He Said, I Said

By Burt Prelutsky · January 19, 2013

Every day, I respond to email I receive from my readers. Most of it is positive, which I appreciate, but would probably be of little or no interest to anyone but me. Some of it is negative, consisting solely of insults, and is, likewise, of little interest to anyone, including me.

However, every once in a while, I hear from someone who actually addresses issues I’ve raised, and there is always the chance that such readers are raising points that other people would like to have addressed.

It is for that reason that I am sharing the following exchange. I don’t know who the person is or even if it’s a man or woman, but for our purposes, it really doesn’t matter. In response to a recent article titled “What’s Meant When Liberals Say ‘Compromise,'” it began: “I find myself a bit confused by this article. Though the headline implies a rather tight focus, you cover fiscal cliff negotiations, guns, welfare, the ACLU, felons, and — for good measure — a brief review of a film that has nothing to do with compromise.”

I replied: “I try to cover a lot of topics in every article. Therefore, titling a piece is rather difficult. But at least part of the article dealt with compromise. Consider everything else a bonus.”

“The ‘nitwits’ on the left may be off-base on a great many things,” the person went on. “Unfortunately, you are wrong in asserting that the final deal was not a compromise in their eyes. It may not have been as much of a compromise as you would have found satisfying, but a $400,000 threshold is not the same as $200,000. Nor is a 40% estate tax a 45% estate tax (the original number desired by Democrats). You can say you don’t like the deal or that Democrats didn’t cooperate enough, but you can’t factually say there was no compromise.”

I replied: “If one side is totally opposed to raising taxes and the other side changes its numbers around, that’s not my idea of a compromise. What you suggest is like saying that one side, for example, was in favor of invading Iraq and the other side opposed it, so the compromise would have been to invade Ireland.”

“Additionally,” the lecturer went on, “you are drastically simplifying the reality of welfare in America. Since I work in community development, perhaps I can clear some things up. Generally speaking, any sort of public assistance comes with strings attached: with welfare, it is often employment or an effort to find something therein (in addition to income thresholds that you would find completely unlivable were you made to live at or below them). There is also a lifetime cap on the welfare assistance that any one family can receive. Additionally, those in poverty and on public assistance are not homogenous as you seem to assume. There are many Republicans on public assistance, including welfare.”

“Of course,” I responded, “it goes without saying that everyone on welfare is not identical to everyone else. But when dealing with several million people, one has to generalize in order to make a point. But what is this lifetime cap you refer to? If there were such a thing, you wouldn’t see generations of families collecting welfare. Obama even decided to scrap Clinton’s work programs because the mere notion of requiring anything of welfare recipients was regarded as heartless.”

“The problem with the conservative ideology is not that it’s wrong, but that it’s only right for those people like you. Unfortunately, many Republicans haven’t left their bubble of privilege long enough (if at all) to understand the reality of living outside it. Those who have made something out of nothing tend to believe similar opportunities exist for everyone in poverty; unfortunately, the reality is that life in poverty is a game of chance, much more so than a life of security. I guarantee you there are people you believe to be unproductive who work much harder than you do for significantly less money.”

“The only thing wrong with conservative ideology is that people like you and those who are, say, the third or fourth generation of their family on the public dole don’t accept it. How does someone who works much harder and for less money than you presume I do wind up on welfare for any length of time? Even a minimum wage job would gross someone about $16,000-a-year, and there are precious few jobs that only pay a minimum wage. On top of that, if people get a high school diploma, avoid getting hooked on drugs and refrain from having kids until they’re married and can afford to raise them, they are pretty much guaranteed a welfare-free life. And, frankly, that doesn’t strike me as too much to ask of anyone.”

My critic went on: “Liberal ideology doesn’t work for everyone either. I do believe, however, that those making over $450,000 can easily contribute more of their salary without ending up anywhere near the desperation and suffering that comes with living at welfare-eligible income levels. Before you rail on about personal responsibility, let me direct you to the previous paragraphs where I explain that welfare is not given freely to anyone who wants it, not even those in poverty.”

