As Someone Who Has Worked In Retail Pharmacy ……
As someone who has worked in retail pharmacy for nearly 20 years now, I have had the opportunity to see a great many amazing things; some odd, some sad, and some infuriating, but none dull. The one thing that has always affected me most, was being witness to the seemingly endless parade of customers on state-funded prescription plans, particularly Medicaid, as well as other various welfare entitlements such as food stamps, and the general characteristics of their beneficiaries. Not only have I seen a consistent pattern among them, but I am noticing that things are gradually becoming worse and worse. I find myself wondering why this is and how it got to this point. I realized that long gone is the time when your average Medicaid recipient was actually poverty stricken.
According to USA Today, more Americans depend on government assistance than at any other time in our nation’s history. Nearly 20% of our country’s total personal income has come from the government, which includes a lot of entitlement programs. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income, 51% since the government began keeping track in 1929.
Approximately half of all Americans receive some sort of entitlement check from the government vis-à-vis taxpayer’s money. Based on its Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the Census Bureau estimates that in mid-2011 the number of people with benefits came to 149.8 million, or 49 percent of the population. However, the SIPP does not include some major programs such as farm subsidies, college loans and grants, etc. Inclusion of these programs would certainly push it over 50 percent of Americans receiving entitlements of some kind or another.
Can one-half of our country really be that poor, and is every single one of them deserving of taxpayer funded assistance? When was the last time you can recall a prominent politician addressing the fraud in entitlement programs? Well, in this book, I will.
It is now commonplace to see these patients come through the pharmacy drive-thru driving a Lexus, Escalade, or even Mercedes! Now it is common to see women on Medicaid with extravagant $80 nails, the latest cell phone model, and Coach purses. Columnist John Hayward of Human Events wrote an article on 5/7/2012 titled Missing: $400 Purse Holding $800 Cash, Plus Food Stamp Cards, which is a perfect illustration of this. The purse was valued at $400, her wallet was valued at $200, and she said there was $800 cash in the purse, according to the police report. Food stamps are supposed to help people, who ostensibly cannot afford food, to eat. This then begs a question: why did this woman frivolously blow $600 on a purse and wallet? The answer is simple – because she can and has no qualms about it.
At work, often times I see men in their twenties on Medicaid or disability with no visible signs of any sort of mental or physical deficiency. In fact, disability claims have skyrocketed in the United States since 2009. Who knew that the workplace would become so much more dangerous all of a sudden? On July of 2012, Investors.com reported that since June of 2009, 3.1 million people went on disability according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What accounts for this I wonder? Could it be that Americans are leaving their jobs so as to instead be paid by the remaining taxpayers?
Remember documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, who filmed mini-documentaries on Mississippi voters and welfare recipients in New York City? The video commenced with an interview with “Joe the doorman” at the welfare office. He told Miss Pelosi, “For 16 years, I’ve been working here at this address. For 16 years, people have been walking by this building with a white piece of paper in their hand looking perplexed, and they come up freely and say, ‘I’m looking for the welfare office, I’m looking for social services, or I’m looking for food stamps.’ I see that most of them are able-bodied, they don’t look like they are handicapped in any way. They just look like they don’t want to work, and it is really really hard to look at this and say, ‘I come to work every day, why can’t you?’” I too say this to myself while at work…every single day.
With our nation $17 trillion in debt, and rising fast, many are pointing to entitlements as one of the main culprits, and among those, Medicaid is by far the most expensive. In 2000, there were over 34 million Americans on Medicaid, according to the Senate Budget Committee GOP staff analysis of the 2011 data, but now it is over 54 million people. We’ve also gone from 17 million people on food stamps to 45 million during the same period. In fact, the Senate Budget Committee projects spending on food stamps to reach over $800 billion over the next ten years.
There are 126 government programs designed to fight poverty in this country. Is it any wonder we are spending $1 trillion per year? The poverty rate has remained steady at 15% practically since they began measuring it, according to the CATO Institute, yet this is somewhat misleading since most Americans are in debt (around 80%). In other words, all of this tonnage of cash to help the “poor”, has virtually done nothing. CATO says that we currently spend $20,610 for every poor person in America to fight poverty (every person!).
It is no wonder then, that federal spending has gone from $2.06 trillion in 2003 to $3.6 trillion in 2013 (a 75% jump in only ten years). Currently, the feds are spending $85 billion every eight and one-half days. In fiscal year 2011, federal spending on entitlement programs was $746 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service, which is more than Medicare, Social Security, and the non-war defense budget. Interestingly, since the Democrats took over Congress in 2006, the national debt has increased by over $5 trillion, thus every U.S. citizen owes about $45,000 to those who our country has borrowed money from.
All of this despite the fact that, according to Rasmussen Reports August 2011, 71% of Americans said there were too many welfare recipients in the country versus 18% which allegedly, and unbelievably, do not think we have enough people receiving hand outs. These people ought to consider this, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury, our nation spends $3.268 billion per day, $136.19 million per hour, or $37,829 per second. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported that spending on Medicaid from 2002 to 2011 rose 87% (for food stamps it increased 256% during that time). Bill O’Reilly reported that, “Since 1970, means-tested entitlement spending has increases 5,500%, and, since Obama took office, entitlement spending is up 40%.”
The point is that entitlement-slash-welfare programs are unsustainable and literally devouring our nation’s financial resources; something must be done. Coerced charity is nothing more than disguised thievery. Unfortunately, many people have realized that they can vote themselves other people’s money. This is why our forefathers despised democracies, by the way. You don’t want two wolves and a lamb sitting at the dinner table voting on what to eat. Our government is robbing Peter to pay Paul, to use an old idiom, and the Peter’s of the world sadly have no problem with it. I give you the “Obamaphone” lady, Michelle Dowery.
I prefer James J. Braddock, who the movie Cinderella Man was about. He actually felt shame for accepting handouts and did so only as a desperate last resort. He also paid the government back once he began making money again (true story). Where has that mentality gone from our culture?
In 1962, just 6% of Americans received federal entitlements. Now, 35% of us receive some kind of means-tested government support. So, when one considers that in 50 years we have gone from 6% to 35%, then is it not clear that we are becoming a country that tolerates the lazy and rewards the irresponsible? Roughly one third of us (over 100 million people) are getting taxpayer funds from the other two-thirds.
There is a massive burden being placed on wealth producers in this country. Over the past ten years, means-tested welfare has increased 91% and federal disability claims are up 60%. Heck, in 50 years education spending has shot up 277% and where has that gotten us? We have, generally speaking, some of the poorest academically performing kids in the world!
We certainly cannot continue doing what we’ve been doing which is kicking the can down the road and burdening future generations with enormous debt. We must make some hard decisions and now. We need true leadership from genuine problem solvers. My intention here is to draw attention to the largest of these problems — Medicaid. As someone who sees the effects of this particular program on a daily basis from the inside, I feel we pharmacists have a unique insight that few others have.