Wards of the State by Bruce Thornton

With the rise of entitlements, we are not only experiencing a crisis of finances, but also a crisis of character.

The biggest political problem the United States faces––runaway entitlement costs on track to bankrupt the treasury––is like the weather. Everybody talks about it, but no one does anything about it. Even talking about it can be politically dangerous, as the Republicans learned in November and during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. They chastised Mitt Romney’s post-election comments about the entitlement “gifts” President Obama promised voters. And the Republican demand that tax-hikes be linked to spending cuts to avoid the “fiscal cliff” was demonized as “holding the middle class hostage.”

Yet, as Nicholas Eberstadt documents in this brief but powerful book, if left unreformed, our metastasizing entitlements will continue to corrupt not only our economy, but also our national character itself. Eberstadt, a political economist and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has written extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. His latest work, A Nation of Takers, combines his international experience and economic knowledge into a relentless, fact-based argument for reforming entitlement spending.

A Nation of Takers documents the explosion of spending with thirty shocking charts and graphs illustrating just how quickly what Eberstadt calls the historically unprecedented “vast and colossal empire of entitlement payments that it [the state] protects, manages, and finances” has spread. This transfer of wealth primarily via income maintenance, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment insurance has become the federal government’s primary objective, and it devotes more time and resources to it than all other functions combined.

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