Saturday, October 31, 2009

Do You Really Believe That?

Recently, I was discussing various government run entitlement institutions with someone I know. He was on the side of people receiving entitlement benefits without accountability or scrutiny. His argument was that there are people in this world who cannot survive without a boost from the government or help to pay for "necessary expenses". When I asked him about phone service, or birth control, or pregnancy tests being necessary expenses, he agreed that the government has the responsibility to provide for people to receive these things because they might not survive without them. I then asked him if he thought it was unfair that I have to pay for all these so-called "necessary expenses" out of my own pocket while people receive them for free. His reply was that it is not unfair because I have the ability to pay for that due to my "good fortune" in life.

Now, let me start by saying that I am not completely against certain government "welfare" programs in general. Indeed, my family utilized the benefit of welfare when they went back to college later in life, after having 3 beautiful children. Circumstances beyond their control required them to take necessary action to keep us fed, clothed, and housed while they got back on their feet. I, as a child, have been the recipient of such "entitlement benefits" and won't refute the blessing that it was to have when times demanded my parents to use it.

Let me also state clearly, so there isn't any confusion, my parents used it as a means to and end - not as a lifestyle. When my father and mother graduated from college, life looked up. Suddenly, they had good jobs, could afford to rent a decent house, and were able to lift themselves up (I said lift themselves up) and begin to, again, contribute to the economy through hard work and perseverance. Since then, my father has been a 6-figure income earner many years over and has more than paid into the system which he utilized nearly 20 years ago. His income taxes alone are more than most school teachers in Washington make annually. Additionally, prior to returning to college to start a new career, my father spent a decade putting his life on the line daily as a police officer. If anyone was deserving of a little boost during economic hardship, it was he.

I remember those days. Going into the DSHS office was a monthly ordeal, if I recall correctly. I remember seeing a lot of young mothers with a lot of kids in tow. I remember dating a young woman with a young child. I remember taking her to the DSHS (against my wish) and seeing a lot of mothers with a bunch of children in tow. Now, I listen to people talk about entitlement benefits as if the government actually owes them something.

For what?

Is it because you have not had the "good fortune" I had, as mentioned above? What is it about your life that makes you entitled to benefits and not myself? Why must I contribute to the sustaining of your lifestyle at the expense of my own? Why must my wealth be stolen from me to give you pregnancy tests, or free child birth? Why did I have to pay over $2,000 to have a son when people below a certain income level, based on a sliding rule, are able to have them for free?

All too often, I have seen people who use entitlement benefits, such as welfare, WIC, and others as a lifestyle instead of a means to an end. When mothers and fathers, who are completely capable of working, but choose not to, take welfare benefits, that is a lifestyle decision. Instead of using the benefit of welfare or WIC to assist in going to college, reach for a better life and pull themselves up, they just buy milk and groceries and do the same thing when the next food stamps arrive.

Long ago, I made the decision to never go onto any welfare programs or put myself into situations, either through carelessness or poor judgement, that would render me a slave to that system. I can say that, in my adult life, I have never used any government entitlement program or benefit at the expense of others for my own gain. All the money I have ever spent, I earned. All the food I have ever eaten, I bought with my own money. All the places I've ever lived were not subsidized by anyone - I paid the rent out of my own pocket with the money I earned. All the gas I burn is paid for with my own money. The cellphone I have is paid for with money I earn. The college education I obtained was bought and paid for with money I earned and loans that I took out, which I am paying back with more money that I earn. Do you see the trend here? If not, let me spell it out for you.

I have earned everything I have ever consumed. Be it a phone, food, a car, fuel, housing, child birth (wife's delivery of course) and child care, to movies, to vacations, clothing, electricity, running water, and everything else in this world that money is used to pay for, I HAVE PAID FOR WITHOUT GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE!!!

The argument usually degenerates from there. Since most people don't have a leg to stand on when I throw that little gem out, they resort to spouting crap like, "You're just lucky" or "Well, I'm glad you had everything given to you" or "We can't all be as fortunate as you" or "you're selfish" or "you just had a lot of opportunities in life" and the worst of all... "You are just blessed."

The only thing I have been blessed with is the ability to see that lifestyle use of government entitlement programs makes you nothing more than a common thief, and worth the respect of one. I once told my wife, "If I lived like that, I'd take down every mirror in my house because I wouldn't be able to look at myself anymore." That's a true statement. I use my work ethic to help define the kind of man I am. I am not the guy who sluffs off in life, aimlessly wandering from job to job, quitting when it gets tough, or being fired for incompetence on a regular basis. I am a man who as the drive and ambition to take what I want from life and work hard to have gainful employment, and shoot for a career in whatever field I choose.

