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Yesterday, I blogged about the opportunity my liberal relative gave me to explain why those on public assistance should vote for conservatives in the 2012 election (you can see the post here). As you might imagine, this Facebook argument raged on (respectfully so, I must say) for most of the day and deep into the night.
A couple of points came up in the discussion that I thought would be instructive to address.
The first point that came up from the left is something we hear quite frequently - that in order to get off public assistance, one must be offered a job "with dignity and at a living wage". The second point was that corporations are bad because they keep profits for themselves instead of "investing in the middle class". I found both statements deeply troubling.
Regarding a job with dignity and at a living wage, I found this exchange enlightening:
My friend, to my liberal relative: [N]o one is rooting for your failure, sir. If you want to be off of government assistance and back into the workforce, then you ought to seriously consider which presidential contender knows the most about how to succeed in business and by extension how to promote a healthy economy. Quite simple, really ...
...even a messy job such as cleaning out port-o-potties is more dignified than dependency, yes. Would anyone disagree?
My liberal relative: I am currently dependent upon welfare and I have more dignity than that ... Despite conservative assertions that "any job is better than being on welfare", that is untrue. Looking from the top down, you have a much different picture of dignity than when looking from the bottom up
Myself: Would you pick lettuce or tomatoes in a field?
Relative: Dignity comes with earning a living wage. My question is, does picking lettuce or tomatoes pay enough to provide a living wage? Because if so, then the answer is an overwhelming yes, I would gladly give up all public assistance for a job that paid a fair living wage
Myself: And what is a living wage?
Relative: Shall I post my budget for you to inspect? I have it handy. A living wage is any pay that meets or exceeds my cost of living for myself and my family
My friend: If you are still asserting that there is less dignity in low-paying work than in collecting welfare, I think that importantly we have zeroed in on the chief difference between the two contrasting views here. Regrettably it is an irreconcilable difference. The liberal whose lifestyle needs are not met with a low paying job collects welfare instead. The conservative changes his lifestyle to suit the reality of his condition until he can claw his way back up the workplace ladder again.
To expand on that point, the person who believes he is "owed" a living wage by "society" is the same person who will settle for public assistance until the "right" kind of job comes along. And if that right job does not come along, that person believes he is owed a proper living by society. That proper living includes a large house, all the electronic accessories you can imagine, and the dignity of a card so you don't have to show food stamps or justify your purchases made with taxpayer money.
The second assertion, about corporations investing in the middle class:
Relative: As for the assertion that wealthy corporations will invest in the middle class, I would like to direct your attention to reality and ask you for your opinion on what precisely happened to cause the financial meltdown in 2008? ....what happened to cause the recent Libor scandal? What happened when, shortly after the bank bailout, the banks gave themselves multi-million dollar bonuses for that year's work?
Friend: What happened was an imperfect system performed imperfectly. [What happens when a company hires new workers?] Someone invests in the companiy which in turn hires them. Surely this is a more representative occurrence than the financial meltdown of 2008 which was history-making. Middle class people get hired every day (or at least they did until President B.O.). If you are still asserting that there is less dignity in low-paying work than in collecting welfare, I think that importantly we have zeroed in on the chief difference between the two contrasting views here. Regrettably it is an irreconcilable difference. The liberal whose lifestyle needs are not met with a low paying job collects welfare instead. The conservative changes his lifestyle to suit the reality of his condition until he can claw his way back up the workplace ladder again.
This struck me as even more disturbing than the insistence that one is owed a living wage regardless of the quality of work produced. Corporations don't invest in "the middle class", whatever your definition of it. Nor should they. They only invest in things that make them money and secure their revenue streams, leading to a healthy profit margin. In order to get there, they invest in developments that grow the company. When growth occurs, more hires are required to maintain operations. Pretty simple really.
The idea that instead of investing in themselves, they should "invest in the middle class", is a deeply frightening idea. That is the very definition of redistribution of wealth, which in turn is the very definition of socialism. Because after all, there is no "investment in the middle class" without government enforcing that investment against the best interest of the corporation.
But this seems to be the basis of most arguments from the Left. And as I've previously pointed out, this correlates directly to the Communist Manifesto, whether intentional or not.