Daily Archives: August 2, 2012

Are you getting a handout?

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[Today’s run: nothing yet]

Last night at bedtime we had on the radio to NPR.  I listened to about 10 minutes of Fresh Air, the show from WHYY hosted by Terry Gross.  She was talking to Ryan Lizza from the New Yorker magazine  about Rep Paul Ryan.

It’s not a surprise that Gross and Lizza didn’t seem very sympathetic to Ryan.

But one particular thing caught my ear.

When Ryan was a boy his father died and Ryan received Social Security survivors benefits.  Gross, having pointed out that Ryan now wants to cut back on government handouts says this,

“At the same time, he got Social Security when his father died.   Did he say anything about whether that help from the government helped him through that life changing experience?”  (around 14 minutes into the interview)

Did you catch that?  Social Security survivors benefits is “help from the government”.

When Social Security was put in place they had a hard time getting people to sign up for it.  People didn’t want to be seen taking a hand-out.  So they “sold” it to the American public as an insurance program.  It is not a handout when the insurance company pays to fix your roof.  That is a calculated risk.. you paid for it.

In a certain way it is right that someone on food-stamps or other assistance is not able to buy beer and cigarettes with the money.  By taking that assistance a person gives up certain liberty that they would have enjoyed with their own money.

So we have the convergence of two ideas:  1) taking money from the government erodes your liberty.  and 2) because of poor management, a program that was specifically designed to be not a handout becomes seen as a handout.

I don’t know any clearer way of showing the insidious nature of government programs.  You might think you are getting one deal, but the deal changes and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.

The same thing will be happening to a lot of state/local government employees when their pensions don’t come through.  They had a deal, the deal was mismanaged, and they will be painted as freeloaders.


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Aug 2, 2012
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