Easy aid reduces incentive to work

Published 4:25pm Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Part of my job from time to time is to type up the sheriff’s reports, the routine paperwork deputies and investigators file after every incident report and arrest.

Through the years, I’ve found some entertaining stories in these mammoth stacks of police procedure. If you remember the old wedding rehearsal brawl story, it began as a single sheet of paper and a short paragraph filed by a sheriff’s deputy.

There are also stories contained in there that will break your heart, and others that will raise your blood pressure. I ran across one of that last group this week in an incident report that originated from the Wetumpka area.

The report was of first-degree theft of property. I’m not going to give too much identifying information, because I’d rather draw my conclusions unencumbered by too many facts on the ground. That’s what the big news operations do, right? (wink)
So this homeowner reported someone had stolen upwards of $5,000 in miscellaneous jewelry, another $500 in gold coins, two rifles, a shotgun …

And an Electronic Benefit Transfer card?

EBT Cards are the new version of Food Stamps, in case you didn’t know. And there we step into delicate territory in today’s political atmosphere.

Before I get too far afield, I sincerely hope whoever stole this person’s property is apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law. There were some suspects listed, noted as drug users, so I expect that will be the case. The criminal genius of sticky fingered drug addicts tends to be pretty low.

But anyway, there could be a hundred different reasons why the listed homeowner had a solid stash of jewelry and gold, yet let the state put food on the table for him.

I understand that job losses, medical problems and other maladies happen.

But that $5,000 in jewelry could feed my family for a good little while, if it’s genuine. That’s what folks had to do, once upon a time, when things got rough financially.

They’d have to hock some valuable possessions.

But it doesn’t seem to be the case any more. I can name addresses of people who I know haven’t worked since they last bagged groceries in high school. And there are some nice cars often parked out front.

It always gives me pause to see a run-down looking man or woman swipe that car as their shoulders and arms clearly displaying at least a thousand dollars worth of ink tatooed into their skin. We won’t even go into the variety of their purchases, usually swinging closer to Hostess than whole foods.

I believe we should take care of the less fortuante, watch after the needy, and provide comfort to the afflicted.

But there’s a certain point at which the free aid offered by the government seems a lot more appetizing than the America ethos of hard work and self-reliance.

Why make the hard choices, like driving a 15-year-old Dodge, or hoping no one will pooh-pooh the smaller diamond on the wife’s finger, when you can have both at the anonymous taxpayer’s expense?

Usually, any effort to make sure public assistance is actually needed doesn’t get far. The demogoguery begins, and whoever raised the idea is accused of racism, hating poor people, or just being generally mean. Even an effort to have the recipients of welfare assistance tested for drug use — just as most of us with jobs are — has drawn similar charges here in Alabama. But, just as a decade of such accusations against banks created the conditions that blew up our economy six years ago, the inaction caused by constant charges of bad faith is in danger of destroying the most important aspect of our culture.

Not one of the examples in my mind were of the ethnic background some might assume(and honestly, isn’t the constant linkage of public assistance with skin color pretty racist in and of itself)?

Eroding away the incentives toward hard work threatens to create a permanent underclass, allowed to sit and just get by on the dole, only expected to come out and vote every few years for the party that best promises to keep the gravy trains running.

The bread-and-circuses model of government has never carried a nation very far, not since ancient Rome coined the term. And it certainly doesn’t lead to a happy place.

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The 2013 Regular Session is drawing to a close and, as usual, the two biggest issues are still hanging out there. The two budgets that fund education and government operations seem always to be left until last, then pushed through at the last minute, as we await whatever new shock or outrage the light of morning brings. There are some things in Alabama even a supermajority can’t fix, I guess, or maybe doesn’t want to.

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Metaphor Alert?: A former prostitute and Nevada brothel madam is seeking election as mayor of Vicksburg, Miss. Her ability to run a business is among the qualifications she’s touting.

David D. Goodwin is political editor of The Wetumpka Herald. Contact him at david.goodwin@thewetumpkaherald.com.

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