The Index reports Americans who rely on government receive an average $32,748 worth of benefits, surpassing the average American’s disposable personal income of $32,446.
Overall, the Index—which scores the nation’s dependency across numerous federal assistance programs that were once done through communities, churches, neighborhood groups and the private sector—rose 8.1 percent in 2010 from the most recent data available.
It found more than 67.3 million Americans depend on federal assistance for everything from food, shelter and clothing to college tuition and health care. These benefits cost federal taxpayers roughly $2.5 trillion annually.
While the number of Americans receiving federal aid rises, the number of federal taxpayers continues to drop, with nearly half of Americans (49.5 percent) not paying any federal income taxes. “The danger of a growing government-dependent population is that it’s voting for more benefits that end up being paid by fewer taxpayers,” says William Beach, Index co-author and director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. “At some point, this unsustainable fiscal model will collapse.”
To reverse the disturbing course, Beach says Congress must rein in federal spending, reform welfare and entitlement programs, and encourage more community-based aid and personal responsibility. “Dependency isn’t a bad thing—but when aid from private charities, communities and neighbors is replaced with bureaucratic programs, research shows that Americans are less likely to prosper and achieve true independence,” he adds.