Welfare Payments and Foreign Policy Fears Are the Only Things Holding America Together
In case you haven’t noticed, America is “deeply divided.” At least, that’s what a seemingly nonstop stream of headlines from major media sources would have us believe. “Trump Leaves America at Its Most Divided since the Civil War,” reads one CNN headline from earlier this year. Meanwhile, in his speeches from the first few months of his presidency, President Biden frequently claimed to be trying to restore national “unity.” More recently, the debate over vaccine mandates has prompted countless op-eds on how there are now “two Americas” or that differences in vaccination rates from state to state reflect a “deeply divided” America.
How deep are these divisions, really?
Well, there is no doubt that the divisions are nontrivial. In recent years, talk of secession has become more frequent and more urgent. For several years now, a quarter of Americans polled have claimed to support the idea of secession. In 2018, a Zogby poll concluded 39 percent of those polled agree that residents of a state should “have the final say” as to whether or not that state remains part of the United States. Nor are predictions of secession among Americans something reserved only for the distant future. In a 2020 poll, Zogby pollsters found that “[a] little over one-half of likely voters believe all 50 states will remain united under the Constitution five to ten years from now. In contrast, roughly one-quarter believe at least one state will secede from the union during the 2020s.”
These trends suggest a deterioration of national unity, to be sure. But has the movement toward disunity reached a critical point at which de facto political disunity results? If we’re not there yet, at what point will it be reached?
The answer is we still have a long way to go until we reach the point when US citizens will demand, en masse, political separation from Washington, DC.
This is because there are two important factors that continue to work in favor of a unified political system controlled by Washington. The first is the welfare state, and the second is American paranoia over foreign “enemies.”
With the advent of the New Deal in the 1930s, the federal government built a system of largesse that tied most Americans, at some point in their lives, to federal benefits through the Social Security system. Until that time, state and local governments in the United States had long employed a variety of poverty-relief programs. But after the 1930s, thanks to Social Security, Americans would look to the federal government for direct cash payments. Over time, of course, this would be greatly expanded with the invention of Medicare, and then Medicaid, and then again with the Bush administration’s immense expansion of Medicare with the prescription drug benefit.
Today, 69.8 million (one in five) Americans receive some kind of benefit through the Social Security administration. Sixty-one million Americans (18 percent) are on Medicare. An additional 72 million Americans are on Medicaid. (Preliminary data suggests total Medicaid enrollment sur
Article from Mises Wire