I have long maintained that the critical problem with the American welfare state is not “makers vs. takers,” but rather makers who are also takers. A prosperous free society can afford safety-net programs for the truly impoverished, and the citizens of such a society are going to insist on funding one. The great danger of the classic welfare model is that the “safety net becomes a hammock,” by eroding the work ethic of those who spend generations within it. This can inflict horrendous damage on the lower echelons of society – look at what happened to the supposed beneficiaries of the Great Society – but the rest of the national economic structure can survive it. The political will to reform bloated and corrupt welfare programs can still be marshaled.
An out-of-control classical welfare state can cost a lot of money, and it can mess up poor families for generations, but it’s still fairly distinct from the rest of society. And it should be, for both practical and moral reasons. We can all agree that the only “happy ending” for any given welfare recipient is a return to the productive middle class, right? Even the vast majority of liberal American voters would say that’s the desired outcome.
But classical welfarism has mutated into something far more insidious and dangerous. It is the great project of the organized political Left to destroy the “middle class” they pretend to venerate, by infecting it with government dependency.