This article has been something I've wanted to write for a while, but the time never felt right. Now, though, I finally have reached my breaking point. There is a very disturbing trend taking place right underneath our noses, and some of us are part of the problem and don't even know it. It is a practice the government has been engaging in for years now, but our time has seen record numbers participating in this quid pro quo. Everywhere you turn now you can see it happening, or at the very least, spot the result of its influence. I call it the Great American Pay-Off.
Right now, one in six Americans receives some form of government assistance. That's almost 17% of the entire population that's getting a monthly check from the current administration. This figure includes Medicare, four of the government's seventy welfare programs, and unemployment insurance. I'm sure that you have all heard time and again about how we cannot keep spending at this rate and have these programs survive. I'm sure you have also heard time and again how these programs are not even proven to help the recipients become self-sufficient. I'm sure you have even heard many say that the government assistance programs of today are not representative of the spirit in which the entire welfare system was created. These claims are all true, at least as far as I can figure it, but there is a much greater tragedy that is being perpetrated on the unsuspecting public -- they are being paid off to keep their mouths shut.
Let me give you an example to make the entire issue a bit easier to understand. Say your boss comes in to your office one day and tells you that he has decided to give you a bonus of $500 dollars every paycheck. The money seems to have come with no strings attached, so like most of us would, you take it. Two weeks later, when you are out to dinner with your family, you see your boss eating dinner with a woman who is not his wife. Since he is married to the company owner's daughter, this would mean certain unemployment if he were to be discovered. You weigh the options, and then you remember that he is paying you a bonus of $500 dollars with each paycheck, and you "have a family to support." Reluctant to lose the income, you decide it's best to keep your mouth shut, and "let karma sort it out."
The example above clearly illustrates the dangers of accepting government assistance lightly, and shows just how it can lead to voters giving their tacit approval to the administration's actions -- be they constructive or destructive. Unfortunately, the government makes it so easy these days to find some reason to accept money for simply existing, that even citizens who are generally honest find that they are succumbing to these handouts. This ease of suckling on the government teat has resulted in one-third of all wages in America being paid from Uncle Sam's wallet.
So, here we are in a position where one out of six of us are cashing a monthly check with the U.S. Government as the payer. Many of us now rely on that money as part of our regular income, and are understandably reluctant to give it up. We use excuses such as "Well, everyone else is getting it, why shouldn't I?" or "I paid in to the system, I'm just getting back what I put in!" or even "Hey, it's free money! The government will never collapse anyway." While telling ourselves lies is a crime worthy of punishment, it's the not telling that is the most egregious outrage of this entire farce. You see, most of us who are intelligent enough to brush our teeth know not to bite the hand that feeds us. So, we sit in our vacation homes, ride in our speedboats, and tan on our beaches, and leave the speaking up to "somebody else."
Far be it from me to lecture you all on moral hazard, though. Folks, even I am guilty of speaking the words "My vote doesn't matter anyway so why waste the effort?" Why do I do it? Does it have anything to do with the fact that I am on disability? If I were honest with myself I'd have to say that it probably does. I plan to end my payments as soon as my income reaches the maximum monthly limit, sure, and I am truly disabled, yes, but even those like me who legitimately need help are not immune to the phenomenon. I'd love to say that I ran out and joined the latest Tea Party protest or joined the NEA in one of their marches, but I did not. I, like those I described above, rely on the help I get from the government, and I did not want to rock the boat.
This week, though, I reached my limit. The debacle with Congressmen Weiner was hard to avoid, it was all over every TV, PC, and BlackBerry in existence. I've known for a while that our government is on a slow downward spiral and it needs a serious kick in the teeth to get it back on track. Whatever your politics, there cannot be many of you out there who believe that everything is just peachy with the current state of affairs. It's just there is a large minority of you who have, in essence, been paid to shut up, sit down, and go away. Well, it's time to say no more. If America fails, then it's no one's fault but our own, and it would be a shame to see this grand experiment in democracy go the way of the Dodo.
So get up, go on the internet, call your local political office, write a blog, speak at a town meeting, or just talk to your friends and family and make them aware of what's going on and how you think it should be changed. Don't let this administration pay you off any more like some dirty mistress who is being bribed to stay in the dark -- anonymous and silent. Yes, you may not get as many benefits, and yes, you may have to actually get up and work a bit more, but we must. I can't promise you that it will be easy or fun, but I can promise you that in the long run we will all come out ahead. For if we stay quiet and watch the band play on as we all go down, I promise you there will be no happy ending. There will just be the end.
Follow Daniel P. Malito on Twitter: www.twitter.com/danielpmalito