When it comes to the US economy, there is no shortage of bad news; awkward economic realities are more numerous than we think. Despite all the talk and heated debates among politicians about the depth and breadth of government economic involvement, the number of Americans who depends on public services keeps rising, a sure sign of dire economic condition. Here are some daunting statistics:
· The percentage of Americans who do not, or cannot pay, Federal income taxes is up to an estimated of 45% in current year. These people either do not make enough money to pay taxes or end up owing no taxes after deductions and credits
· An estimated 14.3% of US population, almost 43 millions, live in poverty
· Government budget deficit for 2010 is projected at $1.3 trillion
· At least 44% of Americans live in a household in which one member receives social security, subsidized housing, unemployment benefits, etc.
· The number of people who receive food stamp is currently 41.3 millions
· Nearly ten million unemployed workers receive unemployment check from US government
· Currently, 47.5 millions have enrolled in Medicare indicating aging population and continuous growth of dependency on government services
· All the entitlements programs cost government 2.4 trillion for 2010, 64% of all government expenditures.
Paradoxically, the majority of voters prefer smaller government; however, they don’t want government to cut its spending on entitlement programs. They like to have their cake and eat it too. That is why government is not good at ending things it started, even when these things are no longer needed or affordable. A case in point is the widespread government subsidy programs implemented by governments in many countries, including Iran, and the protective tariffs to support domestic industries or collect revenues. In addition to promoting inefficiency and distorting the intended effects of such programs, government is unable to terminate them despite the fact they heavily burden the government budget. Even if government does terminate such programs, the unavoidable consequences would be skyrocketing prices of staple food items and other basic necessities and imminent inflation. It is like pulling those who have depended on such systems for so long off their life support system. Massive public dissatisfaction, and even uprisings, would also likely result.
The whole mishmash reminds us of a popular Farsi proverb: One crazy person, or in this case a bunch of greedy idiots, can drop a rock to the bottom of a well, hundred wise men cannot get it out.
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