Goldwater Was Right about the Dangers of “Big, Inflationary Government”

In Sen. Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign ad against big government, the narrator warns a young boy who’s parking his bike at grandma’s house, “Don’t look now young man, but somebody has his hand in your pocket. It’s the hand of big government. It’s taking away about four months pay from what your daddy earns every year—qqqone dollar out of every three in his paycheck. And it’s taking the security out of your grandmother’s Social Security.”

Nearly 50 years later, that little boy is likely having his Social Security benefits garnished to pay off college student loans. The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch reports that incidents of retirees’ Social Security benefits being garnished to repay delinquent student loans are on the rise.

“From January through August 6, the government reduced the size of roughly 115,000 retirees’ Social Security checks on those grounds,” according to Market Watch. “That’s nearly double the pace of the department’s enforcement in 2011; it’s up from around 60,000 cases in all of 2007 and just 6 cases in 2000.”

In many cases, seniors are on the hook for their children or grandchildren’s loans. In other cases, retirees are still trying to pay off loans for going back to college during their 40s and 50s.

Though precise amounts vary, the government withholds up to 15 percent, nearly $190 month based on average monthly benefits. “This is going to catch an awful lot of people off guard and wreak havoc on their financial lives,” said Sheryl Garrett, a financial planner in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

This is a potent cautionary tale for anyone who thinks it’s government’s job to take care of us, whether it be through “affordable” college educations, “guaranteed,” lock-box protected retirement, or accessible health care.

Sen. Goldwater concluded his 1964 ad by reminding viewers: “You know, that’s the great trouble with big, inflationary government. It takes more and more of your earnings. It slowly but surely destroys individual initiative and responsibility. The government must draw its strength from the people, and as it drains away this strength, it must inevitably undermine the foundations of self-government.” Government, Goldwater said, is supposed to be a servant “and not the master of us all. In this free nation we do not choose to be ruled, we elect to be governed.”

Vicki E, Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Senior Fellow and Director of the Women for School Choice Project at the Independent Women’s Forum. She is the author of the Independent book, Failure: The Federal Misedukation of America’s Children.
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