In A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic, one of our country’s foremost demographers, Nicholas Eberstadt, details the exponential growth in entitlement spending over the past fifty years. As he notes, in 1960, entitlement payments accounted for well under a third of the federal government’s total outlays. Today, entitlement spending accounts for a full two-thirds of the federal budget. Drawing on an impressive array of data and employing a range of easy- to- read, four color charts, Eberstadt shows the unchecked spiral of spending on a range of entitlements, everything from medicare to disability payments. But Eberstadt does not just chart the astonishing growth of entitlement spending, he also details the enormous economic and cultural costs of this epidemic. He powerfully argues that while this spending certainly drains our federal coffers, it also has a very real,long-lasting, negative impact on the character of our citizens.
Also included in the book are responses to Eberstadt’s argument from other leading political theorists, William Galston—who questions Eberstadt’s causal links between government programs and dependence—and Yuval Levin—who suggests that the problems posed by dependence may, in fact, run even deeper than Eberstadt suggests. A final response from Eberstadt puts everything in perspective and invites the rest of us to lend our voices to the conversation.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments / ix Part I: America’s Growing Dependency on Government Entitlements The Rise of Entitlements in Modern America, 1960–2010 Nicholas Eberstadt / 3 Part II: Dissenting Points of View Have We Become a “Nation of Takers”? William A. Galston / 93 Civil Society and the Entitlement State Yuval Levin / 115 Epilogue: Response to Galston and Levin / 129 About the Contributors / 133
“With over thirty line and bar graphs as well as tables, many in color, A Nation of Takers is a quick read at 132 pages. Eberstadt slices data in multiple ways to sound the alarm about government spending associated with entitlements… . The author provides a highly valuable service for the social worker in providing an empirically-supported, macro view of entitlement spending.”
The American dream has been, and still is, under attack. It is three pronged: making more of the population dependent on government aid, reducing the relevance and reputation of the United States around the globe, and weakening intermediary societies. The attack will continue to enjoy success because President Obama’s administration has now gained the support of political allies beyond their immediate inner circle.
Some think tanks are documenting the progress of this agenda. No book does it better than, “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic” published by Templeton Press in 2012. Its author, Nick Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute, describes a worrisome trend: 49 percent of American families now receive some type of government assistance. One of the worst effects as described by Eberstadt is that, “Seven percent of men in their late 30s (the prime working age-group) had totally checked out of the workforce,” and that … the situation is worse “in America than in practically any Western European economy.” This includes, “contemporary Greece, the poster child for modern welfare-state dysfunction.” All of this was before the Affordable Care Act began last month. Those making the bare minimum will soon have another disincentive to seek work and to produce and earn more: losing Obamacare health subsidies. —Alejandro Chafuen
This is a short read, packed with thought provoking graphs that pro-government types will want to avoid and build defenses for. Breathtaking and frank exploration of large cycle changes taking place in our lifetime. Eberstadt looks at how various government benefits have grown relentlessly since their inception, and how this has moved America to a nation of dependents. We are at the point that nearly 50% of households in the US now take a benefit or more. Interestingly he identifies that these benefits have grown, since the 1960s, more under Republicans than Democrats. The data would suggest that redistribution of wealth is alive and kicking. The real point however concerns healthcare and the pending time bomb that is fast approaching. You can hear that bomb ticking between the thin covers of this book. O’Bamacare does not address the issue of healthcare costs and government waste. It has made it worse. The data shows that government continues to give more money (that it doesn’t have, meaning debt) for less and less services. Lastly, other books will report how poverty levels continue to rise. Compare that data to this book; it does not all make sense. The supporting paper in the back, by Yuval Levin, I found also excellent. He clearly defines the role of government in relation to the citizen, and the machinery between the two. Specifically how government was designed to preserve that gap between itself and the individual, and how modern society has deigned government machinations worthy to move into that gap, and to actively direct it. This is a great and simple message that should be marketed. —Andrew White
People wanting a quick introduction to one of the most important policy debates in the United States today (and one with significant implications for global power politics, if Eberstadt’s analysis is correct) will do well to consult this useful work.
