Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Proof that people are not naturally born to be lazy

Conservatives in Congress will tell us that the welfare state makes us a lazy nation. They tell us that we should pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and find a way to make a living. Yet, there is compelling evidence that people do not want to live on other people's money. Most people would rather have a job, a sense of industry, a sense of contributing to society. The problem is, nowadays, most people don't have any influence on how the rules are written.

I'm a dad as some of you may know already. I've been observing my kids to see how they find their own sense of autonomy, of independence. Based on what I've seen so far, kids don't grow up to be lazy. I offer three examples for you to consider.

The first of course is walking. Every kid grows up from a peanut to a crazy kid running around, walking, talking, jumping on the bed and grabbing things they shouldn't grab. Locomotion is the first sense of autonomy that kids get as they grow up. They do not want to be carried as they grow older until they are too big to carry, and by then there is simply no desire to be carried.

My oldest daughter Emily has a child safety seat. It's a nice big captains chair of a seat that I had to attach to the car seat. I used to carry her and set her into that seat. Then about a month ago, she decided that she wanted to climb into the car herself, and then climb into the car seat herself. She would refuse any help if I offered it to her. She saw a puzzle and wanted to figure it out for herself.

She has a little rainbow chair that we got from Ikea. Months ago, she figured out she could use the chair as a sort of ladder to gain some elevation to reach things she wanted to touch, to climb places she wanted to go. But when she first started working with the chair, she asked me for help to carry it. After awhile, she insisted on carrying it herself. Again, if I offered help, she refused. Kids are like that, they only ask for help if they want it.

Then there is YouTube. Some time ago, Mom got in the habit of showing our daughter kid cartoons on YouTube. Then Mom left the computer unattended with our daughter at the chair. Over time, she figured out how to use the mouse and how to find the videos she wanted to see. Left to her own devices she can keep herself entertained for quite awhile.

In every case, she asked for help, got it, then learned how to do it herself and refused the help. This is what a safety net looks like in adult life. Most adults, when faced with a situation where their family might be short on food, shelter or water, will ask for help. They will continue to ask for help until they return to self-sufficiency again.

In past generations, that's how it worked. The government filled in the gap when the economy went south and then when things got good, the government could relax and didn't have to lend support. This support was financed with very high taxes on the wealthy as well as payroll taxes on the working class. Most working class people understand that payroll taxes are social insurance so that if they get into a jam, they can get help because they bought insurance.

Insurance is designed to distribute risk. Everyone buys insurance, even the wealthy. In a sense, social insurance, like social security and medicare, are really "social unrest" insurance for the wealthy. If you don't give people a way to help themselves, you're going to have social unrest.

For the past 30 years, there has been an unrelenting effort to remove that social insurance. Its  as if, somehow, the wealthiest among us have figured that if they keep pushing their agenda, that if they remove all of the social insurance, that we'll somehow be forced to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. But at much lower prevailing wages than before.

During those 30 years, they've been finding ways to deny or remove social insurance for the rest of us, while keeping it for themselves. They've built what is best known as The Conservative Nanny State. The way things are going now, if we get a Republican president, with a Republican controlled Congress, the most likely outcome is far more social unrest.

That's why I work to educate my kids and help them when they need help. For the only way they will know how to help themselves is if I help them first.
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