Breaking Down the Inaugural Address: Obama on Entitlements and the Safety Net

Since the GOP doesn’t get a chance to deliver a rebuttal to inaugural addresses, we’ve decided to turn the responsibility over to the Ricochetti. Throughout the day, we’ll be posting excerpts from the president’s speech and giving you the chance to respond and rebut in the comments. First up, entitlements and the safety net:

For we 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.

  1. Bereket Kelile
    Ricochet Editor’s Desk: 

    For we 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. 

    Isn’t the lesson that we can live without Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the plethora of entitlement programs and transfer payments? The poverty rate is the same today as it has been before the expansion of the 1960s. So are we still in the twilight years of poverty?

  2. KC Mulville

    Apparently, we can only be free to take risks when there’s a generous government safety net.

    In the process of providing this safety net, the government makes the risks harder to take. And the bigger the safety net, the harder the risk becomes. 

  3. Christopher Barr

    Thomas Edison was way out of line. How dare he innovate without a net?

  4. EJHill

    Since when does Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security serve as storm insurance? Since when do the poor or the sick or the aged take the biggest risks in providing jobs?

    “Margaret! I wasn’t going to start a business at age 72 but since Medicare and Social Security is going to take care of me I think I’ll pour our entire 401K into that mimeograph and typewriter business I always wanted!

    “No, I’m not crazy! I was inspired by the rotary dial store that those folks in the projects started!”

    Those paragraphs are too disjointed to make sense to anyone outside of the true believers and the main stream media. (aka, the Department of Redundancy Department.)

  5. DrewInWisconsin

    Shorter Obama: “Every citizen will be a public man, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.”

  6. The Mugwump
    For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty (When is the last time anyone has seen a senior citizen begging on a street corner?)  and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn (except family, which generally does a better job than government). We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few (Who said we did?). 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(for which the market provides something called insurance). The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative.  (Anymore than high taxes sap the economy, I suppose?)  They strengthen us.  (Really?)        

    They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great.  (The man has rather odd ideas about freedom.)

    · 11 minutes ago

    “A pyromaniac in a field of straw men,”  indeed.   

  7. FloppyDisk90

    “They free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

    This is a clever obfuscation of the conservative stance on these programs.  I don’t think anyone disagrees that medical care and saving for retirement are goods.  The question is whether or not the government should be providing those things at pre-determined levels.  Obama twists that into an us-vs-them straw man.  Bravo.

    BTW, you can make the same statement about food.  But somehow we’re expected to provide that for ourselves (food stamps notwithstanding).

    Finally, I would be hard pressed to compose a more crystalline summary of the statist world view:  the lucky owe a moral debt to the unlucky and it is the provenance of the state to make sure that happens.

  8. DrewInWisconsin

    It hurts too much to hear HRH Obama talk in glowing terms of the programs his policies have rendered absolutely insolvent.

  9. BlueAnt

    It comes as no surprise that Obama, who has never run a goods-producing project, misunderstands the nature of risk.  

    Risks can rarely be mitigated, they are generally just shifted.  

    If you’re scared of death via car crash, you can wear a seat belt; but all you’ve done is changed the nature of the risk, not eliminate it completely.  The seat belt adds some risks of injury and entrapment, while lowering the risk of certain deadly scenarios; it also carries up-front costs of time and expense, which are minor financial risks.  We may say the tradeoff is worth it–an inherently subjective conclusion–but a complete analysis must admit that risk has merely shifted.

    Even if you accept that the three entitlement programs he mentioned provide a framework for life-altering risky decisions, Obama must admit that the financial risks they address have merely been shifted from risky individuals onto taxpayers.  Worse, those basic risks are not even mitigated; instead, they are exacerbated.

    Systemic programs addressing broad risk categories do not encourage productive risks.  They encourage broadly dependent behavior.  Entrepreneurs and thinkers willing to “risk it all”, by definition, will do so without the safety net.

