By: John Terry – www.RevelationFiles.com
“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)
I watched this past weekend a series of History Channel specials on the life of Abraham Lincoln. A common theme throughout the specials was Lincoln’s observation that the United States was a nation divided among two competing ideologies, slavery vs. freedom. The nation’s first Republican president sought reconciliation, unity and harmony between the North and South…he sought equality among the races, black and white. His goal was truly One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All. For those views, he was hated, persecuted and ultimately murdered.
As I have pondered this important lesson from history these past few days, my mind has revisited the recent elections in the US and looking at where we are as a nation. As it was in the days of Lincoln, we are again a nation divided…this time between two competing ideologies. One that embraces a Western European, Big Government “Nanny State”, where the government serves as a cradle to grave provider. The other, Free Market Capitalism, that embraces individual opportunity, self-reliance, innovation, creativity, self-motivation and the opportunity to turn dreams into reality and profit from the work of your hand.
The nation’s electorate was clearly divided between these two competing ideologies, as evidenced in both our recent election and in the entitlement-focused mentality that seems to permeate a growing number of the nation’s populace.
Social Security and Medicare are the two 800 pound gorillas in the room, as these two entitlement programs continue to consume an increasing amount of the tax base due to a growing number of recipients living longer. When Social Security was created, it was intended to be a “safety net” for those who lived beyond life expectancy. The average recipient was expected to die 2-5 years prior to receiving any benefits…so in its origins, it was a financial buffer for those who outlived their income, which was the exception and not the rule.
Medicare followed, as a medical safety net, to provide basic health services to an aging populace. Over time it has morphed to become one of the largest health care programs in the world, providing an increasing number of benefits not just for the elderly, but for those who are disabled.
Yet as any good social welfare program does, it breeds reliance. Rather than set aside money for the future (remember Solomon’s admonition, “consider the ant and be wise…”), people began to believe it was the job of the Government (through Social Security & Medicare) to provide for them in retirement. Today, nearly half of all retirees count on Social Security as a significant part of their retirement income. Self-reliance and the motivation to set aside a portion of income for spending later in life is now a foreign concept to the vast majority of workers today. After all, they believe, it’s the Government’s job to take care of me.
But what most people don’t realize, Social Security and Medicare are not a program that takes the money each person pays in and sets it in an account for their use in the future. Taxes paid into the system today go directly to pay the people who are receiving benefits now. Today’s workers have nothing more than an IOU from the Government (yes, an unfunded debt) that they will receive benefits as a result of others who will be paying into the system in the future. The problem is, we don’t have enough workers paying into the system to support the future payout obligations of those who will be demanding benefits in the future.
The 52 million abortions committed in this nation has robbed the populace of able-bodied men and women who could have been paying into these entitlement programs to keep them viable. Choices have consequences, and having sown to the wind of personal choice, the nation is now reaping the whirlwind of financial calamity…enjoying the choices of immoral actions that have taken the lives of millions of unborn.
In addition to Social Security and Medicare, the Government has added a significant number of “means-tested” entitlement programs as part of the desire to move the US toward a socialistic, Western European ideology. Food stamps, subsidized housing and other welfare programs now threaten to bring the once prosperous and most innovative nation in history to its financial knees as reliance on these social programs have bred a mindset of reliance on Government.
Just as the Jewish people wanted to return to the land of Egypt and place themselves back under their taskmasters, a growing number of Americans are seeking to place themselves under the taskmaster of the Government and abandoning the founding principles of freedom, opportunity, self-reliance and innovation that have made America the envy of the civilized world. Once again the nation is divided among those who would enslave its populace and those who would seek a return to its former greatness as a nation of creative, brilliant, inspired, self-reliant, highly motivated who use their God-given talents to better their own lives and the lives of others around them.
Means-tested entitlements have become the new norm in America, and like Western Europe, stand to bring this once-great nation to financial ruin. Let me share some examples of how these well-intentioned programs are sucking the financial life from the American populace.
