The Coming Nanny State

Reprinted from

The welfare state begets the nanny state.

I was thinking about this fact in the context of the Mayor of New York, the immigration debate, and our national debt.

Michael Bloomberg may or may not care about the personal health of his constituents. What he definitely cares about is the rising cost of health care in his city, and that is why he is doing his level best to create the world’s largest day-care center in the Big Apple.

Bloomberg is trying to get New Yorkers healthier by banning trans-fat, cutting down on the amount of soda pop consumed, and by keeping cigarettes out of the sight of those who might be tempted to smoke merely by the sight of smokes.

Bloomberg has to pay the health care costs of many of his citizens. I guess that is the theory of why he is doing what he is doing. And that gives him license to meddle in the food, beverage and other lifestyle choices of the folks in his city.

In the context of the immigration debate, somebody once said (and I can’t remember who it was) that open borders and the welfare state are incompatible. And I think that is true, to a very large extent.

The biggest obstacle to comprehensive immigration reform is the nagging suspicion that many of these new immigrants will eventually go on welfare. And there is some evidence that this is not an idle concern.

Studies have shown that children of illegal immigrants are much more likely to go on welfare once they grow up, and that their children will stay on welfare. The initial wave of new arrivals work hard, scrape and save and do the ugly jobs that Americans won’t do. But as their progeny become more and more Americanized, studies show that they are more likely to end up on welfare.

This is a big reason many voters are so bitterly opposed to amnesty. Amnesty brings in more illegal immigrants, which leads eventually to more people on welfare.

For comprehensive immigration reform to be successful, this piece of the puzzle has to be worked out.

Turning to the bigger debt issues facing America, the grueling truth is that the more Americans become reliant on government for its health care, the more aggressive it will have to be control those health care costs. And that means the bureaucrats are going to have a duty to start telling people how to live their lives.

What has been interesting thus far about the welfare state thus far has been how little nannying has actual been going on.  Bad behavior is not really punished and bad habits are not really discouraged. You can get all the Cheetoes you want with an EBT card for example.

But as the debt crisis becomes more pronounced, it will become more important for the regulators to find a way to encourage healthy behavior.

Mike Bloomberg is over the top, but that’s only because he is the first one.

The welfare state, to be sustained over the long-term, necessarily begets the nanny state.  Either that or the country goes broke.

Editor’s Note: John Feehery worked for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republicans in Congress. Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at