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,
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
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.
Admittedly, 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.
Obviously, 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.