Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Just Happened?

So today I will be working all day and attending a school open house on about 3 hours of sleep. It should be fun and exciting on so many levels. Why so little sleep? Well, I was at my weekly guys meeting last night until about midnight and on my way home I imagined my head hitting the pillow and being asleep within a few seconds...minutes at the worst.

After going into the boys room to say a silent goodnight I finally found my way to my bed. But I couldn't sleep. I knew that I was meeting the guy who has quickly become one of my favorite people, not to mention my new workout partner, at the gym for a 6am workout and the thoughts of that weren't helping me have less pressure to go to sleep. Knowing that I had some paperwork to do at the office prior to that workout and that my alarm would be sounding at 4am added even more pressure to fall asleep...but still no such luck. So I am in bed, knowing that I would have to get out of bed in 3 hours but all I could do is lay there and think...why?

The main thing on my mind was what happened earlier in the day. See, I sent a buddy of mine a political email, endorsing in a sense one of the candidates running for president based on their proposed tax changes alone. I know the buddy I sent it to doesn't get to wrapped up in politics but to the degree he does it is likely in a way most would consider more liberal than me. Something in his rather typical reply set off something in me that I am still having a hard time figuring out. I understood his reply to imply that people who have money should be forced to pay high taxes because doing otherwise is another way of "The Man" keeping the poor people poor and further exploiting people for financial gain. I am not saying that his point was that exactly but I certainly took it that way.

To back up for a minute I will say that I have traditionally leaned very much in the conservative direction politically...often explaining how it is the responsibility of Christians to vote for the conservative candidates. I have more recently become apolitical...often stating that God's Kingdom...the one Jesus talked about all the time...is not of this world so it is less important for followers of Jesus to get involved in politics. However, apparently some dissonance with the way things are and the way things should be from a perspective of the world and my faith showed up in some "jerk" type reaction...so much so that I stayed up late, missing very valuable sleep, thinking about why...

Here is a part of what I wrote to my buddy...at least he use to be my buddy (edited and amended for the sake of explanation and brevity):
As a result of business and educational decisions I am qualified and willing to work at my current job and my average work day is well over 12 hours...not to mention that I am on call 365 days per year, 24 hours per day. So am I blessed by being able to work a job that is more lucrative than let's say...working for $12000 per year as a janitor or $25000 as a garbage collector? And if I am simply blessed and that is the only reason I have the job or the income I do, exactly what percentage of my income is the government entitled to?
Additionally, saying that I am blessed seems to negate the fact that I work longer hours than anyone else I know within my given demographic and circle of friends. So I wake up daily at 4am and get home every work day after 6pm...and work many times during the weekends due to one thing or another...and for what? So I can save money? So I can make sure my children are well supported? So I can assure that my wife doesn't have to work? Or so I can make sure that someone whom I have never met can live in government housing, receive government welfare, receive government food stamps and have zero responsibility other than walking to the mailbox to collect the check?
The individuals receiving the benefits of my tax dollar don't wake up at 4am, they don't bear my medico-legal liability and they don't (for whatever reason) have the sweat equity invested in education and experience that I do. So what amount of my compensation or what percentage of my annual salary would you suggest I owe those who wish to receive checks? I can give you one figure...Uncle Sam thinks my "fair share" is 35%...on top of property tax, sales tax, ad valorem tax, gas tax, etc. When it is all said and done, about half of everything I produce goes to Uncle Sam to support Governmental Overspending, Entitlement Programs and endless bureaucracy...no thanks!

It isn't that I disagree with what I wrote entirely. My issue is that the spirit with which I typed it and thought through it wasn't considerate of the poor. I wasn't thoughtful of those in horrible situations not of their own choosing. I didn't sympathize with "the least of these". I do think faith mandates charity and love to the people who "have not". I still disagree when the government thinks it is their responsibility to mandate the same. I can't wait to hear opinions about this one...

3 comments:

thepriesthood said...

good talking today. i liked what you were saying. and really enjoyed the brews.

one other huge question: if it's not the govt's responsibility to care for the least of these, what is the govt's responsibility?

also, what you were doing in the email was this: offering generalizations about a large group of people, and countering that with specifics from one person, yourself. Not sure if that's fair. I think it does us all good to be engaged in the day-to-day lives of the poor (which admittedly I am not). I think it would be harder and harder to simply see them as lazy. i do agree, there's plenty of laziness out there, but I am of the suspicion that there are good (in addition to bad) reasons for it. Eh?

peace

Anonymous said...

I guess as a daughter of a gobvernment worker I see things in a different way. There are a large majorority of porplr out there who believe that this money that we are handing out to them it "owed" to them, while they sit at their house and watch TV all day long and never one time try to get out and get a job. They are happy to settle with what is GIVEN to them. Where I am working 12 hour shifts myslef and have a very sevre helath problem that would allow me to fcollect disbalility,but my legs and my hands still work and as long as they do I will be earning my check.
It makes me sick to see what I see in the health care field that I work in and you have Moms comingin with 5or 6 kids and pregnant again ,on me of course,because they have no insurance,and they want me to tell them whether the baby is a a boy or a girl cause if its a girl "they aint keepin that shit" "they gettin that taken care of as soon as they can get an appt" . NOw you tell me that that person deserves or even has the right to have ANY of my money!!!! I will tell you that they do not. And by the way the baby was a girl and I told her I could not see what it was that day because if I held her off two weeks longer she could not have an abortion. That baby girl was born and put up for adoption and now had a home with parents that begged God please just give us a child. I think that is how God would have wanted it.

Blake said...

Good questions Tyler...I will do my best to answer deep questions without taking all day...

In short, I think the role of government is defined by each government. For example, our gov't is defined by the constitution, bill of rights and the amendements ratified by congress. If I had to give a synopsis of 232 years of gov't in the US I would list several things:
1. making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society
2. secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life
or to quote Bastiat:
"Each of us has a natural right - from God - to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?"

My broad generalizations exist much like stereo-types...because of experiences. The specific example of my life and thought is also shared by many people...I just didn't presume to speak for those people. I think the question isn't about statistical outliers...as in, is there someone living off the "government teet" that is without options to do any better? Sure there are...and those people aren't part of the problem and I would argue that those people make up the vast minority of those living in gov't housing and accepting gov't subsidy in other forms. Drive through the projects downtown today and see how many wheelchairs you see rolling around, count the number of elderly and then compare the number you come up with to the young, able bodied individuals there. When I have done that in the past I have become angry.

I think the next logical argument is that just because the people there appear healthy doesn't mean that they learned healthy behaviors or have had good home lives...thus disqualifying them being help to any standard of personal responsibility. For me that is BS argument. Both of my parents grew up in poverty...but they didn't choose to stay there. Both of my parents grew up in dysfunctional homes...one with a raging alcoholic for a dad...but they didn't use that as an excuse to stay in poverty. That is just my experience and I know that others have different experiences...I still think for the most part, it all comes back to personal responsibility and the people without it demanding those people with it to support them....I know, another broad generalization :)