Thursday, June 4, 2009


BlueBird, over at Hedonic Adjustment posed an interesting question in his Tuesday post.

Bluebird asks his question in the context of union employees, but I think it is a fine question to ask generally: Why is the answer to inequity to make everybody as worse off as the worst?

How many times do we hear that "people on welfare" get too many freebies? Or complaints that too much of Obama's stimulus program is going to folks in foreclosure rather than those who are actually making their mortgage payments? Or rants against union employees with good healthcare benefits?

Why is the knee-jerk response to take away those benefits from the poor and working class rather than work to expand them into the middle class?

I understand envy. It's not like I don't get jealous of people who make more than I do, are smarter than I am, or have more opportunities than I do. But I don't see how my being jealous means they (whoever "they" might be) should make do with less.

Just so you know where I'm coming from--I work for a non-profit. Although I am an considered a "professional," my entire program is unionized, and I am currently president of my local. I make quite a bit less than I would if I worked for a private corporation. But I do have excellent health benefits (for which I and my recently unblocked arteries are duly grateful!).

Others with my education could have my health benefits if they worked here, but first, they would have to accept my pay. Like that is an option!

So is the answer to say that if one group can't have (because their employer can't or won't pay for it) my level of health benefits, then I shouldn't have it either?

In a different context, (and referring to a past post by Morrison at All Doors Considered), should the fact that an uneducated Deli worker from the projects got financial help from the government to move her family into a suburban home while a newly unemployed, college-educated banker is facing homelessness mean that we should never have helped the deli worker? Would taking funds away from her do anything for the about-to-be-homeless executive?

Somehow, I can't imagine those who "envy" the deli worker would really want to live her life in order to reap her "government benefits."


Florence said...

I seem to do better when I focus my energy on my own business, goals, and life than when I start looking at how "unfair" things may or nay not be. I can look at situations and see how I would make sometimes different choices but I don't find it particularly helpful to me to get tangled up in "It's not fair." Life is like that. IMHO

Florence said...

BTW, Grace have you ever checked out Ronni Bennet's Time Goes By blog? I think you would really enjoy it.

Morrison said...

Thanks for the link.

I don't have any 'envy' towards a deli worker. But I do have some questions.
Where did the deli worker get the hands-up to improve her stance in life? She got it from the federal tax dollars people like the corporate executive paid out over her/his career.

Most non-profits or government jobs make their money from donations (the wealthy) or from tax revenues. As more and more of the private sector disappears, tell me who is going to be paying the taxes to keep the non-profit and government people funded?

Now that the corporate executive has reached rock bottom, who is going to give a helping hand to her and her family? Wouldn't her family benefit also from a federal housing voucher? Why can't both ladies get a federal housing voucher? After all, the corporate executive had been paying taxes for decades while the former deli worker had not.

Who gets to choose who gets and who doesn't?

You can't keep taking from the rich to raise up the poor. It's unsustainable. Eventually, everyone goes on the same playing level. Mediocrity.

As for taking benefits away from the poor, California would be a great example of that. Their funding of government programs to help the needy has bankrupted a whole state. Now, in order to survive, CA has to cut all welfare programs, medical coverage for the children, statewide layoffs yada, yada, yada and on and on.

Wouldn't it had been more feasible to have been constant with fiscal responsibility?

As California goes, so will the rest of the country. Uncle Sam is out of money. The Chinese laughed at Tim Guithner when he visited China this past week (to borrow more money) and when he told an audience the US is fiscally responsible, the whole crowd just laughed at him. Nice.

As to Florence, just worrying about her own little world, does she not pay taxes? Is she not an American citizen? Does she not care about her country and fellow mankind??? Eventually, the declining fiscal American environment will affect her life, her business and her flower garden when she finds that through taxes, fees and blatant government spending she will no longer be able to afford her little life. Then she will see how 'unfair' everything has really become.

Bluebird said...


Thank you for an excellent post. That's exactly what I would have written, if I hadn't been in such a hurry!

Some complain that Obama wants to "share the wealth", but why not? Wealth in this country is currently allocated in a winner-take-all way that favors not so much hard work or intelligence as greed.

Who can say with a straight face that a hedge fund manager works 10,000 times harder than a factory worker. Who can say that a CEO is smarter than a high school math teacher.

Jerry said...

This post really hits home. While I was in school in the NE I had friends who were on welfare and getting insurance and food stamps from the state. My wife and I would never do this and she worked while I was in school. We were really bugged by our friends doing this. But, I think hoping and working for more expansion of benefits for people like us leads to a better feelings for everyone. You're no longer envying or begrudging. You're proactive. That's always a better place to be in.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we expand government benefits to everyone? Because in the end *someone* has to pay for them. There are just not enough of the super-rich to pay for everything that the masses of people would want (see insolvent Medicare for a very good example). So, taxes to pay for these benefits have to start coming from the majority of people, aka the middle class. You can't expand benefits to these people because they are the ones that have to pay for it, and this is where the unfairness comes in. If Bill Gates could just sweep in and prevent everyone in the middle class from being foreclosed on, that would be great, but even he, and Warren Buffet put together don't have the money for that.

Anonymous said...

Your ignorance is astounding, but just demonstrative of the ineptitude of the basic American citizen.

I can name many CEO's who are way smarter than a high school math teacher (not that there is anything wrong with that). The first who comes to mind is Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer. Not too many math teachers could have invented what Mr. Jobs did. if so, it would have been done already.

Those that can, do.
Those that can't, teach.

Take a good look around my friend....the rich are quickly disappearing off the face of the American skyline. Eventually, you will not have anyone to 'bleed' anymore.

Have a great, wasteless life.

Grace. said...

I'm going to leave that last anonymous comment up for awhile, but I never take seriously those who snipe from anonymity. I also have problems with those who resort to gratuitious insults rather than provide facts, figures, or cogent argument. I think it bespeaks a muddled mind, whatever the education of the poster.

I never require my commenters to agree with me (if I did, how would Morrison EVER get to post her welcome remarks?) nor am I opposed to anonymous comments--just the rude, ill-conceived ones.

Retired Syd said...

Excellent post, Grace. I saw an op ed piece awhile back by Ari Fleisher begrudging the people that make under $30k in this country because they don't pay any taxes (never mind that they pay employment taxes and sales taxes--he meant income taxes.)

My question was how do they even LIVE on that in this country--why would I begrudge the fact they don't pay taxes???!!!!

Yes, over the years, much of my tax dollars have gone to those less fortunate than myself so that they could do things like eat and have shelter. Why don't I have a problem with that? Because that's what living in a civilized society means. I'll take that over the alternative any day.

eemusings said...

Great post.

I can definitely understand people resenting those on welfare.

It's easy to say that welfare programmes need to be slashed or eliminated completely.

But then what happens to those people? Nobody ever talks about that. Not everyone has family to take them in. Not everyone is able to get a job, however menial.

It's all too easy to bash others when you and those close to you haven't suffered from reduced hours, redundancies, or worse.

Just my two cents.