It’s called “mountain pride.” For generations, it has pulsed through the bloodstream of just about every resident in the Appalachian hills of North Georgia, the place where I grew up and still call home. Mountain pride is defined by self-reliance. It means that when times get tough, families persevere, turning quietly only to a church or a neighbor for help. This independent spirit does not involve a handout from the federal government. Mountain pride means taking care of yourself and looking out for your neighbors.
The Obama administration doesn’t appear to like mountain pride very much. What’s worse, the White House doesn’t seem to understand it. In Ashe County, N.C., a rural, Appalachian community wedged next to the Virginia and Tennessee state lines, the Department of Agriculture actually praised the county’s social services department for working to defeat mountain pride by getting more of the good folks from Ashe County to accept food stamps.
This type of maneuver from the Obama White House isn’t just appalling, it’s enlightening. It shows us President Obama’s true intention: Expand dependency on the federal government. Earlier this month, Mr. Obama told a crowd in Sandusky, Ohio, “America wasn’t built on handouts, it was built on responsibility.” I fully agree, but the president’s campaign rhetoric rarely matches his public policy.
Federal spending for food stamps has more than doubled since Mr. Obama took office. In 2008, about 28 million Americans received food stamps. Today, that number is more than 46 million, nearly 1 in 6 Americans. In this era of trillion-dollar deficits, the Obama administration saw fit to spend up to $3 million of taxpayers’ money in radio ads to get more Hispanics and working poor on food stamps. No wonder Newt Gingrich tagged Mr. Obama “the food-stamp president.”
The president’s signature legislative accomplishment, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare to most of us, dramatically expands Medicaid. Spending on Medicaid, the nation’s health program for the poor, is projected to increase by an additional $434 billion per decade. So far, five states have expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, resulting in 500,000 new enrollees to the program. Imagine how many millions more will be enrolled once the Obamacare law is fully implemented.
Most recently, the Obama administration quietly announced it would waive the work requirements written into the 1996 welfare reform law. The bipartisan legislation, which was signed into law by President Clinton, mandates that able-bodied people must work or be preparing for work as a condition for receiving welfare. The law has been a success, dramatically lowering poverty and cutting the number of welfare cases in half. While the impact of the administration’s decision on the number of people receiving welfare is not yet known, the outcome is easy to predict: less self-reliance, more government handouts.
Overall spending on welfare programs is up by more than 40 percent under Mr. Obama, and it’s clear from his actions that the president’s vision for America is one of debt and dependency, not opportunity and prosperity. There is no “shining city upon a hill” in Mr. Obama’s America. His America is a welfare state, where a clawing government hand cleans out the pockets of one citizen in order to feed the other. The problem with the president’s vision is a death spiral: Taxes have to keep going up to pay for the ever-increasing costs of the welfare state. There will come a point where nothing is left in the taxpayers’ pocket to take. Perhaps, now more than ever, America could use more mountain pride.
Rep. Tom Graves is a Republican from Georgia.