The Effects of Dependency Programs: More Harm than Help

There’s still no such thing as a free lunch, although under the Obama administration you may disagree.  According to the 2012 Index of Dependence on Government, produced annually by The Heritage Foundation, they report more than 70 percent of all federal spending goes to dependency programs.  And now with almost 50 percent of the population not paying federal income tax, it’s creating a fiscal firestorm.

The Heritage Foundation refers to the increases grimly as “unsustainable”.

“Today…67.3 million Americans, from college students to retirees to welfare beneficiaries–depend on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid, or other assistance once considered to be the responsibility of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches, and other civil society institutions…Unsustainable increases in dependent populations predate the recent recession–and continuing economic morass–and have continued to rise since the economy collapsed in 2008 and 2009.”

Aside from the dire economic outlook, equally important is the harm social dependence is causing for people who enter the system and become stuck.

It’s not called “in-dependency” programs for a reason.

Whoever controls your money and your choices controls you.  And when you lose that ability, you begin to stop taking responsibility for your life. Dependency programs breed more dependency and can create the same psychological effects as people involved in abusive or other severely difficult situations.

Many people assume if you are in a bad situation you will do anything to escape it.  However, the truth is, “If you feel like you aren’t in control of your destiny, you will give up and accept whatever situation you are in”.  It’s the very definition of a psychological effect proven in the 1960’s by scientist Martin Seligman, called “learned helplessness”.

When people begin to believe they can’t help themselves they eventually stop trying.

The Administration is allowing people to become fully dependent on them for their basic needs like food and access to health services, even encouraging it. The more they rely on the Government, the more Government has control of their lives and the less people feel they are capable of escaping their situation.  Without responsibility and choices, they give up.

An excellent example of this was presented in a study in 1976 by Langer and Rodin.  It showed the effects of nursing home patients who were given responsibility and choices as opposed to those “where conformity and passivity is encouraged and every whim is attended to.”  The latter dramatically declined in overall “health and well-being”.  The study was extended to homeless shelters.  When people were given both responsibility and choices they were much more likely to find work and a place to live.

A continuation of the same study showed “increased-responsibility conditions” have very positive long term effects as well.

I understand there will always be people who genuinely need help.  I also know we will always have people who take advantage of the system, even if reformed. America has always encouraged individual responsibility and autonomy, but as the size of the Government increases the individual decreases. And as the studies show, when people take responsibility for their own lives and have choices without being under the control of someone else, they are happier and more productive.