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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
10 Feb 2016
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Handouts, Morality and Common Sense


Whether Americans realize it or not, the last decade's path of congressional spending is unsustainable. Spending must be reined in, but what spending should be cut? The Republican majority in the House of Representatives fear being booted out of office and are understandably timid. Their rule for whom to cut appears to be: Look around to see who are the politically weak handout recipients.

The problem is that those cuts won't put much of a dent in overall spending. The absolute last thing a Republican or Democrat congressmen wants to do is to cut handouts to, and thereby anger, recipients who vote in large numbers. To spare myself ugly mail, I'm not going to mention that handout group, but members of Congress know of whom I speak.

More than 200 House members and 50 senators have co-sponsored a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. A balanced budget amendment is no protection against the growth of government and the loss of our liberties. Estimated federal tax revenue for 2011 is $2.2 trillion and federal spending is $3.8 trillion leaving us with a $1.6 trillion deficit. The budget could be balanced simply by taking more of our earnings, making us greater congressional serfs. True protection requires an amendment limiting congressional spending.

You say, "OK, Williams, what would be your rule for getting our fiscal house in order?" We need a rule that combines our Constitution with simple morality and plain common sense. I think it immoral for Congress to forcibly take one American's earnings and give them to another American to whom they do not belong. If a person did the same thing privately, he'd be convicted of theft and jailed. We might ask ourselves whether acts that are clearly immoral and despicable when done privately are any less so when done by Congress. Close to two-thirds of the federal budget, so-called entitlements, represent what thieves do: redistribute income.

Some people might say, "Williams, the programs that you'd cut are vital to the welfare of our nation!" When someone says that, I always ask what did we do before.

For example, our nation went from 1787 to 1979 and during that interval produced some of the world's most highly educated people without a Department of Education. Since the department's creation, American primary and secondary education has become a joke among industrialized nations.

What about the Department of Energy; how much energy has it produced?

From our founding in 1787 to 1965, our nation went from a Third World status to building the world's mightiest first-class cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Philadelphia without the benefit of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD was created in 1965, many of our formerly great cities are in decline. No one is saying that HUD is responsible for the decline, but neither was HUD responsible for their rise.

There is a distinct group of Americans who bear a large burden for today's runaway government. You ask, "Who are they?" It's the so-called "greatest generation." When those Americans were born, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was about 3 percent, as it was from 1787 to 1920 except during war. No one denies the sacrifices made and the true greatness of a generation of Americans who suffered through our worse depression, conquered the meanest tyrants during World War II and later managed to produce a level of wealth and prosperity heretofore unknown to mankind.

But this generation of Americans also laid the political foundation for the greatest betrayal of our nation's core founding principle: limited federal government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers. It was on their watch that the foundation was laid for today's massive federal spending that tops 25 percent of GDP.

A good part of that generation is still alive. Before they depart, they might do their share to help us have a federal government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



7 Comments | Post Comment
Trying to get my 80 year old mother to understand the facts. She's low on funding however. Maybe cuts to S.S. with some welfare for the truly needy? Although any sort of welfare ought to be initiated and administered at the local level, if imposed by government at all.
Comment: #1
Posted by: LF
Mon Mar 7, 2011 11:09 PM
Walter: That is probably the best example written as to why we the people need to 'Pass Capital Homesteading Now!'
"Every Citizen an owner of the means of production." - You have heard of Louis Kelso/Mortimer Adler and Binary Economics haven't you?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Guy Stevenson
Tue Mar 8, 2011 8:51 AM
OK, so how do we get congress to do something?
Comment: #3
Posted by: Bradley Hoefer
Tue Mar 8, 2011 9:23 AM
My former colleague from UCLA, Professor Williams, is the voice of common sense--which isn't all that common.
He also speaks well of the distinction between a hand-out and a "hand." Of course America will care for our elders, women and children--and of our sick and those who cannot care for themselves. However, when we cut the "takers" out of our Social Security program, we will drastically cut all the waste they unnecssarily take--and thus reduce our budget. Congress must do this with all of its departments to include education, energy, military, et al.

While he didn't say it per se. Professor Williams certainly suggested it. There is a giant, massive paradigm shift
underway, and it starts with the "takers" on the one hand: Man's inner emotional and external economic disaster begins with a person's philosophy of doing less and wanting more. The "giver's" response: The world doesn't need a voice that is right when the world is right, but a voice that is right when the world is wrong!

America is in survival mode today, and more and "takers" are tempted to indulge in selfish pleasures. There's a shift from cooperation to competition--and the "takers" live strictly in pursuit for their own gain and gorge themselves--regardless of side effects on future genrations. This continues until the takers become the majority, and society falls apart in moral decay and material bankruptcy.

The answer and solution if for all of us to be "givers." We do this simply by changing our midset aout

Comment: #4
Posted by: Rick Martinez
Tue Mar 8, 2011 9:29 AM
When Dr. Williams spoke about this on Rush's program last week, he also talked about how the "greatest generation" failed to instill the values of personal responsibility, honesty, and integrity. They were seeking to give their children and grandchildren a better life than they had. They wanted to spare us the kind of suffering they endured in going through war and depression. But in trying to protect and spare us, they spoiled us.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Betty Peters
Tue Mar 8, 2011 10:41 AM
We need Ronald Reagan!!
But seriously, maybe the Tea Partiers were getting close. They obviously did not know how to communicate these specific points of where we need to shrink government, because I still today don't know what the Tea Party wanted. I am online about 12 hours a day, so I work as an example of where the Tea Party has failed miserably. But they tried. I can only think of early 1980's Ronnie Reagan, because of recent PBS coverage, where he splashes about in the ocean, while middle class people walked around complaining to reporters about the employment situation. The common complaint is the Republicans can get it done, but not without bias in favor of the rich. So we need a "New Republican" that can get past that reputation.
If by the "Greatest Generation" who are going to voluntarily shrink government, you mean people like my mother? I am going to laugh coffee all over my keyboard. Your time to fix those people was 30 years ago.
Guy S. Thanks for the heads-up about Binary Econ. Very interesting topic, although just wasting space here.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Brian O
Wed Mar 9, 2011 7:27 AM
Dear Dr. Williams,
There is no Constitutional authority for Social Security or Medicare - but they exist and have an exceedingly powerful political constituency - so what is to be done about them?
The answer is simple; they are illegal Ponzi schemes - deal with them as with any other Ponzi scheme: Seize the assets of the Ponzi scheme operator, put those assets into receivership, and auction them off to pay off the victims. The US central government (the Ponzi scheme operator) owns 30% of the onshore US and essentially all of the gas and oil rich continental shelf off of America's shores. Sell just enough of these properties each year to pay off the Ponzi scheme victims. If more were sold than this minimum, Congress would immediately spend it, just as they have spent the Social Security "surplus" tax increases created by the 1982 Greenspan Commission.
Ending FICA taxes now would give every worker a non-inflationary 15.3% wage increase (non-inflationary since no money supply increase is involved).
In addition to paying off the Ponzi victims, this would put scores of trillions of dollars of currently sterile Federalie resources in private hands. The Social Security / Medicare generation is probably the only group that is politically powerful enough to privitize these lands.
To eliminate Federalie interference in the development of the continental shelf lands, allow the purchaser the option of that land being regulated by the nearest State rather than the central government.
This neatly cuts two Gordian knots with one blow - the Social Security / Medicare entitlement problem and the central government owning so much of America problem. This solution would create a huge economic boom (not a bubble because there would be no money supply increase).
Let the auction begin!
Durk Pearson, MIT '65
Comment: #7
Posted by: dpearson
Wed Mar 9, 2011 10:39 AM
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