I replied, “You have no idea how easily people earning $450,000-a-year can contribute. You also don’t know what sacrifices they made in order to achieve that level of success. That sounds like a lot of money to you and me, but if the family has children in college and perhaps aging, ailing, parents who require help, maybe it’s not so much. Besides, you’re not speaking about ‘contributions.’ If you were, we would be discussing charity. And as you probably know, conservatives donate far more money, as well as time, to charities than liberals do. Instead, you’re referring to money confiscated by the government in order to carry out Obama’s oft-stated desire to redistribute wealth. On top of that, the wealthy are already paying more than their ‘fair share’ because we have a progressive income tax. Frankly, I would say that it is the low-earners who are not paying their fair share. It is my conviction that everyone should have some skin in the game. For, as Obama would say, if only he weren’t a left-wing gasbag, they, too, use America’s streets and bridges. At the risk of being labeled a stony-hearted Republican, the idea that people who pay nothing and yet get to vote for those who get to decide what everyone else has to pay is immoral, not to mention loony.”

“I agree with you on guns and unions,” my critic said in his/her summation, “but unfortunately I can’t comment on your stint as a film critic because I haven’t seen ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Your problem is not that you’re wrong. It’s that you seem to be ignorant. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of this from the Right on this topic. Utilizing common tropes and stereotypes as you did above, one is able to dehumanize the poor and call for cuts to programs that benefit many hard-working people with a great deal of potential.”

“How is it,” I asked, “that we have lived in a welfare state for decades now, have funded Head Start, promoted Affirmative Action, spent trillions of dollars on welfare, expanded food stamps to include roughly 15% of us, and provided people such as yourself and Barack Obama with a living in a nebulous field known as ‘community development,’ and have yet to see any positive results? In fact, even after all of Obama’s efforts in Chicago and as president, what good has any of it done? Chicago is even worse off than it was 30 years ago, and so is America. We have an actual 11% rate of unemployment, a $16.4 trillion debt, a lower credit rating, a depleted military, a devalued dollar, soaring inflation and an additional 15 million Americans on food stamps. My suggestion is that you worry about those people, most of whom seem determined through their irresponsible life decisions to remain poor, and I will worry about those of us who are being compelled to support them.

“In conclusion, let me just say that you could be right that one of us is ignorant, but I’ll leave it to others to decide which one of us it is. Regards, Burt Prelutsky. p.s. I grant that it could well be me. After all, of the two of us, I’m not the one drawing a government salary.”

Howard Last in Wyoming
Saturday, January 19, 2013
” Nor is a 40% estate tax a 45% estate tax (the original number desired by Democrats). You can say you don’t like the deal or that Democrats didn’t cooperate enough, but you can’t factually say there was no compromise.”

This is sort of like saying, “I will not kill you, but I will cut off both arms.” Isn’t that a great compromise?

Mikey in Southwest Idaho
Saturday, January 19, 2013

The problem with liberals like your “friend” is that they believe everything they are told and the level of tension on their heartstrings is the measure of truth rather than an objective examination of the facts. In their minds the poor are victims and therefore are above scrutiny. All who claim to be poor are equal with a truly poor person without further examination. There is no consideration that a high number of them are engaged in fraud and no interest in preventing it for the benefit of all. Everyone is painted with a broad brush. They think without any evidence that all high incomers earners can afford to give more because one rich person says its so. If one police administrator is opposed to the right of the people to keep and bear arms, then “law enforcement” favors more gun laws. They have actually abandoned the ideas of truth, justice, liberty, courage, sacrifice, and replaced them with envy, greed, compulsion, and hypocrisy. Questioning & actual examination of the motives of the poor or the reasons for their poverty is judgmental and forbidden, but not so when it comes to the rich on whom they pass judgment without examination and and make demands with an air moral certainty.

