Wel­fare nation

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The lat­est eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors sug­gest Amer­ica’s sput­ter­ing eco­nomic en­gine may conk out once again. Dis­ap­point­ing ser­vice-sec­tor and job-growth fig­ures re­leased on May 4 are signs of rough times ahead. With a weak dol­lar and strato­spheric gaso­line prices, mil­lions more could find them­selves seek­ing gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance. The ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears to be just fine with that.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­sti­tute for Sup­ply Man­age­ment, growth in the non­man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor of the econ­omy dipped 4.5 per­cent­age points from March to April. Pur­chas­ing and sup­ply ex­ec­u­tives who par­tic­i­pated in the sur­vey ex­pressed mixed feel­ings about over­all busi­ness con­di­tions. They were mostly trou­bled by “lin­ger­ing un­cer­tainty about the econ­omy.” Ris­ing com­mod­ity prices — es­pe­cially fuel — have cast doubt on the prospect for a full eco­nomic re­cov­ery. Prices for steel, plas­tic, cot­ton and even ink-jet printer car­tridges are on the rise. No com­mod­ity was re­ported as drop­ping in price.

The ADP na­tional em­ploy­ment re­port re­flects a sim­i­lar trend. The pay­roll firm han­dles about 23 mil­lion pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ees, and its anal­y­sis of the job mar­ket pre­views what we can ex­pect from the of­fi­cial Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics re­port sched­uled for re­lease Fri­day. ADP did see more jobs in April, but the rate of growth slowed 12 per­cent un­der con­di­tions that should fos­ter a boom­ing econ­omy.

Amer­i­can busi­nesses have scaled back, stream­lin­ing op­er­a­tions in the wake of the re­ces­sion that be­gan in De­cem­ber 2007. By now, we ought to have re­cov­ered the ground lost in the past sev­eral years. Yet it hasn’t hap­pened. Busi­ness lacks con­fi­dence while the cur­rent oc­cu­pant of the White House de­mo­nizes the nation’s job cre­ators. Pres­i­dent Obama’s bor­row-and-spend­ing binge has sucked tril­lions of dol­lars out of the econ­omy, leav­ing less cap­i­tal avail­able for ex­pan­sion.

It’s no won­der that the lat­est Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment fig­ures shows one out of ev­ery five house­holds re­ceived food stamps in Fe­bru­ary. The as­sis­tance pro­vided to 20.8 mil­lion homes — up 20 per­cent in the past year-and-a-half — came at an an­nual cost of $68 bil­lion. Free lunches were handed out to an­other 18.4 mil­lion, leav­ing tax­pay­ers with a bill for $12.8 bil­lion. The ris­ing de­pen­dence does not trou­ble the left, which wants as many chil­dren as pos­si­ble to turn to the gov­ern­ment at an early age. Taken to­gether, the depart­ment’s var­i­ous food wel­fare pro­grams cost tax­pay­ers a whop­ping $95 bil­lion. In­stead of pun­ish­ing en­ter­prise and sub­si­diz­ing poverty, the coun­try needs to re­store the con­di­tions that pro­mote pros­per­ity. Amer­ica’s cor­po­rate tax rate — cur­rently the sec­ond high­est in the world — needs to be cut. We need to re­strain fed­eral spend­ing by scal­ing back the free­bies doled out to far too many peo­ple. That’s the best way to restart our eco­nomic en­gine.

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