Kenneth Gough’s column on Sept. 23 bothers me. The social safety net exists to help people in need, usually temporarily. Some take advantage. It’s added cost for taxpayers undeniably, but we shouldn’t be surprised some finagle undeserved benefits.
Businesses, particularly retailers, know these people well, too. Many employ staff to deal exclusively with what is called “shrink,” those internal aspects of business that diminish profitability. They can be simple inefficiencies, but the largest contributors often are employee theft and shoplifting. Businesses and customers are penalized as surely as taxpayers wherever moochers find a target.
They’re here. Sometimes we know their names. The “welfare state” didn’t create them. When they succeed, they’re enabled and we’ll do well to curb it. But dismantling the safety net to make them “responsible” will only guarantee they’ll find another way — maybe more frightening and up close. Plus, their children will be hungry and without health care.
Ideologues like Paul Ryan promote getting rid of food stamps, unemployment compensation, Medicaid, aid to families and even Medicare and Social Security, as a way to curb “enabling.” They don’t tend to allow their book learning and philosophy an honest interface with the real world. The huge majority of people who access public assistance use it temporarily and remove themselves when they can (like Mitt Romney’s grandparents) as a matter of pride.
As a welfare state, the United States ranks low compared to other industrialized nations. Several, including Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, offer far more generous public assistance while maintaining healthy economies. Greece’s problems don’t fit Gough’s theme. It’s complicated, but highly inflated uncompetitive wages from the boom years created Greece’s problems — not wild entitlement excesses.
The notion is overblown. Seeing it in print all convoluted with freedom is embarrassing. Tack on Romney’s insult to the 47 percent to complete this picture.