Tag Archives: fairness

Crabby Old Guy Hat

It’s time to put on my crabby old guy hat again.

Beyond all the disagreements about how to deal with the problem, there is a broad consensus that our country is either spending too much or not taking in enough, or both. The sequester of funding for the Defense Department and domestic programs has made a lot of news, but that small reduction in spending hardly scratches the surface of the problem.

So, when I see and hear commercials for the Hoveround which promise the consumer that the folks at the Hoveround company will take care of all the paperwork so the motorized cart will be free, it makes me wonder how it can be so easy.

People who need such a conveyance and qualify for it under the rules are entitled to it. But, I have to wonder how many people who just prefer to sit instead of walking are getting these go karts via a “prescription” from a “doctor.”

For at least the last ten years there have been radio ads encouraging people to sign up for food stamps, at least on Chicago radio stations. Once again, if a family is genuinely in need, they should seek out help. But, recently it was said that one in seven people are now receiving food stamps from a country that is 16 trillion dollars in debt.

The number of people on disability income seems to set a new record each month. Truly disabled people should have those benefits, but some pundits have speculated that as some people’s unemployment compensation runs out, they are able to find a “doctor” to certify them as disabled in order to keep the government money coming.

The problem is that the government doesn’t have any money – and in fact, it never does. Anything the government has ever had, since the nation was founded, comes from the people who work and pay taxes. We elect people to determine how much money is needed and how it should be spent, and I think we haven’t done a great job of that over the years.

Finally, I tip my old guy hat to the companies who make their livings helping people who owe tens of thousands of dollars in federal taxes to pay pennies on the dollar. I dislike taxes as much as anyone, but we’re all supposed to pay our share, and for the life of me I don’t understand why someone who owes the IRS $120,000 should get a break, and pay only $30,000. What’s the incentive to do the right thing?

For years people have complained about “welfare queens” and people spending government funds inappropriately or illegally. I’m very reluctant to cast aspersions, since there are many truly needy people and families. The fact that some abuse our government’s largesse shouldn’t taint the importance of that help for others.

However, I think everyone would benefit from a tightening up of all government programs, and incentives to avoid or emerge from those costly programs to a life of more self-reliance.

But then again, I’m a crabby old guy.

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Gives and Give-Nots

In civics class our teacher, Mr. Thompson, taught us that many conflicts in society, and between nations, had to do with the disparity of wealth. He, and the textbooks, referred to the bifurcation of societies as creating two groups: the “haves” and the “have-nots.”

If I remember correctly, he stated that there have always been haves and have-nots, but that the exposure of the have-nots to the lifestyles of the haves via television programs and movies fueled what could be called jealousy, or a perceived sense of unfairness.

Forty-three years later, I’m a friend of Dr. Thompson on Facebook, and the cries of unfairness have again come into vogue. The Occupy Wall Street crowd talks about how the top 1% of the wealthy should have their money taken away – out of fairness. The President hints that the key to a balanced budget is to tax the rich more heavily.

Michael Moore suggested last year that we take everything from people earning $250,000 or more, and everything from the Fortune 500 companies, and that would pay the federal budget of $3.7 trillion for 2011. Other than such actions being tantamount to grand larceny, the real problem is that it would only take care of one year. If we had done that, we’d be even further behind now, because there would be no wealthy people left to steal from.

So, the era of the haves and the have-nots continues. But, there is another era going on at the same time. There are people who receive money from the government and people who pay money to the government. Let’s call them the gives and the give-nots.

Up until FDR’s New Deal there weren’t many give-nots, and those who were in dire straits turned to charity and religious groups for help. Since then, many programs such as welfare, AFDC, Social Security, Social Security Disability Income, unemployment compensation, Food Stamps and Medicare have emerged. Each program has helped a lot of people in need, and some who weren’t.

Let’s take Disability Income as an example. In 1967, when the Disability program started, there were 41 people working for each person on Disability. Today, there are fewer than 16 people working for each one on Disability. Many of the $10,770,152 former workers and their families now receiving Disability payments truly need and deserve them. However, like all federal programs, this one is fraught with fraud. In fact, as the 99 weeks of unemployment payments run out, some folks transition into Disability payments with the help of a sympathetic doctor.

With one in seven people on food stamps, millions on unemployment insurance for nearly two years, and other millions taking advantage of government help, it’s no wonder our budget deficit is out of control. There are too few gives left to pay for the give-nots.

I know this probably sounds awful and mean spirited, but I don’t mean it that way. I’m grateful to have a good job and no disabilities to prevent me from doing it. I received unemployment compensation for six months back during the Carter recession, and I was humbled by that experience, and understand what a life-line such a program can be. I also know that all workers, past and present, have paid into Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance, even though all of those programs are, or soon will be operating on borrowed money.

I guess my point is that Americans were once too proud to take government handouts, while many now seem very proud to take them, even, in some cases, if they’re not needed or deserved. I don’t see how our country can be okay if so few people are paying for so many. And, I don’t know how a society that discourages initiative can remain great.

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Filed under 2012