In 1776, the signers of the Declaration of Independence listed people's unalienable rights as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Today, a lot of people would add government-funded entitlements to the list.
That's because 49 percent of people now receive some government benefit. In St. Clair County, the federal government provides 20 percent of every dollar of personal income; in Madison County it's 19 percent. Both are above the national average of 17.9 percent.
As these programs grow, the costs increase exponentially. In 1990 we spent $484.7 billion a year on eight programs; now it's $2,411.8 billion.
Everyone knows the spending is unsustainable, but no one wants to give up their entitlements. People want cuts to come from somewhere that won't hurt their own wallet. And so lawmakers put off dealing with the problem.
This ran in the Daily Oklahoman in 1951:
"Two centuries ago, a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: 'A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.'"
In December 2012, can people see that we could be headed down this dangerous path? Do people have the will to sacrifice and keep the prediction from coming true?