There is one thing that echoes through my life up to this point: hard work. Lifestyle entitlement recipients must cringe at this. I hear them bitching about long lines at the DSHS or complaining that their WIC check was late, or that they had to actually buy their own cellphone. For all those things you complain about getting for free, I have had to work hard to obtain. I literally bleed for my life because I, oftentimes, bloody my knuckles because I'm focused on doing good work and not worrying about the dirt, sweat, and blood on my hands. I don't let things like a headache, or a cold get in my way. I won't settle for what little scraps the government would have for me. I want to eat steak, so I'll earn it. By the time I am ready to retire, my body will have been thoroughly used up, and I'll know it was because I worked as hard as I could to provide a lifestyle for my family, and a legacy that I can be proud of.

I've had as many opportunities as everyone else in this life. There are opportunities everywhere for everyone. The problem is that people are too lazy to go find them. Opportunity doesn't knock - that's a myth. You have to go kick over rocks and knock on doors to find it. Sometimes the pursuit of opportunities leads to other opportunities. This is often confused as good fortune. However, my argument states that if you weren't busy kicking over all the opportunistic rocks you could, then that good fortune would have never come to you.

My current career, as a generator technician, was viewed by some peers as "good fortune". Indeed, the job did sort of fall into my lap. I was doing well in college, my professor really liked my attitude and work ethic (not to mention my often quarterly 4.0 grade point average), and so when my current employer came a knocking, he sent me to see them. The good fortune didn't end there. After making it through the first, in a battery of job interviews, I had the good fortune of doing well on the initial examination that my company administered to me before deciding to hire me. Then, after all that hard work, I was given the "good fortune" of being gainfully employed. Fast forward nearly 3 years, and I still have the "good fortune" of being employed because I do hard work and I do good work, and I never complain.

Are you seeing a pattern here? My so-called good fortune isn't from some stroke of luck. It stems from the hard work and perseverance that define me. As a result of all that hard work, I have been blessed, as it were, to live the lifestyle I do. However, that "blessing" would have never come to me if I didn't do all the hard work. All the blessings I've had in my life wouldn't have ever come to pass if I didn't do all the things I did to set everything in motion. If I never applied for student loans, I never would have been able to go to college. If I didn't work my ass off (almost literally) in college, I would have never had the opportunity to work for my current employer. If that never happened, it is possible that I would have never been able to afford to buy my house, or have nice toys, or even be able to afford the food that makes me fat.

Nothing is free. Nothing was ever given to me. My family was poor for almost my entire young life. Only after I left my parent's home did my father see a large upswing in his annual earnings. Early in my adult life, I would eat popcorn or Top Ramen for dinner because it was all I could afford. If I was feeling rich one day, I'd even drop an egg into my noodles for a little extra flair. I would juggle paying for gas and food, and would go without either/or depending on what paycheck I was anticipating. Paying for car insurance was always a huge production for me. Even buying something as cheap as soap was something I had to budget and sacrifice for.

Before you call me selfish, let me reiterate that there is no free lunch. What recipients of entitlements get is the collective earnings of a large segment in our society that have done exactly what I have done - work hard and succeed. Using entitlement benefits as a lifestyle is fraudulent and it is theft. The redistribution of wealth from those who work hard to those who don't work at all is appalling. I would never let you steal cable from me. I would never let you steal my car. I would never let you steal gas from my car. I would never let you break into my house and steal what you want. Why should I let you steal from my paycheck? I am not selfish. I simply want accountability from the segments of society that aren't doing what I'm doing.

My rise to success in my life wasn't from "luck" or "having everything given to me" or "good fortune" or "just having opportunities" , being "selfish", or even being "blessed." Indeed, many of these points play into it, but behind all the luck, the good fortune, the opportunities, and all my blessings in life is one thing: hard work. It is the thing that the average person doesn't see. If you are my neighbor, you see me leave early in the morning, while it is still dark and cold, and oftentimes you see me come home late in the evening when it is again dark and cold. You see me mowing my lawn on a Saturday, driving my car to the grocery store, standing in line at the bank, talking on my cellphone on my front porch. You come to my house and see a modest, yet nice big house. Then you think, "ah, must be nice" without thinking about what it must be like to walk in my shoes for a day. I am a husband to a beautiful wife, a father to a beautiful son, and a soon-to-be proud dad of a beautiful daughter. As a husband, father, protector, and provider, it is my job to ensure that my wife and children have all the opportunities they need to be safe, happy, and successful in their lives.

