The way I have opened all of our podcasts is, “…with today’s personal, financial and political Thought/Action message.” At the outset of this podcast effort. This communications mission, was my desire to communicate three different sets of rules, ways of thinking, required for success in each of those three areas; personal, financial and political–politics increasingly affecting all of us. The more I thought about it, the more it became clear that the basic, the fundamental rules were the same in all three areas. Things like hard work, taking personal responsibility, having a win-win attitude, and helping others when they are working hard to help themselves, apply everywhere. Sure, we can use specific rules like the rule of 72 when investing, starting with the outside fork in a fine dining setting, and knowing that you need to raise a ton of money to win a political campaign, but the core rules are the same. Like in baseball; hit, hit with power, run, throw and catch. Those are the basics. And there are basics we need to practice in order to succeed in all of life.
Let’s work together to get this topic Handouts right. Hands out vs Handouts? Having your hands out means that you want something. When we talk about handouts, it usually means that someone else wants something. And it is not a complimentary term, usually implying a request, even a demand, for unearned and undeserved cash, products or services. Remember the term “Welfare Queen?” That was quickly countered from the other side with, “Yeah, but what about corporate welfare?” The two sides would rage on, like two televisions broadcasting at each other. And if the other TV showed no signs of listening, the volume got turned up. And up. Extending this metaphor, today we can see rows of TVs, people, lined up on opposite sides of a street, shouting at each other. Like TVs, everyone is on broadcast, incapable of listening. And you can see where that is getting us.
Most of us see others as the ones with their hands out. Rarely do we see ourselves that way. Let’s look at that together.
As we, correctly, criticise the excesses of the welfare state as unfair to both taxpayers and the recipients, taking unnecessary money from the former, and robbing the latter of important life lessons, loss of dignity, and helping to launch generational poverty, let’s also look at:
- As we age, do we demand that Social Security remains “as promised” even with the massive, unanticipated changes in demographics? When the first Social Security check was issued in the amount of $22.54 in 1940, the eligibility age at the time was 65; life expectancy then was less 62. In other words, most people were not expected to draw a single check, even a small one. Life expectancy in the US is now 78, and more benefits are being paid to more types of recipients for far longer. Would we support changes, reductions, actually, that would lessen the huge additional amounts now needed to be paid out under the original rules if those changes gave us less money? Or do we want it all? If we do want it all, aren’t we asking for/demanding a handout from our kids and grandkids? They are the ones who will get the bill.
- If you are on a taxpayer-supported defined benefit pension plan that is woefully underfunded, and they are all massively underfunded, are you going to use the political power at your disposal to, again, have things delivered “as promised?” Unlike private company pension plans, taxpayer-funded plans are not negotiated between two parties, each of which have a direct financial stake in the outcome. Politicians, often financially supported by the very unions seeking the benefits, are not spending a dime of their money. And their compensation is not tied to negotiating a fair, but cost-effective plan. They are promising taxpayer money in exchange for individual pension-recipient votes and, when present, union support. The political promises were not made in a fair, arms-length negotiation. These type of negotiations almost always result in excessive and unaffordable promises being made. Do you demand that promises made in those circumstances be kept? If so, aren’t you asking for a handout from the taxpayers?
- Do we love our recent tax cut–or reflect back favorably on Reagan’s or Kennedy’s–because we might have benefitted without really digging into whether it was good for the country as whole? In other words, do we really and truly care about tax policy being good for the country, as long as we get a break ourselves? If it is something that is positive for us, and a negative for the country, then isn’t it a handout? And our 70+K page federal tax code is a growing monument to various tax loopholes, AKA tax handouts.
My in-laws suffered during the Depression, but were too proud to go on any type of welfare. That was not the wisest financial choice, but they stuck to their beliefs, their bias against “charity”, survived and eventually thrived. It was hard for a while, but the lessons they learned and the backbone they created gave them good lives. The belief systems and biases now seem to be pushing us in the opposite direction; take what you qualify for, and vote for those who promise more. This approach will be easy for a while, and make it extremely hard to take a different path later on. Life is like that: if you make it hard now, it will be easier later; if you make it easy now, it will be harder later on.
Let’s take this examination of who has their hands out with a quick look at some other issues currently in the public debate:
- “College should be free.”
- “Medicare for all.”
- “Housing is a human right.”
Are we for or against any of these? Why? Are we looking at these issues from a personal perspective; will we personally benefit and are for it, or will others benefit and we are against it? Or can we honestly look at them from a national perspective. Let’s pick one for a closer look. “College should be free.” Well, we all know that college will never be free, but what advocates are saying is that college should be free to the student. If we are that age or have kids or grandkid that age, it might be easy to fool ourselves that we support this because education is good for the country. This is not the time to pull that one apart; this is the time to remind ourselves that we need to be brutally honest about the whole handout conversation–and our individuals roles in it. We are individuals with self-interests, living in, and ideally serving, a larger society, a society with it own self-interests. With different self-interests, there is always a win-win; let’s find it together.
Recommended links that will add to today’s discussion:
Two main tenets of the Results With Reason belief set:
- Personal Responsibility; practice it, teach it and
- Be Your Brother’s Keeper.
Tell me how you think those two rules apply to this Handout podcast.
Please do contact me about this or anything. Respond in my Results With Reason blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’m easy to find on iTunes, Google Play and the usual Bat Channels, including Twitter and Facebook.
It is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Results With Reason, it is not only change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing to you from my home office at 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.
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