This little book will light a fire under you to hold our elected officials accountable for the programs and mountainous spending that increases every year. Did you know that in 2010 entitlement programs accounted for 18% of personal income? I didn’t! From $24 million in 1960 to $2.2 trillion in 2010—that’s nearly 100 times more than was allocated 50 years ago. Stunning and sad.
There’s much for thought in this small book. I’ll say this: as both presidential contenders recognize, this is a debate the country does not want to have. Over the next four years of drift and deficits, though, maybe we’ll come to recognize that we have to have the debate. A Nation of Takers is a fine place to start.
Reining in entitlement spending is a major problem that everybody needs to focus on. And a good place to start is Nicholas Eberstadt’s A Nation of Takers. Eberstadt’s grim documentation of the reckless expansion of what he calls the “vast and colossal empire of entitlement payments that it [the state] protects, manages, and finances,” and his analysis of the ill effects such transfers have had on the American character should be read by everyone serious about the fiscal threats to our way of life.
American Enterprise Institute (blog: aei-ideas.org)--10/25/12
My colleague Nick Eberstadt has a very short, very accessible, and very important new book out this week entitled A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic. In the book, Eberstadt details the rise in America’s entitlement culture over the last half-century and the increasing strain this is placing on our nation’s finances, as well as our cultural fabric.
The election-eve mood is tinged with sadness stemming from well-founded fear that America’s new government is subverting America’s old character. Barack Obama’s agenda is a menu of temptations intended to change the nation’s social norms by making Americans comfortable with the degradation of democracy. This degradation consists of piling up public debt that binds unconsenting future generations to finance current consumption.
So argues Nicholas Eberstadt, an economist and demographer at American Enterprise Institute, in A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic. This booklet could be Mitt Romney’s closing argument.
Through his concise analysis of a massive amount of data on entitlement expenditures or “transfers” in America over the past 50 years, Nicholas Eberstadt’s Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic connects the nation’s growing dependence on government programs to negative changes in the character of both our government and our citizens.
If Eberstadt’s data on the explosion of welfare weren’t arresting enough, Yuval Levin’s thoughtful response to Eberstadt certainly is. Levin is the editor of National Affairs, and he suggests that the roots of the welfare epidemic are even deeper than Eberstadt supposes.
Readers will be familiar with the work of Nicholas Eberstadt, the nation’s bravest and most prescient demographer, from his appearances in the Wall Street Journal, the National Interest, and (of course!) The Weekly Standard. For 30 years Eberstadt has written eloquently of, and demonstrated pitilessly, the devastating moral and economic consequences of tyranny in the world, from China to the old Soviet Union to North Korea. And now, just in time for the election, he has published A Nation of Takers (Templeton Press) about a subtler form of tyranny closer to home—the “soft tyranny” that Alexis de Tocqueville warned of in Democracy in America.
Tocqueville was referring to the comprehensive blandishments of the state that slowly drain from a citizenry the self-reliance and initiative self-government requires. With vivid charts and graphs and elegant prose, Eberstadt shows the rise of the entitlement state in the United States and the effects, moral and economic, it threatens to have on the country’s character. In the book’s closing pages, William Galston and Yuval Levin offer rebuttals and comments, crisply laying out the grand and overarching issue that separates our two political parties. A Nation of Takers is a must-read this election season—and, at 144 pages, a quick one to boot. Tocqueville would be impressed, and slightly alarmed.
The title of his book says it all: A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic. Driving the detailed statistical case he presents is a passionate argument that his country is squandering its moral as well as material capital. It stubbornly refuses to address its appetite for handouts and its habit of dependency — even to the point of mortgaging the next generation.
The book, A Nation of Takers, was free of partisan rancor—Eberstadt pointed out that entitlement spending had grown much faster under Republican presidents than Democrats since 1960—and full of indisputable facts. As you can probably tell from the title, though, Eberstadt was taking a stand. Americans, he argued, even once famously self-reliant American men, had become alarmingly comfortable with accepting government aid.