"Entitlements" is a word North Americans will see a lot of in the future. Nicholas Eberstadt who is an economist and a demographer with the American Enterprise Institue, wrote a booklet entitled "A Nation of Takers:America's Entitlement Epidemic". In 2010 U.S. governments at all levels transferred more than 2.2 trillion in money, goods and services to recipients - $7200. per individual, almost $28,000. per family of four. By 2010 more than 34% of households were receiving "means-tested" benefits.
When my parents and other European immigrants came at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the new arrivals were literally on their own, with only religious institutions providing help of any kind. North America was young, fast growing in the 1960's and was financially able to provide the extra benefits demanded by a society that felt an obligation to support the needy. Times have changed. We now have a graying society, a stagnant economy and a sinking birth-rate to support the ever growing burden of the old-age population. The "baby boomers" have arrived and want it all. For Canada and the U.S. to distribute money from the young to the old, from working people to retirees, will place us in the same poor economic position as Europe.
Today there are fewer low income seniors than there were in the past. A government of Canada study showed that in 1977, 30.4% of seniors had low incomes whereas in 2007 that number was reduced to 4.8%. Surprisingly enough seniors today are better off percentage-wise than the workers in the 18-64 age group.
There is also a problem with means-tested entitlements in health care. The recipients now feel that they are entitled to government help as a basic civil right and there is an astounding growth of disabilitiies such as depression and non-verifiable back ailments. In Canada men are disappearing from the work force. Since 1948 the male labour force participation is down from 89% to 73%. In 1960, 455,000 men received disability payments, in 2011 there were 8.6 million. Nearly half of the 8.6 million were "disabled" because of mood disorders or ailments associated with the musculoskeletal system, which is difficult to diagnose. Far be it from me to challenge all the people on disability, but either there is an increase of fraud or the Canadian people are getting more sick by the year. Of course, one has to take into consideration the increase in population.
It is in the self-interest of people to take every advantage that they can, and much easier for politicians to hand out benefits to the electorate in order to get elected, than to take them away because of the cost. I believe that the pendulum has swung too far and to stay solvent the U.S. and Canada must cut back to a resonable amount of freebies. The problem is the definition of "reasonable" and who defines it. A change in attitude of the electorate and politicians is necessary to make our economies viable now.