Wednesday, October 26, 2011
“We have the poor, and the poor have us.”
An old selectman with whom I worked twice a week for several years repeated that often when we discussed “General Assistance” cases, the only issues we kept confidential. Everything else was on the public record. He was almost old enough to be my grandfather and first served on the board back in the 1940s. Welfare existed at the local level then. Before President Johnson’s “Great Society” transformed everything, selectmen were “overseers of the poor.”
The old selectman's refrain had subtle implications. Regarding the first part: “We have the poor”: we have them to test us - to see what we’re made of. If it’s more blessed to give than to receive, we helped ourselves by giving to them. However, our judgement was also tested when deciding how much to help, ever cognizant that it was possible to help too much and cause the poor to become dependent - to lose the initiative to help themselves. The second part, “The poor have us” implied that not only did the poor have us to support them, they “had us by the short hairs,” as well. Basic human compassion obligated us to help when they faced existential threat, but we had to summon the toughness to say no when they were gaming the system. Such judgements were difficult enough to make at the local level, but even more so at the state level - even in a small state like Maine. When federal government mandates welfare in its many forms, such judgement becomes virtually impossible.During my nine years as General Assistance Administrator for my town of Lovell, Maine, I’d estimate that only one in three receiving assistance were in genuine need. Two out of three were scamming. In my particular circle of family, friends and acquaintances, there are several receiving all or a portion of their support from government. Some have legitimate needs, but for most I have my suspicions. I don’t think my circle is unusual. How is it in yours?
So what is poor anyway? Politically, it’s a volatile word and important to define. The federal government defines poor as below a certain income level for an individual, a couple, a family of three, four, five, and so forth. But numerical definitions mislead, especially considering that income derived from the underground economy is impossible to account for. Most of us would agree that someone is poor if (s)he hasn’t enough money for food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, so how many Americans are poor by that definition? Very few, if any. You might find some on the streets, but they tend to be alcoholic, drug addicted, or the deinstitutionalized mentally ill not taking their medications. A few weeks ago I noticed several of Portland, Maine’s street people participating in the “Occupy Wall Street” or OWS activities.Demonstrators at Denver OWS (from Atlas Shrugged)
Once I volunteered at a soup kitchen and noticed that most of those who came in for a free meal were overweight. I didn’t go back.
A Heritage Foundation study just last month reported that in American households classified as “poor”: 92% had a microwave oven; 82% had air conditioning; 74% had a car or truck and 30% had two or more; 64% had cable or satellite TV (34% with plasma or LCD televisions); half had personal computers and 42% had internet service; 70% have a VCR and 64% have a DVD player; 54% had video game systems. More than 90% lived in single-family homes or apartments. The rest live in mobile homes.Another at Denver OWS (from Atlas Shrugged)
The list goes on and remember: I’m talking about households our government classifies as “poor” here. Go back fifty years and people with these things would be considered prosperous. It’s hard to sympathize with people who turn out at OWS demonstrations and complain about “The 1%” of Americans who have more than they do. They join with communists, socialists, radical Muslims, public employee union thugs, and assorted whiners. They claim to be part of “the 99%” and they want to eliminate capitalism, the very system that enables the “poor” among us to overeat while watching cable TV in their warm homes.From politifake.com
Rather than be content with food, clothing, shelter, medical care, televisions, cars and X boxes, they’re consumed with misery when they visualize others who have more. They want government to take it away from “the 1%” and give it to them. Collectively, they’re the largest constituency of the Democrat Party which is driving our federal government into bankruptcy. They don’t seem to understand that benefits they’re already getting are unsustainable, that even if they took all the income from “the 1%” it would only be enough to keep the system going for 90 days.
This is what happens when federal government usurps authority from local government. If we don’t elect people in November, 2012 who begin dismantling the federal behemoth, it will bring us all down with a mighty crash.