The Dependency Agenda
By Kevin D. Williamson
Reader discretion advised, book contains explicit content of a disturbing nature.
This little book does not carry a warning label, but it should. Its diminutive 5” x 7” format and 43 pages of large print belie the universe of disturbing information within. Martin previously reviewed another book in the excellent Encounter series. This one is Broadside 28.
Whatever doubts anyone has about the origin and efficacy of the welfare state are substantiated in this powerful little book. To trace the dependency agenda, the author begins with the hijacking of the Democrat Party by the far left in the 1960s.
The short version is that the left valued the toleration of revolutionary socialism abroad and the piecemeal implementation of the welfare state at home over the civil rights of African Americans, and it therefore made common cause with the segregationist Johnson Democrats over the anti- segregationist Eisenhower Republicans …
Williamson explains how the party, led by Lyndon Johnson, did “red-in-tooth-and–claw battle against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and again against the Civil Rights Act of 1960.” The latter by a record-breaking filibuster.
The Democrat left (redundant) habitually smears Republicans with the mud of racism. Considering Democrat history this is chutzpah. Martin H. Quitt details the racist origins of the Democrat Party in his book about Stephen Douglas (reviewed here). Williamson exposes the party’s more recent record and that of Lyndon Johnson. The parent of the Great Society “not only opposed civil rights legislation but also Republican–backed anti-lynching legislation and had done so consistently.”
The author points out that the New Deal was enacted during a time of national and global emergency. As such its primary focus was not cultivation of economic dependency for political gain. The same is not true of Johnson’s Great Society. The social-welfare and wealth-transfer aspects of the Great Society were “a tool for building a permanent Democrat majority under which the interests of the state would be made identical to the interests of the Democratic Party.” Johnson, for example, is quoted as having said: “I’ll have them niggers voting Democratic for 200 years.”
When Medicare was adopted, the elderly were the single wealthiest group of Americans, as they are today. The first Job Corp office was opened when the employment rate was under 5%. The poverty rate had been declining steeply for years before the War on Poverty was announced. It was nearly halved before the Great Society began to be implemented in earnest, falling from nearly 19% in 1959 to less than 10% in 1968. After the first skirmishes in the War on Poverty, the rate began to climb: War was declared and poverty won…
The War on Poverty was not designed to help the poor.
The author explains how the poor, the middle class and the rich were hooked into dependence. He provides a step-by-step guide of how key pieces of social-welfare legislation were amended to expand dependency.
The 1962 amendments made it possible for departments of public welfare to purchase specified social services for eligible clients from other public agencies. The 1967 amendments expanded this to nonprofit and proprietary agencies.
The missions of these organizations were distorted to provide menus of services that matched the availability of public funds. What followed was an explosion in social welfare spending and welfare-dependency rolls. The displacement of private philanthropy by government contracting “had the double result of making government dependents of both welfare recipients and the workers of the agencies that provide contracted services to them.”
At the apex of the dependency food chain are the highest-ranking members of a political machine ultimately dependent upon the dependency.
Senator Jeff Sessions in a 2012 news release provided an example of the reciprocity between dependency and political power. He revealed that states receive bonuses from Washington for registering bumper crops of applicants for food stamps.
A recent column in the WSJ is also germane to Williamson’s thesis. George Melloan writing about IRS harassment of conservative organizations offered his insights about how government grows. “Government workers only have to find a ’problem’ that needs their attention, publicize it with the help of the press, and marshal special interests to help them get a budget. Even if they were not specifically instructed to do so, it wouldn’t be hard for IRS employees to persuade themselves to stiff-arm activists who want to cut the size and power of government.”
Melloan summarizes Obama’s trajectory:
He (Barack Obama) has achieved the top job in government by catering to the career interests of government employees. He and fellow progressives in Congress have created powerful new bureaucracies in health insurance and financial regulation. They have sharply expanded the government share of GDP.
Lyndon Johnson contributed to the expansion of dependency by broadening the definition of eligibility for government funded but privately administered social services. Where formerly Individuals had to satisfy certain requirements to qualify for benefits, the qualification standard was changed to membership in a designated group. Thus children from middle class families attending schools serving mostly poor students qualify for benefits. So do affluent families living in a neighborhood designated as poor.
All of which contributed to turning federal welfare programs into tools for building political constituencies.
The dependency agenda must be revered and the federal welfare state dissolved not only because we cannot afford it but because failure to do so ensures that our politics will remain warped by perverse incentives, by unconstitutional seizures of power and by what amounts to looting of the disc by the parasitic political class.
Read all about it in The Dependency Agenda by Kevin D. Williamson, and in tomorrow’s newspaper.