Charity, in the sense of wealth redistribution, does not top my list. I give to charity often. However, the charities I choose to give to are of my choosing and in my time. I have priorities of my own, people I love, and life worth living and fighting for. If I do not like the idea of having my paycheck garnished by the government to give to charity-case lifestyle welfare recipients, that is my prerogative. I also have a vote, and my vote counts. Every time I see another pro-entitlement initiative on the ballot, I always check the NO box. Sometimes I am successful. Other times I am not. That's the name of the game, but the fight is on. Lifestyle entitlement recipients may win small victories for their cause here and there, but in the end they only stunt their own individual growth and squander the legacy of their parents. In the end, it is only your pride on the line. If you don't have to fight for anything, you'll be a slave to everything. These people may think they are getting a huge boost and may think it is a blessing, but entitlement programs, like anything else government, are wolves in sheep's clothing. They take from those who work hard to be a motivating force in our economy and give it to those who do nothing but squander their right to pick themselves up and make a life for themselves.

Okay, so if not welfare, then what? What is my solution to this growing crisis? It is simple: make welfare entitlement a fixed low interest loan with limitations. Similar to student loans, this welfare loan is a need based loan, on the good ole sliding scale, that gives the recipient the funds and the time to get back on their feet. When my parents took advantage of welfare back in the early 90's, they simply used it to get through college and then they got out. That is exactly how welfare should be used. Like I previously said, I'm not against welfare. I'm only against it in its current form; a form which is too big and corrupt.

What about people who abuse the system? There is always a loser that tries to shirk their duties when it comes to responsibility. There is a penalty for that. Be it community service (I like the term forced labor), jail time, fines, removing children from the home, and on up, there is a penalty for everything. I'm not saying it is perfect, but if you make the penalties for screwing with the system harsh enough, most people will fall in line.

I don't think babies should ever be free. Yes, I'm one of those cruel meanies who knows that health care is a privilege - not a right. If you can't pay all up front, then do what my wife and I did: make payments. There is no reason one person should be able to give birth for free while others have to pay to give birth. It's all or nothing, people. Since it costs money to take up space in the delivery room, I vote that everyone pays. If you think that is harsh, then chew on this: for every free delivery you have, you are taking someone else's livelihood and money away from them. They aren't giving it to you. You are taking someone else's money without their consent.

Establishing limitations on funds for welfare entitlement (welfare checks, WIC, birthing, etc) will stop many people from abusing the system. Many will find that it is actually easier to live their lives when they work for their money. I've never been against work first programs or college entitlement systems. That is reserved for people who are trying to get back on their feet. Pell grants, student loans, and the like help people use the programs to make their way to getting a better life. In the end, many will succeed and the demand for other entitlement programs will drop significantly. This leads to more money in the system to help others who genuinely need it.

Will I ever take advantage of entitlement programs. I don't plan on it. However, I cannot tell you the future. I'm a diesel technician - not a fortune teller. I cannot plan for, or expect something to happen that will cause me to need any form of assistance. I've made solid decisions in my life that have helped me get to where I am without it. Lindsay and I waited until we were capable of providing a good life before having children. Sorry, but in my personal opinion, having kids before you can even think about providing for yourself is ludicrous. If you can't afford to feed yourself, or pay for gas, or even worry about car insurance, what in the hell makes you think you can afford kids? This doesn't jive with people in my religion. It seems as soon as they get married they start popping them out one by one. I won't judge their situation though. Maybe young couples in my religion go for an education before they even get married. I'm not opposed to that. In our case, my wife also works. She does it because she also has pride in herself and does not want to be a part of the slavery that is welfare entitlements. Because of her sacrifice, we can proudly say that we aren't fraudulent nor are we a drain on the system. There are many programs we could easily take advantage of if only she didn't work, or if we made just a little bit less. However, we both know that in order to look at ourselves in the morning, we need to be doing as much as we can, given our capacity, to do the best we can.

I think you've read enough. Let me end by simply saying that it isn't enough just to survive. You need to live. And in order to live, you need to work hard.


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