Sunday, March 28, 2010

Entitlement?

Sunday is that awkward point that should be a day of rest, yet there are always things to be done before work on Monday. I've been trying to stay motivated to finish needed tasks today, but I took time for breakfast out, with a collection of H.P. Lovecraft short stories as my reading of choice. After reading "The Dunwich Horror," it occurred to me that in many horror stories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the world was often saved by librarians. Librarians who were, of course, versed in the "forbidden books". While all of these stories are fantasy, it also occurred to me that if they were mirrored by any real life event, that would probably leave just myself and my friend Phil to save humanity from demonic monsters. We're the only librarians that I know of who have actually read "those books". Not like there's any pressure in that, or anything.

Of course, my friend and I may not have those books, as we've been selling off many pieces of our respective collections to battle another demon--a miserable economy. In reading various comments about the Obama administration on blogs and on friends' Facebook pages, I was struck by one particular comment yesterday. Someone suggested that what Obama is doing is bad, because they had "worked hard all their life for their money" and now "had to give it to people who didn't want to work but felt entitled." I realized that this is the core myth surrounding the secondary myth of American socialism. It's a mantra my father has recited for years. What that implies, of course, is that anyone who receives a "government handout" is the equivalent of a welfare recipient. Through the eyes of those with that viewpoint, a welfare recipient is defined as someone who is manipulating the system so they don't have to work. In short, they are "lazy", and should "pull themselves up by their bootstraps".

To a certain extent, you may be astonished to learn that I agree with this point of view. There certainly are people out there who milk the system. Women who pop out children who they then neglect just to collect checks from the government. Men and women who get falsified doctor's notes to get disability payments when they are perfectly healthy. People who seem to be living better than the rest of the struggling masses, and they get all their money from government programs. When the Clinton administration wanted to give social security and medicare benefits to illegal aliens, there was what I consider to be a justified outcry. You don't give non-citizens privileges that your own citizens can't get much of the time. I also lump in this category the big bail-out given to banks (who then proceeded to take that money and throw a $10 million party with it). The latter should have been heavily regulated, except regulations were thrown out through a back-door deal a couple of years ago. Taxpayer money should not be used to reward corrupt behavior.

On the other hand, the implication is that anyone receiving welfare or any kind of government benefits is a lazy so-and-so. While the lazy ones are certainly out there, I would suggest that the majority of people in need are people who don't have the opportunity to make the money they need. Some are sick either mentally or physically (or both), some have had a major crisis that left them with nothing. I ask the folks who say, "It's my money and I worked hard for it and no one else should get it" to consider--what if it happens to you? What if you have a terrible accident that leaves you physically unable to work? What if you have a wealthy spouse who suddenly leaves you, and they have a good lawyer who ensures you get nothing? What if that spouse took off and left you with a ton of unpaid taxes you didn't know about? What about the tanking of the stock market 2 years ago, when a lot of retirees lost half or more of their savings? If your family has no money to help you, what are you going to do if the government doesn't provide it? It's easy to discount everyone else as lazy because of a few horror stories about the lazy ones. As Ammaji once said, "The only way to understand the poor is to live with the poor." Not many of us want to do that, but if you've done any charitable work at all, you realize that the homeless and destitute are not largely "lazy" people. And like it or not, we're all part of the same community. When we help others, we help ourselves in the end.

When it comes to health care--I can remember a time when I was in graduate school full time and worked 3 part-time jobs. In fact, I cannot recall a time in my working life when I did not have 2 or 3 jobs, the present included. I hardly consider myself lazy, yet I have never had adequate health coverage. When I was in graduate school I had NO health coverage, except for a clinic at the school that I attended. As I get older, I dread the inevitable life and health changes that are already starting. I can't afford to get old or to get sick--even with all the work I do, with all the savings I have.

It's easy to get jaded by the manipulative and the entitled. God knows I do. I hate it when capable people play victim. But working hard and making money is not enough. Not all of us are millionaires, no matter how hard we work. Life can hand us very unexpected and consequently very expensive things. I'm sure most of the people opposed to "government handouts" would not say no to someone truly in need. But once again, the media only focuses on the exceptions. Or, we hear about the exceptions in our community. The exceptions need to be dealt with by stricter regulation, not by denying everyone in need.

Is this post turning political again? OK, someone IS going to slap me next week. I think I'll go back to reading some more Lovecraft. I just read "The Silver Key" and it almost made me cry...

2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Very good points- My mom has a friend who is a member of the "tea party" and she is in her 70's. Of course she is against Obama's health care plan and yet she had Medicare- I love all these senior citizens on Medicare who don't think anyone else is entitled to universal health care. They are such hypocrites.
By the way- my mom hates the tea party...but she forgives her friend.

Holly said...

The thing that really enrages me is that the same people who bawl about the "lazy parasites" are the same ones that give corporations tax breaks, try to keep the minimum wage low and don't force companies to give their employees health insurance, even though they don't want the gov't to give them heatlh care coverage. My bro and sis both work for wal-mart. My sis could probably get a better job (though she is an assistant manager of her dept now), but my brother? He's not that intelligent or talented, he'll never make management or anything like that. There is no way he could get into college never mind finish a degree. How is he supposed to survive? How is he supposed to raise a family on less than $10 an hour? Walmart is the biggest corp in the world...but they get away with paying their employees crap wages and no one links this to why we need so many gov't programs to subsidize housing, food, etc. If my brother made a real living wage, he wouldn't need all that stuff. The working poor is a real travesty in this country. If you have a full time job, you should be able to afford things like an apartment and food and diapers for your kid.