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{Based on Facebook and LinkedIn conversations in August 2011}

I just realized that at our block party, the only two neighbors who had grilled steaks (and didn’t share) paid for it with my tax dollars, while those of us who earned what we ate, did so less lavishly but shared freely. No one on this street is above modest-middle-class, but the economic justice is still upside down, and there’s a lesson to learn in there somewhere.

I didn’t take offense, but had to take notice.  I don’t have resentment, but concern.  What some may call welfare ‘parasitism’ doesn’t bother me as someone “getting away with it” as much as well-meaning people being enablers.  Yes, society is choosing not to use tough love and common sense.  It is easy to be angry at the unworking poor, but it is the insistence that people’s needs should be met at all costs in spite of themselves that is cruel to them, to the taxpayer, and society.  This liberal approach to social justice is the ultimate road to hell paved with good intentions.

However, the alternative does not have to be a denial of responsibility to our fellow man, blaming every person for where they are regardless of what starting gate they were born from. There are PLENTY of real, workable solutions — there always have been — but they involve community action, not big government, and moving our focus from one to the other is the hole we’ve been digging for a long time, too foolish to simply stop.

Personally, I am grateful to be involved in community service, as it keeps me aware that we are talking about real human beings with real issues and problems. Many have good reasons for being where they are. Many are there simply because they can get away with it (and to be honest, the average person who was put in such a position would be hard-pressed to ever take action to NOT be poor with all their needs met with no effort on their part). In the end, we need to pick our battles with helping others, and give people the RIGHT to be poor if they so choose.

The Entitlement Class

When I used the term ‘entitlement class’ in one conversation, I was asked exactly what I meant by that.  It was a fair question, one to which I had an immediate answer: The ‘Entitlement Class’ is the growing number of people who find more advantage in being on social services than off and choose the former.  How much of the 49% of Americans who do not pay taxes fall into this category has yet to be seen, but I see a lot of it.

It’s obvious when I speak of such people, I’m not talking about everyone claiming to be ‘disadvantaged’, as some truly are deserving of the description.  I am talking about the ones who spend more in cigarettes than our mortgage, squip out children without the same father twice, sell their meds when they DO get help for their addictions, and basically sit on the porch all day, beer in hand, with no desire to do anything else in their life.  If these people are the exception, then they must spread themselves around every neighborhood to be purposely more visible.

But of course it’s the rich people keeping them down, right?  No, we’re talking about two different classes of people that have been lumped together for too long as a propaganda tool for buying votes and pretending to be for the people.  The term “working class” used to mean something, but now it covers vast numbers of people who are not only NOT working, but probably never will if they can get away with it.  And they can.

Problems and Solutions

We can all agree we need to improve opportunity. But we pay it lip service when we hand out money or pretend to create jobs via the latest campaign promises.  We could argue over the ills of free market versus regulation I’m sure, but the basic rules of the game need to change in the long run for a lasting solution with regards to that, not playing into the idea one of the other is solely to blame.

That is why social justice cannot be legislated or paid off with money. We have to deal with their issues, not their lives like a balance sheet.

For example, food panties give out food to take home sometimes, but because people don’t know how to plan meals or cook, they spend a fortune on convenience food. It’s not always laziness, but ignorance. And the latter can be addressed more easily.

But without addressing the person, we have households who get several times as much money in food stamps as they need, and don’t even bother to clip coupons or look for sales, let alone run out by the end of the month. Now. if you knew how little we spend on the amount of food we have, it would blow your mind — if these things were taught, many people wouldn’t even need benefits, and be a lot healthier. But that would require respect for charity, not an attitude of entitlement.

And I know what it’s like personally to splurge when broke — even a non-materialistic person like me can’t go forever without some treat. But I don’t know what it’s like to “drown my sorrows” in a vice.

The thing is many of these people’s whole lives are a ‘treat’, or at least it seems carefree from the outside. They may not see the point in bettering their condition, or choose not to while many others do. And I’ve seen the psychology at play where some people who are not successful as they’d like decide it’s easier to blame the system, rich people, etc., than to admit failure.

This sums that point up nicely I think:

Another argument is that people in ‘dire straits’ are afraid.  I’m not sure why they would be, except when politicians threaten to cut benefits to pass a bill for more taxes.  Maybe I shouldn’t make the comparison, but I don’t get a check every month guaranteed for doing nothing. I work hard and then hope people pay me fast enough to cover my own bills. Even people with a weekly paycheck do not have the security of those on assistance.

Admittedly it’s apples to oranges, as the standard of living for people on assistance is lower than most. But for those with (unfathered) children it very often exceeds that of the average working poor.  It is bad enough we shelter people from their own consequences — by helping them the way we have to this point is actually encouraging a lifestyle of less effort and more benefit that the truly ‘working poor’.