  10. Whiskey Sam

    The idea that before the federal welfare state people had nowhere to turn is a patent lie.  There were always local organizations, churches, charities, and state/local governments providing relief.

  11. Illiniguy

    I’ll give it a try:

    “For we remember the lessons of our past, when family, and our communities of neighbors and faith served as the bulwark of our lives. Our forbears lived knowing that their twilight years would be spent among those who honored them for their past contributions and for the lessons they taught about the continuity of life and family.

    We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky or happiness for the few, but nor do we believe that at the end of their days, those who gave us the prosperity and richness of life that we enjoy should be discarded as having outlived their usefulness.

    The commitments we made through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which at one time may have seemed right and just have sapped our initiative. They have not strengthened us, but have driven the most vulnerable among us to the edge of despair.

    We are not a nation of takers. But we need a new covenant, recognizing that we are not consumers of government, but the owners of government. Only then will we be free to take the risks that make this country great.”

  12. DocJay

    We make great pets!

  13. Frederick Key

    He and his ilk (yes, I said it! Ilk!) will never understand that freedom does not mnean free stuff. Adults crave freedom. Babies crave free stuff.

  14. Nick Stuart

    It will be interesting to see what our collective risk profile looks like when the US Navy is no longer the guarantor of open passage on the high seas, when the US Air Force no longer posesses air supremacy, and the US Army and Marine Corps are no longer capable of obliterating any opposition on land.

    We’ll still have Medicare, Medicaid, government cheese, and Obamaphone though.

  15. Pablo

    Did not know the “President” has turned into a comedian. Pretty good one. I predict he will have a great future as a replacement for Jay Leno.

    Man this guy is sooooo smart! Of course left wing policies do not turn nations into countries of takers. These Republicans are so silly and dumb and simple… I mean, just look at how succesfull these policies have proven in the UK (or Southern Spain – 30% unemployment) where you have 40 year-olds who have not had to work a single day in their productive lives… because the”government” takes “care of them”, and gives them playstations and flat screen TVs and cable TV and pixie dust and everybody is happy, happy! and if we could only print more money we could all be even more happy, like those kids that write him letters.

    Apologies for the silly rant, just saw some pictures of the inaguration on TV. Promise not to do it again.

  16. flownover

    Evidently the churches and communities throughout America were simply settings for the occasional wedding and funeral . Social services were invented by government ? 

    Come to think of it, why can’t the government setup a national funeral program ? Lots of empty coal mines in the future, I think I can see a real opportunity for a new bureaucracy . 

  17. raycon and lindacon

    Go to lindaneedsavan.com and read what the government did for Linda for the first 64 years of her life.  You will discover that her help came from The March of Dimes, a non-profit charity, The Shriner’s Hospital, a non-profit charity, and her husband, me.

    Less than a year ago, now totally disabled and requiring very expensive equipment and care, did Linda ever receive a thin dime from government.  Now that we live in a society disabled and impoverished by the safety net, the ability of charitable institutions and churches is tapped out.

    And when we get old, we have children who have honored their parents with their desire to be close to us and will, no doubt, provide the care that government cannot, when we require it.

  18. C. U. Douglas

    Only progressives see freedom as removal from responsibilities.  Only progressives will look at a budgie in a cage and say that it is freer than its kinsmen in the wild, for while the latter might spread their wings and soar to wherever they wish, the former needn’t worry about food water or predators.  That the former is still caged and controlled matters little to the progressive.

  19. The Mugwump
    flownover:  

    Come to think of it, why can’t the government setup a national funeral program ? Lots of empty coal mines in the future, I think I can see a real opportunity for a new bureaucracy .  · 38 minutes ago

    Please don’t give them any ideas.  I really don’t want to see corpses bobbing around in my local fishing hole.  

  20. Black Prince
    So, bye bye Miss American Pie  Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry  Them good ol’ boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing…  This’ll be the day that I die  This’ll be the day that I die

    Bye America…it was nice knowing you.