The “free lunch” vote plagues the GOP

Donald Trump Free Lunch Voters

The Republican voting base is almost as endangered of hanging their votes on the protection of big government handouts as the Democrats are.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump just said we need to borrow $500 billion for infrastructure. He told CNBC, “This is a time to borrow, and to borrow long term, so we can have the money and rebuild our infrastructure.”

We may not all be tight-wad libertarians, but a year ago you’d think the GOP would at least manage to produce a nominee that’s pretty tough on spending and handouts compared to the Democratic side (I mean, a vote for Hillary is just a vote for free stuff, and we don’t do that, right?) Certainly not this time around. GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, the long time proponent of universal healthcare, who just said we need to borrow twice as much for infrastructure as Clinton proposes, isn’t at all keen on making serious reforms to the welfare state or a bloated budget that serves bureaucrats and cronies more than the needy.

So it’s not just the twinkly-eyed young leftists that are tripping over themselves chasing after the bandwagon full of easy money and free stuff–GOP voters fall for it, too, not just in this election, but in past cycles regional dependencies have heavily influenced voters. In Iowa, for instance, ethanol subsidies and the renewable fuel mandate have propped up the industry for over three decades. Iowans rejected McCain in ‘08 because of his ethanol stance, and many GOP voters this time around were loath to vote for someone like Cruz, because Cruz had the fortitude to openly advocate a phase-out of their free stuff. Trump or Rubio would have been a safer choice. Let’s not upset the status quo here.

Sugar subsidies in states like Mississippi prop up big-government Republicans like Thad Cochran. According to E21, 46% of U.S. Representatives have received money from the sugar lobby. Marco Rubio apparently deemed subsidizing sugar so important that it totally overruled the message of limited government and a fair playing field that he, and others, had run on. We can give taxpayer money to a favorite industry, sure, no problem. How about raisin farmers? Cotton farmers? Let the tax dollars keep flowing.

The GOP is part of big government

You see, the Republican voting base is almost as endangered of hanging their votes on the protection of big government handouts as the Democrats are. By and large, Republicans aren’t exactly the vigilant sentinels of limited government and being able to keep more of what you earn. Massive entitlement programs have seen to that. Across the board, once an entitlement kicks in, such as Social Security or Medicare, almost no one is willing to give it up; the idea that we should do away with such train wreck redistribution schemes is anathema in both parties.

The truth is, most of the right-of-center folks are hypocrites. We say we don’t want to spread the wealth around, but we’re unwilling to let go of the policies that do just that. Note that the candidate least threatening to entitlements, Trump, won 9 out of the top 10  states in Social Security Disability enrollees.

We plan our lives around the receipt of entitlements, factoring both SS and Medicare into our retirement plans. According to the Social Security Administration: “Among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 53% of married couples and 74% of unmarried persons receive 50% or more of their income from Social Security.” And A 2015 Gallup poll reports that a full 36% of non-retirees expect SS to be a “major source of retirement income,” with 48% reporting it will  be a “minor source.” This dependence is racking up the debt. Calculations from the Cato Institute suggest that overall, current and past retirees have been drawing more money from the government (approximately $21.6 trillion) than workers have been paying into the program.

Rush Limbaugh has decried the dangers of the Low Information Voter for decades, but I contend that the Free Stuff Voter is lethal to a free republic. We are willing to diminish our own opportunities and the use of our own earnings for a “guaranteed” handout from the government, who has not just taken your money temporarily before giving it back to you in the form of a benefit (your payroll tax for Social Security is actually going to current retirees) but has spent a good portion of it through its own bureaucratic administration before redistributing it among the Peters and Pauls. Every pay stub showing our payroll taxes is a faint reminder of the freedom we have given up–the freedom to spend our own money how we please–for the perpetuation of a government entitlement.

Face it: We’re all entitlement voters

Most Americans are Free Stuff Voters, who vote for people who promise to protect entitlements, subsidies, and pork barrel projects that prop up local economies, who in turn vote for massive budgets with colossal deficits. Our biggest entitlements of Medicare and Social Security alone are racking up debt approaching $2 trillion.

We will never solve our budget crisis if we don’t come to terms with our own identity as entitlement voters, if we don’t repent and reject the Free Stuff mentality, and elect candidates who are willing to tear down our dysfunctional, dependence-generating programs in order to build a more free and prosperous nation.

Some of us live under the illusion that there really is such a thing as a free lunch (as if the country can afford quality single payer healthcare for everybody, no downsides). That is pure ignorance, but worse is the fact that some, particularly GOP voters, know that others are being compelled to pay for their lunch (and that they are paying for other’s meal tickets, too) and yet still they are willing to cast votes that perpetuate a wasteful redistributive scheme.

The Obama Administration is closing out 8 years of expansive welfare policies with an authoritarian bend. Are we ready for an era of big government to come to a close, or, as our choice of current major nominees would indicate, do a majority of GOP voters favor a candidate unwilling to touch welfare reform? Trump is an open proponent of universal healthcare, dysfunctional major welfare programs, and shovel-ready cronyism who vainly promises that “the best people” will get a morbidly obese bureaucracy to not just stretch its legs, but go for a run, after prescribing a continued diet of bacon and greasy DC sausage.

One tiny beam of hope penetrates my skepticism: Ted Cruz did win the Iowa primary caucus, after defying the ethanol lobby (which, if it says nothing about the voters, tells us Cruz was the candidate serious about reforming bloated government). But the outlook remains bleak with a completely unserious GOP nominee–about entitlements as much as anything else–and an entitlement expansionist running on the Democratic side. The promise of a free lunch rules both major parties, propelling candidate after candidate onto all levels of government who are uninterested in reforming entitlements. Whoever wins in November, Free Lunch voters have their meal ticket for the next four years.

Even though, by the choice of the voters, the era of big government will continue under Trump or Hillary Clinton, the sentinels of limited government must be vocal. They must point out to others the candidates and policies that sink us deeper into dependence and stagnation with the weight of Free Stuff. It is a continual battle that we are losing nationally, but the down-ticket is crucial: small victories on all levels of government can still be won if we help others realize the harm of the Free Stuff mentality.

Images courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

Georgi Boorman

Georgi Boorman is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist. A transplant from Seattle to small town Central Washington, she leverages a background as part of the homeschooling community and a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Washington for a unique perspective on politics and culture. When she’s not writing, she bakes for the local café. She and her husband Cody enjoy a comfortably frugal lifestyle and plan an early retirement by 2026. Follow her on Twitter, @georgi_boorman.

  1. “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” – Benjamin Franklin

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