Signs posted in national parks read, “Don’t feed the animals.” When animals are fed, they stop hunting.

If you keep feeding the alligator, the alligator will eventually eat you.

Zoo animals are never released to hunt for food, because they can’t. They never had to.

Such is the analogy of the welfare state. Provide sustenance to people who are otherwise capable of supporting themselves, and they will learn to live off hand-outs rather than earn their own way. Eventually, that well runs dry.

Study the tragic life of one man. At 18, Bernard had a drug problem. His divorced father sought medical, psychological and other treatment which cost into the thousands in 1978. Also deemed bi-polar, Bernard was eligible for “disability” according to doctors. Old Dad arranged to be the payee, which helped Bernard obtain disability compensation from Social Security, to be applied toward treatments.

Bernard ran away at age 19, to be missing for three years. Dad wrote the government a letter cancelling all government payments and to remove Bernard from disability rolls. During that time, Bernard had married a pothead stripper and moved to a far away state. Each held odd jobs until one day, the Social Security office summoned him — out of the blue — to the local office. They informed Bernard that the government owed him $16,000 in back payments for the time they didn’t know where to send the checks.

What a bonanza for a couple who enjoyed growing their own marijuana. Shortly after Bernard’s payments resumed, (yes, resumed) the wife got pregnant. After the baby’s birth, she got pregnant again. For every child, the couple was awarded more payments.

Bernard worked occasionally in restaurants, but never long enough at any place to jeopardize his government check. If he showed he could hold a job, he would lose the money. Eventually, he and his woman exploited the welfare systems as a sole source for support. That included free medical care for the entire family, on your dime. Could he and she have worked at a regular job and paid their own way? Absolutely, but what for?

Fast forward to 2012. Little has changed. Bernard’s children were raised by a joint venture of a children’s home and a pair of loving grandparents because Bernard and his mate gradually lost the capacity to be responsible. Bernard got divorced and has since lived with two other women, also on government assistance…naturally.

Now over fifty, with fried brains and an addict to pain killers, Bernard has lived in a twilight zone tethered to government welfare and Section Eight housing and food stamps which is useful for buying extra pills on the street. Now, he is virtually unable to work if he had to. The welfare system enabled him until he became truly disabled. Over the years, Bernard would lose all his teeth to extractions, each worth more refills of pain medicine.

I know Bernard. He’s a member of my family. I watched like a bystander as his sense of ambition and incentives to be independent completely vanished, thanks to a generous government that refused to sever the umbilical cord of entitlements.

Welfare fraud statistics are inherently inaccurate. They only itemize the people who are actually caught. Many more illegitimate recipients are not caught, and they continue to mooch off the system. Bernard would have been considered “legitimate” in their records. Multiply him by a few million.

Folks who receive $15,000 to $20,000 a year in unemployment are supposed to claim they are looking for work. Undoubtedly, many are. Undoubtedly, many lie. We are supposed to accept them at their word. This is where millions of welfare folks decide to live together without getting married, because the benefits double. According to the OMB, unemployment compensations in FY 2012 will be in excess of $64 billion.

Today, there are 46 million people receiving food stamps, compared to 32 million when the current president took office. That can buy a lot more than food. It also buys a lot of voters.  If there are people who think that all those folks are in true need of food stamps, I have some beachfront property for sale on the moon.

We are fast becoming a full entitlement society, ceding to government the reins of our individual lives, which will create an entire culture of Bernards, sucking the taxpayers dry, aided and abetted by the government.

The tax dollars that Bernard has collected every month has not only helped him to remain unemployed, but hooked to his habits. In truth, Uncle Sam didn’t help someone to become productive, it enabled an addict. Taxpayers and politicians continue to feed into the handout scam with good intentions, when in fact they are helping millions to remain dependent, rather than independent.

We can multiply Bernard’s story by several million, like those animals that are fed without having to hunt. The costs are incalculable, not only in money, but in the waste of human potential.

Bernard’s name is fictitious, but he’s not.