Reischauer has written and lectured on a wide range of topics including federal budget policy, health reform, social welfare issues, and the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Reischauer is the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, one of two public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, and serves on the boards of several educational and nonprofit organizations. He was a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission from 2000–09 and was its vice chair from 2001–08. He also chaired the National Academy of Social Insurance’s project Restructuring Medicare for the Long Term.