Choose Your Welfare System
Choose Your Welfare System
I will pose here a question
with a seemingly obvious answer – a rhetorical one of sorts. Most likely to you
and definitely to me, the answer indeed is obvious, but unfortunately for far too
many, the answer is what is termed a non sequitur. Here is the question:
If you accept the fact that the government is going to extort outrageous tax
dollars from the producers of society, would you rather that the money be spent
distributing handouts to people who have no intention of contributing positively
to the economy, or to companies who employ those willing to be productive and thus
ease the overall burden on everyone?
Most politicians, whose primary function
in life is, based on empirical evidence, to get elected and then remain in office,
know from ample experience that rewarding certain types of bad behavior can have
its advantages. For instance, if a lazy person knows that he can indulge his inclinations
and is content with just eking out a continued existence, then he is happy to spend
his days living off the hard work of others. If we are fortunate, he will at best
cause no trouble for the rest of us beyond the bite he takes out of our paychecks.
At worst – and this is all too often the case – his idle lifestyle will provide
opportunity for causing mischief. That, of course, will require that more be withheld
from our paychecks in the form of taxes to police, prosecute, incarcerate, rehabilitate,
and then monitor him his entire life. Generations of such people have been created
and coddled all for the sake of maintaining a nice, fat, somewhat reliable voter
base for politicians.
That same slothful group, with much more time on their
hands than working people can spare, are rallied to action and fed with a constant
barrage of lectures on how the working people of the country are responsible for
their woes, and that more must be exacted from their oppressors in the name of fairness.
The government now runs ads practically begging people to go apply for food stamps,
go to free clinics, or claim some sort of protected class status to qualify for
yet another type of handout. Independent businesses thrive now on teaching people
how to get the taxpayers to fund whatever it is they perceive that they need or
maybe just want). Anyone who dares to protest the largess availed to the complainers
is called uncaring or racist or xenophobic or insensitive or hateful or <insert
your favorite self-debasing pejorative here>. Remember the Katrina hurricane
aftermath, where looters filled shopping carts with TVs, Xboxes, and sporting goods
while casually strolling through damaged Wal-Marts? How many times were we told
not to criticize them since they were just getting something back from the system
that had exploited them?
So, like thermal runaway in an amplifier, a tiny
overstress provides the initial momentum, and the entire system feeds on itself
and increases in amplitude beyond the intended safe operational limit until finally
a breaking point is reached. Unlike the amplifier, though, that has no capacity
for increasing its own failure point when needed, society has politicians to wring
more life out of the working people so that the welfare system can be sustained
and increased to an even higher level. In the U.S. alone, we transfer trillions
of dollars per year in the form of welfare, urban development, entitlements (off-budget
items like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), unemployment, and other programs
directly to individuals as well as to organizations that dole out goods and services
(with a tidy cut for themselves, of course).
It wouldn’t be so bad if it
was permissible to require the lazy class to perform public services for handouts
from the public trough, but they cannot even be asked to work for their booty. But
making a second- or third-generation gang member or welfare queen pick up trash
or dig a ditch would hurt his or her delicate sensitivities, don’t you know?
Now let us consider the other form of government expenditure - often referred
to by the aforementioned class, and by those who feed that system by shaking the
rest of us down – as “corporate welfare.” A moral equivalence is made between the
two that does not even come close to passing logical muster.
When the government
writes a check to a private company for providing a good and/or a service, that
money is being used to pay productive people to do work. It contributes to an overall
sense of well-being and pride in accomplishment by those performing the labor. It
does not matter whether the person is a manager, engineer, clerk, janitor, or accountant,
each is actively engaged in a vocation of choice. According to numerous recent surveys,
a relatively small percentage of people work at jobs they despise (particularly
in countries with generous social welfare programs, where it is easy to subsist
on government largess, aka taxpayer money).
One can argue over the equity
– or inequity – of how the funds are distributed within the companies receiving
government contracts, but the fact is that generally a trickle down effect occurs.
With all the requirements placed on recipients of government contracts, especially
large ones, employees benefit handily from the corporation’s well being in the form
of health care, life insurance, retirement assistance, facilities (work environment),
protection against discrimination, and a host of other creature comforts. Yes, in
the larger companies the CEO probably makes a hundred times what the floor sweeper
makes, but that is generally the case in a free market regardless of where the contracts
originate. It is interesting how the same people who complain about a CEO making
a million dollars a year while he/she makes thirty thousand, will cheer on a sports
figure who just signed a multi-million dollar contract while the guy who wipes said
super star’s sweat off the locker room bench makes a pittance.
there is a lot of waste and fraud that occurs within the government contracting
realm, but the difference between that and the waste and fraud going on in the social
welfare system is that at least with the former the money is going to people who
work for a living and provide jobs for others who work for a living. That is not
an endorsement of the behavior, just a recognition of the difference.
I write from the perspective of an American in a grueling election year (and as
one who just paid a sickening amount of income taxes), but in reading extensively
on the condition of other countries, we actually have it better than many of the
very socialist countries. Those of you who live under such systems are painfully
aware of the portion of your hard-earned euros, pounds, or whatever, that are extorted
from your paychecks. All of us who have chosen to be net contributors to the world
have long paid the price in many forms for those who leech off of our willingness
to shrug it off and hope that the politicians are merciful enough to keep the pain
level just short of unbearable. That is the key to their success at their political
craft – they know just how hard to push. Take a little more from us. Give a little
more to them. Build the voter base of the lazy until it reaches critical mass to
where their numbers outweigh ours. At that point, the biggest challenge is actually
getting the lazy out to vote.
Every time I read of proposed budget cuts
to NASA or to funding of university/corporate research or to highway construction/maintenance
or to many other programs that promote healthy activities for the advancement of
society in order to divert funds to failed programs that only augment and perpetuate
the lazy, my head wants to explode. The government refuses to tie benefits to the
lazy to a demonstration of changes in their own habits that keep them down, but
then we see reports where IBM or Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman are temporarily
banned from receiving government contracts until they prove that their “bad” habits
or practices have been changed. It is utter insanity, and perhaps the most exasperating
aspect of it all is that the producers of the world have the power to change the
system, but do not.