According to the OMB and Federal Census numbers, Food Stamps, Subsidized Housing and other “Means-Tested” Entitlements (not including Social Security or Medicare) consumed 9% of the Federal budget in 1991, with about 41 million people receiving aid. In 2011, these programs consumed 16% of the federal budget with more than 107 million now receiving some form of means-tested aid. During this same time period, the US population only grew by 26% yet the number receiving care increased by more than 160%. Food stamp recipients alone jumped from 23 million recipients in 1991 to 45 million in 2011, a 195% increase.
Another area of significant concern is in the growing number of individuals who now qualify for federal disability payments. According to the Social Security Administration, in Nov, 1992 there were 3.45 million people on social security disability. This November 2012, there are more than 8.8 million receiving federal disability payments, an increase of 155% in 10 years. Remember, during the same period of time, the US population only grew by 26%. As the program has expanded to include even more “disabilities”, we again see a growing reliance on federal handouts.
While there are legitimate needs among some in society, a growing number are “gaming” the system, realizing they no longer have to put forth the effort to work, as Big Government will provide for not just basic necessities, but luxuries like cell phones. I spoke to an African-American businessman in our church this past week who said that Big Government has become the “Plantation Master” that are enslaving not just blacks, but Whites and Hispanics too through a growing dependency on social programs.
The national debt now exceeds $16 Trillion and continues to grow unabated. Americans are facing a looming fiscal cliff and an entitlement system run amok. Western Europe is a failed experiment in social engineering and the Governments that promised cradle to grave entitlements are now in a position they can’t raise taxes enough to pay for the promised goodies. The result, riots in the streets. The creativity, innovation and ingenuity that were the hallmark of European culture seldom be found anymore. Content to rely on government, people are no longer self-reliant and it is reflected in productivity and the general conditions of “life in the new normal” in Europe.
America stands at a crossroad, as a nation again divided. With the nationalization of healthcare, comprising 1/6 of our economy, it appears America is moving further down the path toward becoming another failed experiment in social engineering as entitlements run amok takes a once great nation from the exceptionalism to mediocrity and from self-reliance to total dependence.
The founders came to America through divine providence. With reliance on God as the source of everything, they prospered in all they put their hands to do. They worked together, suffered together, endured together, persevered together, prayed and worshiped together…and built an incredible nation as a testimony to the faithfulness and provision of God. Today, the principles that forged our nation are all but a forgotten memory in most of the New England states that were the beginnings of the American dream.
A nation that once sent Christian evangelists to make a difference in the world can no longer call itself a Christian nation. One nation under God has become a nation of everyone doing what is right in his/her own eyes. A nation who once honored and reverenced God, and whose leaders would pause and declare times of prayer, fasting and thanksgiving for God’s provision in our nation now serve their own self-interests and continue to abandon the moral principles that knit the fabric of America together.
A nation whose churches served as the moral compass and a voice that influenced policy and culture has been replaced by TV, radio, movies and entertainment that glorifies immorality and mocks the guiding principles of faith and family upon which America was founded. What once brought embarrassment and shame now brings laughter as sin is openly displayed throughout our culture.
The Moral Majority has been muzzled and the light that shone brightly in the darkness is but a mere flicker of its former self as far too many in the Christian community have abandoned their faith, and their calling, to make a speak the Truth in love and make a positive difference in the world.
Let us not forget it was the responsibility of the Church in the founding years of this nation to be the soup kitchen, the homeless shelter, the caregivers to those who were sick and the provider for the less fortunate…and in doing so be a tangible representation of Christ in the earth. As the church has abandoned its role in social action in the community, the void has been filled by secular government, and the results speak for themselves. People no longer see God as their source, it’s the Government. The opportunity to speak into their lives the Truth of the gospel of Christ has also been lost in the process. We as a Church community have forgotten Jesus’ words when he admonished those who were not meeting the needs of others, “when you do it unto the least of them, you’ve done it unto me.”
I understand more with each passing day Jesus’ question as he neared the end of his life, “When the Lord returns, will he find faith in the earth?”
What has become of the land of promise, and the people to whom God had given it to be a steward over?
America remains a nation divided…and a nation divided is unstable in all its ways.