Uncle Sam and Parenting 101

Mitt Romney’s secretly videotaped comments about the 47% of Americans who are financially dependent on the government, and all the ensuing discussion of what he meant and was he being accurate, highlight one of the most serious threats to the strength of our country…a growing sense of entitlement and a withering sense of responsibility.

Now, the 47% to whom he was referring who pay no income tax and receive some form of federal benefit, are not all irresponsible do-nothings living on the dole. Many of them are retirees receiving their duly earned Social Security and Medicare benefits. Some of them are the working poor, reluctantly accepting government aid for the sake of their children, hoping to work their way to self-sufficiency. But many are able-bodied men and women who see the government as responsible to take care of them, and refuse to see their own responsibility to provide for themselves and their families, as well as contribute to society. And our government has enabled their immature selfishness.

We all know what a spoiled child is like…selfish and demanding, lazy and manipulative, insisting on his own way with little or no concern for his family’s welfare. When we see them we shake our heads and instinctively lay the blame primarily at the parents’ feet. We know that when a child is catered to and coddled, her every desire and demand met without any preconditions (“I want an Oompa Loompa now!”), never required to earn a benefit or contribute to the well-being of the family, she almost can’t help but become a brat.

Now don’t be getting your knickers in a twist – I know how some of you read things. :-)I’m not saying that everyone who receives government aid is a spoiled brat. What I am saying is that as we have allowed our government to take on more and more parental-type responsibilities, well-intentioned though they may be, we have bred a class of child-people who rather enjoy being taken care of and have no intention of ever growing up. They are immature, self-centered, ungrateful, spoiled children who take advantage of their parents’ benevolence despite the hardship it causes them. And we “parents” just keep handing them more.

Consider the marketing of food stamps – which are now distributed as credit-like cards under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Not black marketing, but a push by government agencies, including the Department of Agriculture under President Obama, to increase the number of folks receiving them, whether they really need them or not. In my home state of Ohio, recipients can have savings and assets in excess of $400,000, and still expect John Q. Taxpayer to pay for their burger and soda with fries on the side. One Warren County, Ohio commissioner was quoted as saying, “They were literally driving up in Mercedes [to collect SNAP cards]. I think there’s something inherently wrong with that.” Duh.

But just like with a spoiled child, the problem and blame lie less with the child than with the parent. Who can resist free money?  If you were to get a letter in the mail with the seal of the U.S. government informing you that you are entitled to a no-strings-attached financial gift, and you’ve been managing without it, how easy would that be to chuck in the trash? Not very. I know I’d struggle with it.

The point is, we’ve got to wake up and see that just as a misguided mom and dad find they’ve created a monster by overindulging their child when all they wanted was to make him happy, so too we’re creating an unproductive, dependent subclass by “overdoling” instead of working harder to provide more opportunities for the disadvantaged to take responsibility for themselves, and fostering and encouraging an attitude of industry and pride that was so instrumental in making America great.

Governor Romney’s quote was in the context of winning or losing his campaign for president, but some of the facts behind it speak to a besetting mentality that our founding fathers would find abhorrent. The noble, hard-working, self-sufficient mindset that characterized their generation is gradually giving way to a weak and sniveling sense of entitlement. If we want to maintain our strength as a world superpower, we’ve gotta’ stop coddling the kids.