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Should The Government Help Beggars?
That Depends: How Many More Beggars Would You Like?
Should the government help beggars? I don’t think so. I believe strongly in helping folks who’re down on their luck, but I don’t think the government should give ’em handouts. You get used to those sweet free paydays, and it really takes the wind out of your job-searching sails. I’d rather have the guvmint do its part by chopping down the rioting tax-and-spend tree (rather than continually fertilizing it), and free the rest of us up to run our businesses, employ those beggars, and contribute to charities that really help the down-and-out. And of course, as has been demonstrated time and again, less government means more employment, more taxpayers, and more actual tax revenue to pay for the really important stuff like nice roads and the Department of Defense.
True story: years ago, when I was a struggling newspaper editor and breadwinner (barely) for a young, growing family, I saw something I’ll never forget. I was out at the interstate, at a gas station in the middle of nowhere (ten miles from town), and I saw a young couple pull up outside in a nice-looking, later-model SUV. Mom got out of the passenger side, along with the baby (bundled up in an infant carrier), and a ratty-looking pizza box with something written on the back. They smooched, and Dad drove off. Mom, young and able-looking (probably in her early twenties) then held up the pizza-box sign for incoming motorists to see.
It said “STRANDED – THANKS FOR ANY HELP.”
I was in a hurry (after all, I was working my job), so I left shortly thereafter. She had already collected “help” from two suckers – er, Samaritans – by the time I drove away. I saw Mom and Baby there a few other times, and once saw Dad stop to pick them up around “quitting time.”
That was all true… now, I’ll make stuff up. I’ve often imagined a conversation I might have had with Pandhandle Patty (as I dubbed her) if I’d ever had the courage.
“How’s business?” I might ask. “Booming!” Patty would reply. I’d tell her how much I made, after taxes, at my 100-hour-per-week job, and she’d laugh, saying she banked three times as much (not unrealistic), and not only paid no taxes, but (as an unemployed person) collected many government benefits. That would obviate my next question, which would’ve been “Why don’t you get a job?”
“But you’re not really stranded, technically,” I’d add. “Isn’t this fraud?
“I’m a highly-compensated professional actress,” Patty would respond. Having also been a professional actor, I would have to agree that she was making much more than she’d make on a traditional stage, at least with her clothes on.
“And look at the start in show-biz I’m able to give my two-month-old daughter!” she might add.
I worked hard to schlepp my daughters to dance classes and auditions, and again, they’d probably have been envious. That baby was a money-maker, and it was easy work, especially since her mom could easily afford plenty of blankets and clothes.
The lesson, though, was that begging beggars beget begging beggars (say that five times fast). Ever see a panhandler doing well on a particular corner, only to see four more there the next time you drive by? And I’m sure I would have had a hard time convincing Patty to give up show biz and get a job (especially in the newspaper business).
As our nation continues its debate (fight) over entitlement reform, we beg (forgive me) this essential question: are we a society of entrepreneurs, or of beggars? The more we push toward redistribution of wealth, the more wealth we’ll eventually run out of – leaving even the beggars, well, begging. If we can swing back to being a nation of wealth-builders, though, there will actually be more wealth for everyone.
So, yeah! Let’s do that second thing I said. I’m OK with being guaranteed the true right to pursue happiness, rather than the illusory right to the government’s idea of happiness itself.
by Michael D. Hume, M.S.
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