Is it just my circle of acquaintances or is it getting worse everywhere? All this talk about the distressed unemployed middle class has me looking around. It seems that more people, even highly educated ones, have figured out ways to live off the public dole rather than work. They, like all who demean the value of work, do a disservice to us all.
The truly needy—those unable to work—often go underserved and underrepresented while the self-proclaimed entitled, but capable, class exploit government programs, capturing money for doing nothing.
First there is the 63-year-old who opts to retire a year early in order to get a healthy severance package, but is then also entitled to unemployment benefits. Why should anyone receive unemployment benefits when they have no intention of returning to work?
Then there are those who expect taxpayers to pay for their health care or who seek the perks that go along with being labeled “disabled.” After taking medical leave or hanging their placards for free parking, they walk about spending money shopping or on entertainment. One veteran peace officer (a bailiff), who sees himself as an elite public employee, told me that if his retirement benefits were cut back, he would just leave the department on a disability claim.
More often than not, these freeloaders rationalize their own behavior and are the first to wag their finger at someone else’s using “the system” or for being lazy. Some are flat out racists, proudly claiming supremacy. Others feel justified submitting shady insurance claims, filing for bankruptcy to cancel debts, or filing frivolous lawsuits seeking unearned easy money.
Routinely these same people who choose not to work also don’t value labor. They are poor tippers. They download unauthorized music. They shop for anyone desperate enough to work for a measly compensation. “What do you mean you want $200 dollars to paint two bedrooms and a hall? Can’t you do it for $100?” If they’re not hiring someone “under the table,” they’re subsidizing their own income under the table. Just like the ruling class who create loopholes, they also try to avoid paying taxes at every turn.
The working poor, on the other hand, obviously don’t want a hand out. They often hold down more than one job trying to make ends meet, and they don’t request or are not eligible for assistance. They don’t have the time to seek out creative ways to use the system. Those are exactly the people who need a hand—or a handshake.
I’ll be the first to point to the top of the economic scale when looking for solutions to our economic woes, but lately I’ve found myself looking side to side as well. I’m fed up with capable individuals “getting over” on the backs of those of us who work hard. They give fodder to those who want to cut entitlements for the poor, and usurp money from those—including our government—who need it.
When the focus is on getting money for nothing, and honest, hard work isn’t valued, we all lose. We lose faith in each other and in our government.
Originally published in Alameda Sun