Old Sarge in Hinesville, GA
Saturday, January 19, 2013

It is amazing the stupidity of liberals. I wouldn’t believe a word anybody working for the government said. Talk about living off the government teat. Between the bloated government work force, and I use that term work loosely, and welfare recepients that is quite a chunk of money spent every year with no return. They see nothing wrong in taking money from those who work and giving it to those who don’t. Mikey hit the truth about the poor. They never research what causes people to be poor or try to find out a solution other than give-aways. Keeping them uneducated, poor, and depending on the “guvmint” and voting Democratic is all they care about. If the folks ever got a job and found out how much the government taxes they might see the light and stop voting for the Demorats. That would be blasphemy to the left.

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA
Saturday, January 19, 2013

Old Sarge: The Democrats would like to see everyone on the plantation, and not just blacks. Judging by the election, they already have Hispanics, Jews, Asians, young men and single women, exactly where they want them.

BJ in St. Cloud, MN
Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 1:15 PM

What bothers me about “entitlements” is that the recipients act as though I’m under some obligation to give them what they want. I have a finite amount of minutes on this planet and in this country where “right to life” exists. How then is it moral that some of, in fact a lot of, my life is being stolen from me by politicians buying votes with my money which takes my time to make. And, being my money I want input about it’s use. Weekly urine tests for drugs, alcohol, tobacco. I’m almost OK with helping for a short period but I do not want to pay for the “extras” in life like cell phone, microwave, car, name brand anything, pop, candy, etc. At the risk of sounding like the cold hearted Repub which I’m not, Repub I mean, I would be willing to provide for a very short period; housing, schooling, medical, food. Total, no more. The DFL and the GOP have stolen the American dream from far too many people with the dependency vote buying gig.
Bottom line is I’ll feed you but you need to stand in line and have a cheese cutter for the blocks of commodity cheese. Heartless? BS!! It’s my life and it’s being stolen from me.

Mike McGinn in People’s Republic of Maryland
Monday, January 21, 2013

BJ – I’m jumping in the game late, but your comments reminded of one of my wife’s girlfriends who worked at a State Social Services Office in SC when I was stationed at MCAS Beaufort. She earned about $28K per year helping the “poor” people apply for the various welfare benefits they were “entitled” to. She realized she was in the wrong job when some guy wearing a nice suit who drove up in a nice car came in quoting chapter, line and verse what the State “owed” him and his family. Whe she checked his files, he was taking home one hell of a lot more money than she was…and she was busting her hump every day to help these people collect their taxpayer-funded welfare benefits. In disgust she quite her job shortly after that.

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA
Saturday, January 19, 2013

Doktor: As if liberals aren’t bad enough, when in power, the Republicans don’t change anything. At best, they provide a holding action. But once the Dems are back in power, they merely pick up where they left off.

OKBecky in Tulsa, OK
Sunday, January 20, 2013

I’m a Latter-day Saint, and everyone who wants to be a member in good standing is expected to pay 10% of their increase (gross) to the Lord as tithing. Everyone can pay 10%, but it is a matter of faith (Malachi 3:10 – “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”). The principle applies to all members, even in the poorest areas of Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the amazing thing is, that so many people do it cheerfully and are grateful to do it. The Ensign (the official church magazine) is always publishing letters and articles by people sharing their experiences with paying tithing and, yes, miraculously receiving all things they stand in need of. Indeed, for people in debt, the first thing they’re supposed to do is pay their tithing, demonstrating faith in God so he can in turn bless with the abundance of the Earth that is His anyway.

I know you’re writing about taxes, and I’m here writing about religion, but I had a bishop once [leader of a congregation] who told me that he knew the people who were committed in their faith by whether they paid their tithing. People who didn’t pay tithing consistently were less likely to be consistent in other areas of their religion. So it is very true that people feel more commitment to the ideals of an organization if they are contributing to it. So people who pay no taxes, or who are told it is unjust for them to be expected to pay even a small percentage of their gross in taxes, have little invested in this organization called the United States of America, but a lot of uneasy dependency on it.

HP in KAlispell, MT
Saturday, January 19, 2013

In 1970 I was a young married man just out of the Service working at a decent job in Sacrament, CA, then the Wefare Capital of the world. One Saturday afternoon while waiting for my wife to finish shopping, I sat at the local pub, watching a game, when the conversation turned to the subject of welfare. We each exchanged our ideas to solve the problems, some a bit more or less harsh or compassionate. After pretty much exhausting all the usual ideas, an old geezer at the end of the bar spoke up and said “Shoot ’em!”. Being the young enlightened man that I was, I asked “That’s a little extreme, isn’t it?”. He replied, “Look, they are no good to themselves, no good to society, and have no self-respect. You’d be doing them and us a favor.”. That pretty much ended the conversation. We all returned to the game in silence. I’ve often thought of that afternoon since. What surprises me is how I eventually came to realize the old boy was right!

Carol in Canada
Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 3:34 PM

The left-wing mentality can be summed up in the life of an acquaintence of mine…a real life “Julia” if you will. At the age of seven her father died suddenly and she and her mother went on SS survivor’s benefits. She had a baby when she was 19, then she got onto a program that paid her way through college and paid all her living and child care expenses as well. She married, and she and her husband both had 30 year teaching careers. They are both retired for about 4 or more years now, and are each receiving just slightly over $30,000 per year in retirement benefits. That means they have already received back every cent they paid in toward their retirement plus every cent the State contributed for their retirement as well. BUT…they will continue to receive that $30,000 apiece every year for the rest of their lives, plus they will also be able to draw their Social Security on top of that when they are old enough…which they will be in a couple of years. If anyone wants to know what is wrong with the “system” of public service combined with social services, this is a prime example. The biggest freeloaders out there aren’t the poor on social assistance. The biggest freeloaders are all the people who derive their livlihood out of the public purse “for life” for the simple reason that they enjoyed a good paying job of public service for about a third of that life. That situation should really bother all the people who have toiled in private industry for all their working years and have saved for their old age in order to supplement the meager amount they will receive from the Social Security they were forced to pay into for all those years. Because in reality, they have to pay their own way as well as pay the way for everyone who had those public service jobs. This is the reason why States and the Federal government are broke, and the politicians keep on giving themselves and all public servants gold plated pensions for life. I guess the bureaucrat who decides what regulations the farmer has to abide by is more valuable in this world than the farmer who gets up at 5am to milk the cows or grow the corn or anything else that keeps the population fed. This has become a world of misplaced values. Getting off my soapbox now. Burt…I’m hoping you don’t get off yours anytiume soon!

Burt Prelutsky in North Hills, CA
Carol: No way. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, they’ll have to pry that soapbox out from under my cold, dead feet.


Sturmudgeon in WA
Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Wonderfully succinct, Mr. B.P.! My Wife and I have (successfully) lived on MUCH less than the so-called poverty level, for more than 28 years. Neither of us has EVER had an unemployment or welfare cheque, nor have we ever had a Food Stamp, nor taken from a Food Bank. Your ‘community development’ person has no idea what survival with independence means… but then, I was a teenager in the early 1950’s, which is a ‘whole different mind-set”.

Mike McGinn in People’s Republic of Maryland
Monday, January 21, 2013

Amen, Burt!

People wonder why things like the massacre at New Town happened. They want to blame in on too many “assault weapons” or guns in general. I blame it on the society that the 60’s generation begat.

The hippies that were 20 in 1968 have now reached the age where they are going on social security and medicare. Their offspring have produced the offspring that seem to be a major source of our problems today. We’re three generations deep into it and I’m not sure if we can recover.

About arnash

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” - Mark Twain - Politicians and diapers - change 'em often, for the same reason. "Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other." Ronald Reagan "Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views." William F. Buckley, Jr. “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” - Bertrand Russell The people are the masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it. Abraham Lincoln “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” - George Orwell “Satan will use a lake of truth to hide a pint of poison”.
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