The “have-nots” comprise the great majority of our so-called civilized society. Consequently, the “have-a-lot” minority must pay for or provide everything that the “have-not” majority thinks they ought to have. This entitlement philosophy, flourishing amongst today’s compassionate humans, demands that those who have a lot must take care of those who don’t have as much.
The philosophy is based on several ancient moral teachings such as: “We are our brother’s keeper;” “Everyone should share equally in the family’s pie and our nation’s wealth;” and “It is far more blessed to give than to receive.” Who can argue with these “politically correct” assumptions? Who dares to argue about them? Not one member of Congress or of our state legislatures (regardless of their party affiliation.) Despite this popular attitude, smart humans are aware that the rich (and powerful) will automatically abuse the poor (and powerless) when they have a chance.
At my age, I’m not one to argue with anyone, but I do think that we should analyze the consequences of adopting this prevailing philosophy. It wasn’t the philosophy used by our Founding Fathers to write our Constitution. Rugged individualism was the political/economic philosophy in vogue. Each person was expected to strive to provide for himself and his family. “Work out your own salvation with zeal and diligence.” (Or some Puritan saying like that.)
But attitudes have changed. All of us are aware that not everyone is zealous and diligent. There is not much fun in striving that hard. So, for those who can’t take care of themselves or won’t accept the economic challenge, our society has rejected the basic Law of Nature: Make a sincere and strenuous effort to survive or die!
This simple guideline has been replaced with the modern political philosophy of: “Let everyone eat something, healthy or unhealthy, provided by our compassionate government.” But our various government agencies can’t serve many folks, because they can’t afford it. Nor can the rich among us. There just aren’t enough of them!
Not everyone is born with equal capabilities and blest with useful talents, yet today each human born expects to be an equal participant in enjoying the abundant fruits of the economy’s largesse. The Constitution of the U.S. doesn’t guarantee that everyone born in America can eat at the community cafeteria, be treated at the community clinic, and earn a decent living working on some community project.
This country was not founded on the Communistic philosophy which used the following motto: “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.” That objective may eventually become the goal of our democratic society, but I doubt it.
To achieve that popular goal in the long run would require a brand new approach to financing government largesse and to redistributing wealth. Currently, we are trying to help the poor and needy by diverting income from the rich via various forms of taxation and by dipping into the earnings of future unborn wage earners who eventually will be required to pay off our promissory notes.
Accomplishing that goal won’t be easy without undermining the incentive to be a conscientious and productive worker. The debt created by our various “entitlement” programs already has many economists concerned. Our huge pyramid of government debt haunts those responsible for paying it off. Economic reversals are known to happen, and recessions usually hurt the poor more than the wealthy. The Soviet socialistic economic system failed, and yet the adults in our society have forgotten that fact in their push to provide for the needs of the underprivileged.
“Tax the rich,” they scream. “The rich have too much disposable income and wealth already!” Maybe they do for their own basic needs, but who dictates that the rich are responsible for the welfare of the rest of this country’s citizens? Most of the “rest” are industrious, gainfully employed, but resist paying higher taxes for entitlements.
Providing “entitlement” benefits costs our federal and state governments billions of dollars. Yet, entitlement programs only cover very basic human needs. For example, a retired person can barely live on his or her monthly social security check in California. The food stamp hand-out, unemployment compensation, monetary aid to the disabled are all limited programs and some of them are under-funded. Consequently, benefits are rationed arbitrarily via restricting the amount of money paid out and the length of time that payment is available.
These safety nets are barely adequate for all the individuals who qualify. The revised welfare program was specifically restructured to motivate welfare recipients to look for a job that pays the wage-earner a larger amount per week than a welfare check. In addition, a sundown provision was enacted to end payments after a prescribed number of years.
Now, the Halloween celebrants in our modern society who want to “help the poor” have a bulky new form of universal health insurance. All insurance programs demand premiums from the insured who primarily desire to reduce their risks of a financial catastrophe resulting from sickness and injury. The total of the premiums collected by insurance companies hopefully balances the losses/expenses incurred over the short run and leaves some “profit” for the investors who own the insurance company.
Car insurance is supposedly mandatory, but in California the insured pays an extra amount to cover accidents where the uninsured are deemed responsible. Those citizens, whose employers don’t offer any healthcare insurance, must buy a private policy. A recent survey indicated that nine out of ten of the individuals who seek private healthcare insurance can’t afford it or have a physical problem that makes them ineligible to be insured. (Under the latest law, no one is “ineligible.”)
The “lamentable” situation of millions of uninsured fellow citizens troubles the folks who want their friends and neighbors covered by some kind of health insurance. Are these compassionate folks ready to pay the increased premiums as a consequence of insuring every “body?” I suspect not.
Every insurance payment or entitlement payment made by a third party comes from a general fund set up to cover such payments. Each fund must be reimbursed sooner or later for the program to remain viable. Since contributions to these funds are periodically fixed while costs are constantly increasing for a variety of reasons, the newcomers and those already eligible for any risk-sharing program must either pay a larger premium or be taxed at a higher rate – an anathema in today’s political environment.
The government agencies or the insurance companies who are responsible for maintaining these so-called “safety nets” or entitlement programs can’t shirk their duties of finding ways to acquire the money to pay for the benefits offered under the program. The result of a lack of funds is either restricted benefits (known as “rationing”) or increased contributions on the part of contributors, rich, poor, or middle class. Since there are so many more middle class wage earners, this group bears the largest brunt of the increased contributions.
It should come as no surprise that when the pieces of the entitlement cake are being distributed to those invited to the banquet, the middle class is the major supplier of money to provide the cake. The rich do contribute a larger amount per person, of course, but the overall amount that their class contributes is far less than the total amount contributed by the middle class. The middle class demonstrators who demand more benefits or entitlements don’t realize that fact or choose to ignore it.
Therefore, the truly heartless Marie Antoinettes among us who say, “Let them eat cake,” expect our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab for today’s party!