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The Freeloaders

1544391_581625175252390_1276856252_nHere’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 1012930_639957136042850_947017103_na 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.

———————————————–RELATED————————————————

The Caesars

The Enlightened

The Illusionists

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© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • matthew brandley

    when the goverment decides what companies get tax breaks it creates a uneven playing field. people should not be getting tax breaks for having a child play ice hockey. I never heard of that! and to think the u s was messed up giving a child tax credit to illegals? enough said bear

    • MaggiesBear

      Governments have been meddling in the marketplace for years trying to engineer industry types and create jobs. They are terrible at picking winners and losers. The let a tech giant like Nortel go down but bailed out the auto industry. In Ontario, they jumped on sustainable energy and have squandered $2 billion in unnecessary cost to the taxpayer. After a 8 years of Conservative government, the net job gain in Canada is less than 140,000 jobs over the 8 years.

      The worst part is that they have more programs to fund people to do nothing but resist raising the minimum wage to encourage people to work, earn a livable wage and pay taxes.

      Down is up and up is down.

  • oldwhiteguy

    government has become the largest group of freeloaders in the country. from our elected members to the vast bureaucracy that controls our lives. freedom to fail is a great incentive to succeed.

    • MaggiesBear

      You’re right but even worse, government not only enables but creates other freeloaders in our society with misguided public policy and self-serving programs that will get them elected.

  • bertie

    Well if you do not understand what a freeloader is,here is a good example.Someone who stays on welfare generation to generation or for life and it runs in the family.Or maybe we can give examples of whole provinces, Quebec takes year after year after year and never gives.Personally I feel there are quite a large number of people who use the food banks as a free shopping center and take food from the real needy.And then the best example are the lazy bastards who wont feed their children and society has to feed them at school.I could go on and on with examples,but then you would start calling me names.We created ghettos for natives instead of intigrating them into main stream society and then wonder why a large segment of each reservation become freeloaders for life.

  • Gerry

    Ah, but it is all in the language: the poor get “handouts” and the rich get “incentives”. Not sure why it shouldn’t be the other way round. A little data would help disabuse people of the notion that people on welfare are mainly freeloaders. I have done two rounds of analysis over time on welfare recipients within our jurisdiction and found that the vast majority are one time less than three months duration users. I will bet, purely on speculation, that the “incentives” group uses their freeloader options far more consistently over a longer period of time. I think there is still a carry over from the 1800s of an assumption that being poor is a result of the individual’s moral failure of some kind – it may be in some instances but the moral disapproval inherent in the language of “handouts” and “freeloaders” is a vestige of this moralization I think.

    The minimum wage area is more complex and I would be happier if government did not diddle in the market place by setting arbitrary limits on prices whether it be labour or goods. We probably could have a vigorous off-line debate about the efficacy of changes to the minimum wage and the consequences thereof.

    • MaggiesBear

      I think we’re pretty much on the same page except for your last paragraph. The simple reality is that government does diddle in the market place. It establishes rules and regulations for environmental protection, occupational health and safety, truth in advertising, anti-trust and anti-monopoly restrictions and they do that because too often, business cannot be trusted to always act in the public interest or the interest of their employees.

      People at the bottom end of the income scale are the most vulnerable to being abused by business. They aren’t represented by unions and have no voice to speak for them other than government.I stand by the position that if a business can only be successful by paying less than a fair wage for a day’s work, it doesn’t deserve to be in business. Nobody should have to work for a pittance so that others can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

      • Gerry

        I trust neither business nor government to always act in the public interest. I expect them to pursue their vested self-interests ala Frederick Hayek. That does not require them to be venal and expedient and the fact that some of them are is more to our shame as a sheeple than to their greed.

        Who is at the bottom of the income scale? Certainly not the bread winner for a family of 4 unless it is an anomaly. Typically it is younger workers starting out in the workforce who gain experience and increase their income over time until retirement when it (as we both know) declines. I had done a nice graph out of CANSIM 202-0407 Income of individuals, by sex, age group and income source, 2011 constant dollars, annual, 1976 to 2011 which I cannot figure out how to upload but the point being that a 20 year old in 1976 earning an average of $8700 by 1986 was a 30 year old earning an average of $37,500 by 1996 a 40 year old earning and average of $41,700 and by 2006 a 50 year old earning an average of $52,400 and by 2011 a 55 year old earning an average of $45,200 (retirees start to kick in for those starting work at 20). People do not typically remain at the bottom end of the income scale. Whether the bottom is a pittance is another issue which depends on whether you think they are raising a family on it or supplementing family income or a teenager earning extra cash for the latest game system. The assumptions about who we are talking about determine how one reacts to this I think.

        I agree with the principle of a fair wage for a day’s work but I don’t agree that government knows what is fair. And that concept is fraught with interpretations – for example is it fair to pay a 30 year old with a family the same as an 18 year old? Is it fair to pay them on what job they are performing or on their life circumstances? You can get interesting responses to that question as I know. If you think the job performed should determine remuneration that leads you to one definition of fairness; if you think life circumstances should well that leads you in an entirely different direction.