What gets lost in the large and loud national debates over immigration reform and gun-control legislation may be an issue of greater significance to the United States right now: the entitlement factor.
Too many in America - through personal choice - are getting by without working. This means they are not contributing to our society and governments through taxes.
Those who have been laid off and actively searching for work, it must be noted, are not part of the problem.
As we have seen in Chautauqua County over the past year, the entitlement picture is quite bleak. In December, according to New York state, 5,858 residents here received more than $1.4 million in assistance. That number decreased by 510 residents and $200,000 in aid from December 2011.
County officials, however, do report minimal success with the welfare to work program in the last year, which averages a participation rate of 32 percent in the state. In December 2011, the county rate was about 10 percent. Last month, the rate had risen to 17 percent.
Nationally, social welfare programs have grown at an even greater rate. Nicholas Eberstadt, author of "A Nation of Takers: America's Entitlement Epidemic" wrote this last week in The Wall Street Journal:
"In 1960, according to the Office of Management and Budget, social welfare programs accounted for less than a third of all federal spending. Today, entitlement programs accounted for nearly two-thirds of federal spending. In other words, welfare spending is nearly twice as much as defense, justice and everything else Washington does - combined. In effect, the federal government has become an entitlement machine."
That "machine," unfortunately, shows no signs of slowing down.
A recent poll proves an emotional issue has no easy answer.
On Sunday, our Newsmaker of the month called for the elimination of the Silver Creek Police Department. A poll at our Web site - www.observertoday.com - found that more than half the respondents, 52 percent, agree with our suggestion.
One reader did send us a letter criticizing our view. "I realize that you are the publisher of the paper and that entitles you to a certain amount of literary license. That does not entitle you to use that license to vent your personal vendettas on village police departments," the Silver Creek resident wrote. "If you want to save the village money, get rid of the Department of Public Works."
All told, 426 people voted on the poll regarding the department.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.