Back when my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I were attending Millville Grade School, "spare the rod and spoil the child" was still a popular and accepted philosophy of discipline. For the most part, I was a fairly well behaved student, but Stinky tended to be a little more unruly. I think that's probably why he spent so much time in the principal's office. It seemed like Stinky was always "getting what he had coming to him", or "getting what he deserved". At least he was getting what the principal thought he deserved.
And I suppose he did get what he deserved when he threw a rock through Summit Taylor's garage window, and he probably got what he had coming to him when he tied that dead opossum to the muffler on Miss Wangle's Volkswagen. It always seemed kind of obvious to me that if you caused harm to someone or something, you most likely deserved something, whether you thought you deserved it or not.
Every once in a while Stinky would do something so grievous that the whole class would be punished. We missed a lot of recesses because of his transgressions. I never did understand why the teacher thought we all deserved to be punished on Stinky's account, but when you're in the third grade or somewhere there abouts, you don't really get to decide those kinds of things. I remember hoping that when I grew up I would have a little more input on deciding what I deserved for not doing something.
My first regular job was working for Dawson Pope, a contractor up in Mooreland. I thought I deserved $5.00 an hour for my labors. Dawson thought I deserved $1.65. It turns out he was right, I guess, or at least that he was the one who got to make the decision. I liked Dawson a lot, but we never did agree on what I deserved.
When I started my own business 38 years ago, it didn't take long to figure out that what I thought I deserved, and what I thought my customers deserved, needed to coincide pretty closely with what my potential customers thought I deserved and what they thought they deserved. Otherwise, they most likely wouldn't become my customer. Seemed like the best way to decide who deserved what, or at least the best way I had found so far.
I read an article the other day from the Social Security Administration, encouraging injured people to sign-up early for disability benefits. According to the story, if you don't sign up right away, you might miss out on some of the benefits you have coming to you. Now, I understand that there are a lot of people in this world who need some help, and probably some more than others. And I also understand that the people down at the Social Security office have the authority to decide who supposedly deserves benefits and who doesn't. But I'm not sure how anybody thinks they have the right to decide that one person somehow automatically deserves another person's property. I figure a person ought to decide that for themselves.
But every month the government makes that decision for about 15 million people. No doubt a lot of those people need it. I'm just not convinced the right people have determined they deserve it.
Our government spends a lot of its time passing out a lot of our money to people who may or may not deserve it. Every month it sends out about a million checks, redistributing our tax money through a myriad of social and entitlement programs, all designed to keep recipients convinced that they deserve it, and keep them dependent on the government, and keep the people running the programs and the government in jobs.
The problem is the government is redistributing more money than it is collecting, by about $15 trillion, so far. And if we keep sending the same people back to Washington, by the next presidential election, that debt will have reached $20 trillion, with another $100 trillion in unfunded but promised liabilities.
That's a lot of debt to hand to our children and grandchildren.
I'm just not sure they deserve it.