The Coming Entitlements Cliff

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From the Institute for Policy Innovation:

The “fiscal cliff” coming at the end of the year pales in comparison to the “entitlements cliff” being forced on us by a multitude of entitlement programs that we can no longer afford.

The Entitlement Population

Most people think of entitlement programs as Social Security and Medicare for seniors, Medicaid and perhaps some other means-tested welfare programs. But there are many more, including veteran benefits, unemployment, the children’s health insurance program, disability income, the GI bill and Head Start.

The U.S. Census Bureau says 108 million Americans live in households where at least one person participates in a means-tested program. We estimate about 80 million are the primary recipients, though millions more share those benefits. That number has been growing rapidly under President Obama. Since the president took office:

  • Medicaid has grown from 46.9 million to 56 million people;
  • Disability beneficiaries have increased from 7.5 million to 8.8 million; and
  • The food stamp program has grown from 32 million to 47 million Americans.

Add to that 80 million beneficiaries roughly 40 million Americans age 65 or older on Social Security and Medicare (about 9 million of the 49 million on Medicare, including some under the age of 65, also receive means-tested benefits).

That 120 million does not include the numerous smaller entitlement programs. Put them all together and a number approaching half of the country participates in an entitlement program.

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