In his second inaugural address, Barack Obama claimed that the massive federal “entitlement” programs pushing the nation into unprecedented levels of debt—and threatening worse problems down the road—actually “strengthen us” as Americans:
[W]e remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss or a sudden illness or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative. They strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.
Contrary to Obama’s leftist fantasies, the forced wealth transfers launched in the 20th century did not make America great; the principle of individual rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence did. Freedom, not force, is what makes America great.
Consider the economic consequences of freedom in American history. Prior to federal “entitlement” programs—particularly in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when America was freest in many respects—the U.S. economy expanded at a breathtaking pace. . . .