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Social Responsibility as a Mode of Governance

In Criticism & Review on February 12, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It aired in the New York Times yesterday, February 11th. Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff, sharing the byline, critique America’s increasing dependence on government aid and the public’s dogged disposition to neither curb government spending nor decrease aid. It’s a social Catch-22. Society should provide welfare, but we also need to be accountable. Instead, we’re cooking the books.

I gather, from Appelbaum’s dissection, we are witnessing a veiled equilibrium. Medicare pays out approximately $3 for every American dollar invested, according to a New York Times analysis. Americans are getting more than what we are paying for. An elderly Chisago County Minnesota resident tells Appelbaum, “My generation has always known what our bills were and we’re not asked to pay them anymore. And that’s wrong.”

What is the Tipping Point?

Perhaps there is one tipping point that can inspire a chain-reaction of subsequent tipping points. Let’s consider social responsibility and government conscientiousness as a call to action. Both of these qualities seem to have reached a critical mass.

The difficulty concerning this concept is: America must tighten its belt somewhere, and at sometime. When we will change is an equable quality of the solution. Americans aren’t cognizant of this dynamic and the tepid trepidation of sociopolitical issues and economic concern ensues. Commonly proposing the question how are we going to get out of this?

Instituting greater controls and accountability in public policy is an exceptional place to start. There is a considerable difference between promoting social welfare and causing social stagnation to escalate.

My co-worker has an interesting take on government funded benefits. She was previously a Delaware resident and has recently moved to the Southern Tier in Upstate New York. She’s a single parent working a minimum wage job to support three children. What’s most striking about her story is: the accountability in Delaware benefits programs contrast greatly with similar programs in New York.

From her anecdote, I gathered people in Delaware receiving benefits are trying to change the quality of life rather than sustaining poverty. Delaware benefits qualifications and eligibility requires achievement and advancement, rather than, as Appelbaum discovers, making a career out of it. There is no room to applaud handouts. We should be responsible to provide for others but there is a gross sense of entitlement associated with this construction.

Ideally, Americans need a government that insists on being transparent. During John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address in 1961 he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” With a twist, here’s what you can do for your country: get involved and be proactive, to ensure openness and productivity are mutual values rather than sweeping current issues under the rug. Productivity is a vague sentiment but the point is: the goals and aspirations of the government and public should be aligned, not in confrontation with each other. Social Security, Medicare, and the government safety net are not ephemeral problems; rather they are on pace to crush our future. If government conscientiousness is not intrinsic value, society must make it a requirement.

Social responsibility, as a movement, requires a knowledgeable and informed public. You can’t ask questions without knowledge or thought. Americans should consider what is important, as an individual and nation. (Do we even know?) Realized ubiquitous social accountability to stanch excess government spending and further debt is a healthy start, but this is only the beginning. Expecting others to allay current conditions isn’t enough. This is how we got here in the first place.