The Growth of Dependency on Government Threatens the Future of American Democracy

William Beach /

Today marks the seventh year that we have published the Index of Dependence on Government. And, for seven years running, our Index shows growing dependence. The Index now stands at 240, up from a value of 19 in 1962, or a nearly 13 fold increase since the Kennedy administration. The rate of growth, however, actually has increased over the last eight years. That period saw the second highest rate of growth in dependency creating programs: since 2001, the Index has increased 31 percent. Most disturbing of all, all of the evidence points to even more rapid increases in dependency ahead, which well could threaten democratic government.

From virtually the first day of his presidency, Barack Obama and his top deputies have advanced programs and initiatives that deepen and expand American citizens’ dependency on government. From new federal programs designed to boost economic activity to health care reform that could place the U.S. government at the center of the nation’s health care system, the central thrust of policy since January 2009 has been to increase Americans’ daily dependency on Washington.

However, the rapid expansion of dependency-creating programs did not begin with Barack Obama’s inauguration. Indeed, President Obama inherited substantial momentum toward greater dependency on government from the George W. Bush Administration and prior governments. President Bush’s years saw growth in all dependency creating categories, but particularly in programs aimed at health, education, and working-age income support. (more…)