We’re All Eloi Now

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In H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, a scientist and tinkerer builds a time machine and uses it to explore the distant future. When he returns to his own time, he tells his friends that he did not find the Utopian society as he had hoped, but a civilization several thousand years into the future which consists of the subterranean Morlocks who are cannibals and the surface-dwelling Eloi, who on first glance lead a carefree life.

The Eloi are simple-minded non-confrontational beings who themselves have no government or laws, and no one works for a living. They have lost the written language, cannot read, and are exceptionally poor conversationalists. Still they seem happy. The Morlocks provide them clothing and lay out food for them to eat so that the Eloi don’t even have to worry about cultivating or gathering their own food.

The Eloi seem to have all the free time in the world, but they don’t study or experiment or learn anything. They have lost their human curiosity as well. The only thing they have to do is obey the Morlocks. It turns out that the Morlocks are raising and caring for the Eloi so that ultimately they will eat them. Of course the Eloi have no clue about this, they just think that the Morlocks provide for them because they care about them.

A case can be made that The Time Machine is a parable for our times. The Morlocks representing the big government nanny state, providing for all our needs cradle to grave, while we, like the Eloi, happily go along taking the free stuff and never questioning what we are giving up in return. In our case it is our freedoms, our self determination, our self respect, and our ambition. Which brings me to a report just issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the data from the USDA, a record 20% of American households, that’s one in five, were on food stamps in 2013. Get that? ONE IN FIVE! 20% OF ALL HOUSEHOLDS IN THE UNITED STATES ON FOOD STAMPS!! Either the economy is in much worse shape than anyone knew or there are an awful lot of deadbeats this country who would rather take free government benefits than work. Either way, it’s not a good thing.

The USDA says that there were 23,052,388 households on food stamps in the average month of fiscal 2013, an increase of 722,675 from fiscal year 2012, when there were 22,329,713 households on food stamps in the average month. Those numbers were compared with the Census Bureau’s estimates for the total number of U.S. households in the last month (September) of each fiscal year to determine the percentage of all U.S. households in that fiscal year that were on food stamps.

In 2013, according to the Census Bureau, there were 115,013,000 households, which means that the households on food stamps — 23,052,388 households — equaled 20.0% of all households. In the past five years alone, the number of households on food stamps has increased significantly. In fiscal year 2009 – Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009 — the number of households on food stamps was 15,232,115. Just five years later, in 2013, that amount had increased by 51.3% to reach 23,052,388 households! An amazing jump!

Not only have households seen a major increase in food stamps’ participation, but so have individuals. In 2013, the monthly average for individuals on food stamps hit an all-time-high of 47,636,084, according to the USDA, an increase of 1,027,012 over the 46,609,072 individuals who were participating in the program in 2012.

That number has dramatically increased from five years ago. In fiscal year 2009, the number of individuals participating in the food stamp program was 33,489,975. In 2013, the number was 47,636,084, an increase of 42.2%. And the cost of food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has reached an all-time high.

For fiscal year 2013, the SNAP program cost $79,641,880,000, which is a 164% increase over the past decade. When adjusted for inflation, the cost of the SNAP program was $30,153,090,000 in fiscal year 2003. During the last five years, the SNAP program grew by 36.8%, from $58,223,790,000 in 2009 to $79,641,880,000 in 2013.

Of course there are truly needy Americans who are legitimately being helped with food stamps, but the skyrocketing percentages of people on the dole indicate that there are far too many who are simply “gaming the system.”

If things continue as they are, too many of us in this country will be like the Eloi, just eating and lying around in the sun with nothing to do but wait for the Morlocks to eat us. Like the Eloi we will have lost all ambition to better ourselves. Why work when the government will give you food, housing, and welfare/workman’s comp money? What’s the incentive to try to succeed in life when you already get all you need for free from the government? Being self-sufficient will be just another archaic notion of the past. Once the ability to provide for ourselves, to work towards a goal, and to invent and create is lost, can losing the ability to read and write be far off?

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