Buried deep on the website of the U.S. Census Bureau is a number every American citizen, and especially those entrusted with public office, should know. It is 86,429,000.
That is the number of Americans who in 2012 got up every morning and went to work — in the private sector — and did it week after week after week.
These are the people who built America, and these are the people who can sustain it as a free country. The liberal media has not made them famous like the polar bear, but they are truly a threatened species.
It is not a rancher with a few hundred head of cattle that is attacking their habitat, nor an energy company developing a fossil fuel. It is big government and its primary weapon — an ever-expanding welfare state.
First, let's look at the basic taxonomy of the full-time, year-round American worker.
In 2012, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 103,087,000 people worked full-time, year-round in the United States. "A full-time, year-round worker is a person who worked 35 or more hours per week (full time) and 50 or more weeks during the previous calendar year (year round)," said the Census Bureau. "For school personnel, summer vacation is counted as weeks worked if they are scheduled to return to their job in the fall."
Of the 103,087,000 full-time, year-round workers, 16,606,000 worked for the government. That included 12,597,000 who worked for state and local government and 4,009,000 who worked for the federal government.
The 86,429,000 Americans who worked full-time, year-round in the private sector, included 77,392,000 employed as wage and salary workers for private-sector enterprises and 9,037,000 who worked for themselves. (There were also approximately 52,000 who worked full-time, year-round without pay in a family enterprise.)
At first glance, 86,429,000 might seem like a healthy population of full-time private-sector workers. But then you need to look at what they are up against.
The Census Bureau also estimates the size of the benefit-receiving population.
This population, too, falls into two broad categories. The first includes those who receive benefits for public services they performed or in exchange for payroll taxes they dutifully paid their entire working lives. Among these, for example, are those receiving veteran's benefits, those on unemployment and those getting Medicare and Social Security.
The second category includes those who get "means-tested" government benefits — or welfare. These include, for example, those who get Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Women, Infants Children.
Let's examine this second category first, which the Census Bureau reports as "anyone residing in a household in which one or more people received benefits from the program."
In the last quarter of 2011, according to the Census Bureau, approximately 82,457,000 people lived in households where one or more people were on Medicaid. 49,073,000 lived in households were someone got food stamps. 23,228,000 lived in households where one or more got WIC. 20,223,000 lived in households where one or more got SSI. 13,433,000 lived in public or government-subsidized housing.
Of course, it stands to reason that some people lived in households that received more than one welfare benefit at a time. To account for this, the Census Bureau published a neat composite statistic: There were 108,592,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2011 who lived in a household that included people on "one or more means-tested program."
Those 108,592,000 outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private-sector workers who inhabited the United States in 2012 by almost 1.3 to 1.
This brings us to the first category of benefit receivers. There were 49,901,000 people receiving Social Security in the fourth quarter of 2011, and 46,440,000 receiving Medicare. There were also 5,098,000 getting unemployment compensation.
And there were also, 3,178,000 veterans receiving benefits and 34,000 veterans getting educational assistance.
All told, including both the welfare recipients and the non-welfare beneficiaries, there were 151,014,000 who "received benefits from one or more programs" in the fourth quarter of 2011. Subtract the 3,212,000 veterans, who served their country in the most profound way possible, and that leaves 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers.
The 147,802,000 non-veteran benefit takers outnumbered the 86,429,000 full-time private sector workers 1.7 to 1.
How much more can the 86,429,000 endure?
As more baby boomers retire, and as Obamacare comes fully online — with its expanded Medicaid rolls and federally subsidized health insurance for anyone earning less than 400 percent of the poverty level — the number of takers will inevitably expand. And the number of full-time private-sector workers might also contract.
Eventually, there will be too few carrying too many, and America will break.