Home > Federal, National > The Tea Party Is Here to Stay and 2010 Index of Dependence on Government released

The Tea Party Is Here to Stay and 2010 Index of Dependence on Government released

October 16, 2010

The Tea Party Is Here to Stay

Today, The Heritage Foundation released its 2010 Index of Dependence on Government. This annual report tracks the growth of dependence-creating federal programs, programs that crowd-out what was once America’s great civil society. At one time, social obligations and services were carried out by community groups, family networks and even local governments. Now, an ever growing and ever more unaccountable federal bureaucracy undermines our spirit of self-reliance and self-improvement by making more and more Americans dependent on Big Government. In 2010, we witnessed a record-breaking surge in American dependence on the federal government including:

  • Government support for dependent persons has grown from $7,293 per person in 1962, to $31,950 per person today (adjusted for inflation).


  • 132.5 million Americans either pay no income tax or live in a household that pays no income tax. This is up from just 34.8 million in 1984.


  • Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid eat up 41% of all non-interest federal program spending. Unchecked, this will grow to 62% over the next decade.


Not all dependence is bad. As Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis director Bill Beach writes: “People spend most of their childhoods utterly dependent on their parents, and many people will rely on caregivers during their last years. Dependence on family, neighbors, fellow members of community groups, and—yes—local government is the normal, everyday stuff of life.” But dependence on the federal government is categorically different. Federal government aid does not strengthen communities and families: just look at how the federal welfare system undermined family structures and hollowed-out communities for a generation.

Worse, federal government programs quickly become a drain on the vitality of the nation. Jonathan Rauch explains in his book, “Government’s End”: “By definition, the power of government to solve problems comes from its ability to reassign resources, whether by taxing, spending, regulating, or simply passing laws. But that very ability energizes countless investors and entrepreneurs and ordinary Americans to go digging for gold by lobbying government. In time, a whole industry – large sophisticated, professional, and to a considerable extent self-serving – emerges and then assumes a life of its own. This industry is a drain on the productive economy, and there appears to be no natural limit to its growth.”

But there is still hope for our country: the Tea Party. Decentralized and skeptical of central authority, the Tea Party offers baffled politicians and lobbyists no one to co-opt. Sally Oljar of Tea Party Patriots recently told Rauch: “Our real mission is education and providing resources to grassroots activists who want to return the country to our founding principles. We recognize that’s going to require a cultural change that will take many years to accomplish.”

The Heritage Foundation fully supports their endeavors and believes the Tea Party movement is here to stay. Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) write in today’s Politico:

Americans have been disappointed by leaders in both parties who campaigned to right past wrongs and then, after getting to Washington, cared more about power than promises. Tea party supporters care more about principle than party labels or politics. … [T]he tea party has roots that are deeper and aim higher. Deeper because it is within the best tradition of popular movements in our history — from the Great Awakening that gave rise to the American Revolution to the conservative revival that helped elect Ronald Reagan. Higher because it aims to recover our moral compass, bequeathed by our Founders and preserved ever since.

Some past grass-roots movements have succeeded, and others have failed. Success comes because the energy of the moment is translated into a lasting, governing philosophy consistent with the settled opinions of the American people. On this score, prospects look good. The tea party isn’t about to go away after the November elections. Its powerful message of limited government is likely to remain a sharp thorn in the side of those in both parties who want to continue politics as usual.
As The Daily Caller notes today: “The Heritage Foundation think-tank has made it clear: they may be an established conservative organization, but they’re with the Tea Party activists who’ve risen up to protest Washington’s old ways.” The only way for us to end the era of big government dependency is to fight against it together. As Ed Feulner would say: “Onward!”

The 2010 Index of Dependence on Government

Published on October 14, 2010 by William Beach and Patrick Tyrrell Center for Data Analysis Report #10-08 Heritage Foundation

Download PDF

 Abstract: The number of Americans who pay taxes continues to shrink—and the United States is close to the point at which half of the population will not pay taxes for government benefits they receive. In 2009, 64.3 million Americans depended on the government (read: their fellow citizens) for their daily housing, food, and health care. Starting in 2015, the Social Security program will not receive enough taxes to pay all the promised benefits—which will be hard for all job-holders, but devastating for roughly half the American workforce that has no other retirement program. Add in last year’s preposterously named American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, spiraling academic grants, flat-out farm socialism, the swelling ranks of Americans who believe themselves entitled to “free” government benefits—and now the government takeover of the nation’s health care system—and the very nature of this country’s republican form of government is called into question. Like they have been doing since 2002, Heritage Foundation policy experts lay out the increasingly gloomy facts. Can Americans pull back from the brink of complete dependence on government?

This year’s publication of the Index of Dependence on Government marks the eighth consecutive year that The Heritage Foundation has flashed warning lights about Americans’ growing dependence on government payments and programs. For eight years, the Index has signaled troubling and rapid increases in the growth of dependence-creating federal programs, and for each of these years Heritage has raised concerns about the challenges that rapidly growing dependence poses to this country’s republican form of government and for the broader civil society.

The 2010 Index results dramatically underscore Heritage’s concerns of years past. According to The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (CDA):

  • The Index of Dependence on Government grew by 13.6 percent in 2009;
  • The Index variable that moved the most over that past year was

– Health care and welfare at 22 percent

%d bloggers like this: