Here’s a question I saw posted again on Facebook this morning. I say again because I see it or something similar to it posted virtually every day. It’s always directed at those on social assistance and invariably is accompanied by some comment like this one:
“Well let’s see… Freeloaders are a vote to them, and we the taxpayers pay for freeloaders life style. So in a nut shell the government washes their hands of the freeloaders, and we are the trough that pays for everything. Problem here is if we stop paying for the freeloaders we get threatened by the Bully Government who jail us, take our stuff, garnish our wages, so we are stuck with the F-n freeloaders.” – posted on Facebook by one of the enlightened
Asking about freeloaders in our society is a valid question even when it is asked by someone who is barely literate but if we’re going to ask it, I think we should first ask just who the freeloaders actually are.
Certainly there are some on social assistance that game the system but gaming the system seems to be the perennial vocation of folks at all levels of the economic scale. The simple fact is that many who benefit from welfare are children and I don’t think too many of us want to see children living in poverty economically penalized more than they are.
Some families have been hit by economic devastation beyond their control; the death of the primary wage earner, the loss of a job and an inability to find another, old age, mental illness and range of other impacts over which they have little control.
The stereotype – as with all stereotypes – is convenient but wrong. Not all people on welfare are lazy nor do they all spend their money on booze, cigarettes and lottery tickets.
Poverty is a reality in this country. You only have to look at the proliferation of food banks in our cities to see that. Increasingly, families that were once middle class are making use of food banks just to feed themselves.
But, it doesn’t stop the weak-minded hypocrites who continue to take cheap uninformed shots at what they consider to be freeloaders.
Many of those same folks weren’t quite as vocal about the $400 million that the Conservative government handed over to highly profitable oil and gas companies to explore “going green.” Perish the thought that they should reinvest their own money when there is simply an over-abundance of taxpayer money just lying around waiting to be distributed.
And distributed it is to freeloaders across the nation.
There are non-refundable tax credits for parents who enroll their children in sports like hockey. Non-refundable means that you only get the tax credit if you can actually afford to enroll your children in the sports activity. If you can’t – too bad, so sad. You get nothing. The taxpayers’ cash goes to those who have; not too those who don’t.
There’s the child tax credit and the tax-free Canada Child Benefit monthly payment of $110/child with additional supplements if you qualify. And all you have to do to get the cash is – well – procreate.
We fund hockey arenas for professional sports without much complaint from the taxpayer. We tossed billions into the auto sector to save some very well-paid union jobs again, without much complaint from taxpayers – especially taxpayers who are in unions. We did get some of that money back but the government simply turned around and handed it to other companies like the recent announcement of half a billion being handed over to Cisco by the Ontario Government.
The claim is that it will create jobs but unemployment remains above 7% after almost a decade of corporate welfare and many of the corporations who received earlier grants to open up shop in Canada have simply packed up and left, taking their jobs with them now that the money has dried up.
We fund charity, even when we donate nothing. All those generous folks who donated to charities get to claim back a significant portion of their donation compliments of taxpayers and, of course, politicians if they manage to survive six years in office have one of the most generous pension plans available.
There are tax credits compliments of taxpayers for tools, to cover investment losses, for savings plans, for education (as if subsidizing education to the tune of 60-75% wasn’t enough), for energy conservation, the arts, film making and a whole host of other wonderous opportunities buried in the tax code. Your accountant can ferret them out for you.
And it’s all compliments of taxpayers – you know – the folks that blame people on social assistance for their woes.
The simple reality is that poverty isn’t merely an economic issue. As Nelson Mandela said more than once, it is the worst form of violence against a human being.
“Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. It meets a thousand petty humiliations and hardships.” – J.K. Rowling
We blame the poor for their circumstance and demand they pull themselves up through hard work but when they do; we pay them a minimum wage that doesn’t even provide as much income as doing nothing on social assistance.
We mock them and call them stupid and uneducated because their English is poor. It never occurs to the sanctimonious that perhaps English is their second language. We call them morons and lazy and yet many work at more than one job just to survive.
There are no tax credits for their children to play hockey; no bailouts for the companies for which they work. They are the working poor and the same argument is used to keep their basic wage as low as possible as was used by plantation owners defending slavery.
Raising the minimum wage will devastate the economy. Are we really that stupid?
A war was fought on the issue and in the end slavery was abolished. Not only did the end of slavery not devastate the economy, the emancipation of slaves turned them into citizens who earned salaries, started businesses and paid taxes. The result was that the United States grew quickly to be the most powerful and dynamic economy in the world.
The more people who earn a decent wage; the more people there are to spend money on goods and services and to contribute to the nation through taxes. That, my friends, is what stimulates and grows an economy.
Poverty begets poverty. Wealth increases wealth. Our problem is that too much of our wealth is concentrated in too few hands and is being spent on more fancy cars, big homes and exotic vacations. I don’t begrudge anybody their success or their wealth if they’ve earned it. But I get tired of watching cash and tax credits handed out to those who have while those who have nothing and who struggle are labeled freeloaders.
We continue to hand over taxpayer benefits to the privileged who don’t need it while undercutting the support we should be providing to those who do. To me a freeloader is somebody who takes what they don’t need at the expense of others rather than investing their own money just to maintain their lifestyle.
That doesn’t mean simply writing checks. I believe that there is nobility and dignity in all work, no matter how menial. There is self-respect to be found in earning your own way and we should be investing money in helping those who struggle do exactly that. Programs to provide work for the assistance benefit instead of just handing over a check would be a good place to start and raising the minimum wage to a reasonable level would be a second.
I believe that work should be rewarded. It is why I don’t support unpaid internships. I consider them to be just another corporate rip-off; a form of benign slavery even if it is only temporary. Nobody should profit from the unpaid work of others and especially not corporations and the wealthy.
If a company cannot survive by paying people a decent wage then it shouldn’t be in business. Otherwise, it is merely the poor subsidizing the profits of the owners and that is getting pretty close to life back on the plantation.
The simple reality is that a lot of people are being paid very nice salaries because they’re part of union but many working for minimum wage have no union to fight for them. All they have is government mandated minimum wage and unfortunately, it seems that whenever raising the minimum wage is discussed; it’s the workers on one-side and business, government and the rest of us on the other. What’s particularly bemusing is that it isn’t the government or taxpayers who pay the minimum wage. It’s business. Taxpayers benefit because higher incomes mean higher taxes and we could all use a bit help with the tax burden a series of inept governments have laid on us.
The bottom line for me is quite simple. There are many freeloaders in this society and many of them are extremely well-dressed, drive very nice cars and live in fancy homes. In Quebec they get $7/day daycare and free daycare in Ontario (called full-day junior kindergarten) all compliments of taxpayers. They get tax credits for their donations to political parties and the money they salt away in their Retirement Plans. Others, regardless of income level, get heavily subsidized post-secondary education where they can study anything they want no matter how esoteric. The examples are endless.
Even the folks at Sun News Network who are famous for criticizing the CBC for being taxpayer funded went, hat in hand, to try and get the government to force taxpayers to cough up more cash by mandating mandatory carriage on cable.
So spare me the stereotypes and the self-righteous sanctimony.
If we’re going to bitch about freeloaders; we have an over-abundance from which to choose. So maybe, just for a bit, we could take our heads out of our asses and quit picking on those struggling to get by while working in minimum wage jobs and give some serious consideration to just who it is that is actually draining us dry.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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