Saturday, May 06, 2006


A day without irony

A reader writes in response to my recent post on "A Day without Immigrants," as follows:
Do you really see no difference between benefits earned by 20-30 years of military service and benefits granted due to need?

Further, do you really think a citizen should be punished for publicly speaking his mind? How tolerant.
To get the context, please reread my very brief post which prompted the comment.

I warmly welcome all comments. At the same time, I knew that my irony in this post would be misconstrued by at least some readers. It always happens... why should this day be any different?

My response was so lengthy that I decided to delete it and put it up here as a separate blog post:
(1) Actually, I wasn't seriously proposing that Col. (ret.) Culberson be forced to work in the fields. (Please see "irony" in Wikipedia.) As a mushy liberal softy, I would punish neither him, nor the millions of people he is trying to punish (undocumented immigrants and welfare recipients).

(2) Of course there are differences! But there are also broad similarities overlooked by Col. (ret.) Culberson. You could certainly say that pensions (military or private) or social security are "earned." But you could also say they're given as a matter of "grace" or social welfare policy. In a sense, any of us who get the pensions we believe we've earned are quite lucky. Think about all the Enron employees whose retirement accounts were wiped out by their employer's stock swindle. And I feel I'll be lucky to get the social security checks I've "earned." Which is of course the whole problem -- my social security taxes today are not "earning" my social security retirement checks, but rather funding today's retirees. Tomorrow's workers might say to me, "what are you doing for society now, you lazy old person? Get out in the fields and pick strawberries if you want your social security check!"

Culberson clearly adopts a "what are you doing for me now?" attitude toward welfare recipients since he refuses to acknowledge that most welfare recipients have been employed in the past. Indeed, many are employed right now, even as they receive various welfare benefits, at low wage jobs at places like Walmart. By Culberson's own logic, if he is retired, what's he doing for us now?

(And if he's not retired, but drawing a non-military salary while drawing his military pension, he's double dipping! Again, I have no problem with that -- he's the one complaining about people drawing checks for which they're not presently working.)

Nor is he acknowledging that the majority of welfare recipients he has in mind (probably those on the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program) are single mothers, and that child care is hard work. Many others are disabled, and even military veterans!

And of course, while Culberson impliedly acknowledges that undocumented immigrants (about 6 million of them in the US work force) are working very hard at dirty, dangerous low paying jobs that somebody has got to do, their hard work impresses him not one bit.

I have no problem with Culberson exercising his free speech rights. My point is simply that he's an idiot.

officer, those drugs in my pocket aren't 'illigal' they are just 'undocumented'
Hi Oscar,

I didn’t think my little comment would create such trouble. I do enjoy your mordant wit and sense of the ironic—which is why I am a regular visitor…

Your initial post was brief and I may have missed some if its finer points: It seemed to me that you were essentially calling the Col. (Ret.) a hypocrite since he is collecting a government check while casting aspersions on others who (just as lawfully) are doing the same. One can, and I think you fairly well did, produce a reductionist argument that the differences between “earned” benefits and those granted due to need are really only superficial differences or differences which are at best ones of degree rather than of type.

Okay, fine. Some folks believe that you deserve what you need, others that you deserve what you produce. I suspect a fairly left/right split on this. There is little point debating fundamental assumptions of justice.

Maybe we could agree on this: The people who gain most from the existence of 6 million hard-working aliens are upper middle class Americans who get a great deal on landscaping, housecleaning, construction and childcare services. The main losers are Americans at the lowest economic rung who see their potential wages depressed by lower-cost competition.

Best Regards,

Anonymous --- huh???

dbp: No, no, no!!
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