Friends In Need, Friends Indeed

I have a very dear friend whom I correspond with from time to time and we respectfully agree to disagree on most matters political. She recently wrote on her Facebook page a note regarding her frustration over some of the issues that the current election has raised:

I have a job. I make money. I have a choice of what to do with my money. I can decide to save some of my money or spend all of my money. I decide to save some of my money. Now I have to decide how do I want to save my money. I can put it under my mattress. I can keep it in my checking account. I can start a savings account. I can invest it. I decide to invest it. Now I have to decide what kind of investment. My decision to invest has worked out well for me. I make money. Now I have to decide, within the law, what to do with my money. I find out, with advice, I can save my money in different ways.
It is my money, I am within the law, but others have what they think is a better way to use or do with my money. But it is my money. I haven’t broken any laws. I am generous and giving with my money. But others think I am not generous and giving enough with my money. Why do others want my money or tell me what I should be doing with my money? What is wrong with this picture?

This is an interesting note and one worthy of reflection. My friend has a point: it’s her money, where do other people come off telling her where it should be spent?

Unfortunately, we live in a country where the government claims the right to take some of our money and spend it the way they think it should be spent. I also disagree with much of the way my money is spent, and I am frustrated by the waste and abuse. But I recognize the fact that I have little to say about it and as long as I choose to remain in this country I must play by the rules. For example, I would love to see “defense” spending greatly reduced and the money spent on clean energy, health and human services, and education. But I have no say in the matter, unfortunately. Neither does my friend.

For years now I have watched an elderly man walk by my house on his way to work at the local factory. He carries his lunch pail and he walks slowly back and forth like clockwork every day. I worked for years at the regional state university where my salary was paid for by people like the man who walks by my house every day. I have fed at the public trough and I have managed to do quite well. My friend, quoted above, also ate from that same trough and she has managed to do well also. We are the lucky ones, because we made it to retirement. The man I spoke about no longer walks by my house: he has been laid off due to “downsizing” at the local factory — after 20 years of loyal service working on an assembly line putting cabinets together. Now it’s my turn to help him, I figure. He can eat out of the public trough for a while until he can get back on his feet. Why not? It only seems fair.

As I say, I don’t choose where my tax money goes. But I am delighted to know that at least some of it goes to help out people like the man who walks by — and another friend of mine, a former public school superintendent who has been laid off, lost his house, and watched his life fall apart before his eyes. These people are not lazy bums. They are people who need our help and yet we begrudge it because it is “our” money. I  would prefer to think of it as a loan. We have it for a time and we certainly don’t need it all; when others need it they should be welcome to it. I don’t suffer unduly because these people are now feeding out of the public trough. I ate out of it for many years. Now it’s their turn.

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10 thoughts on “Friends In Need, Friends Indeed

  1. I’m likely preaching to the choir here, but I find the “its my money, I earned it” argument just as silly, and just as wrong, as the “I built it” republican stand.

    I helped pay for this woman’s education, helped keep her safe at night, helped build the park she played in as a child, even helped pay for her pediatrician as she was growing up. I helped pay for the roads she drove on to and from school, helped pay for her teachers, helped pay for the university she attended, even helped pay for the city block she went to on movie dates. Today, I helped pay for the roads she travels to and from work on, the airports she flys to and from on business and vacations, even the public transportations she uses.

    When she retires from her job, (if she is lucky enough to do so, and not end up like the factory worker, laid-off by greedy corporate owners who still believe they “built it”) I will help pay for her social security, her medical care, perhaps even her final home.

    This woman, like most of us, has come nowhere close, not even in the same ballpark, of paying for all the services she has used or uses in her daily lives, services I and millions of others have paid in order to give her the opportunities in life she so takes for granted.

    So if she must share of her money with others, others who have made it possible for her to live the life she has, then she should be grateful for the sacrifice of others, and share generously.

    What’s wrong with this picture, she asks, is her myopic attitude.

    • Good response. I have little patience with that attitiude — as though any of us made it “on our own.” Thanks for the good comment!

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  2. Great post and comments. We seem to have lost our sense of community. Gandhi said “a community’s greatness is measured how it takes care of less fortunate.” We need to help our fellow citizens in tough times climb the ladder to self sufficiency, We should not do for them what they can do for themselves, with the exception of emergency situations, where we need to do what it takes. The point Barney makes is also good. We need government to do for us what a private investor cannot do for the community. And, our history shows there are many times where government and private investors invest together. Both of these examples are evidence of the sense of community we need to embrace. Nice work. BTG

    • David Brooks made the comment that what was missing in the Republican speeches was any mention of community — among other things.

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  3. I always have to laugh at people who believe the government is spending “their” money. It’s not their money, it’s the government’s money. If you don’t like how the government spends its money, then you have at least three choices:

    1 – complain
    2 – elect new leaders who you think will spend your money differently. Rarely works because your leader is one of many dozens and hundreds.
    3 – spend your money so that you don’t have to pay any to the government, or at least very little.

    Ever since I joined the work force in 1973, I’ve practiced giving money to others who are less fortunate than me. I do that by contributing to non-profit organizations — churches, arts organizations, ASCPA, Red Cross, Muscular Dystrophy Association, American Heart Association, etc. Those contributions are tax deductible.

    Except for 1993 when I sold a company for several million dollars, I have never paid the government on April 15. I’ve always gotten money back from what I paid in during the year.

    I have an Excel spreadsheet that tracks my actual income and projected income for the year. It’s broken down into months, weeks, days, and sometimes even hours. At the end of each quarter, if it looks like I’m going to be paying money, I write a lot of checks to various non-profit organizations to bring me back in line.

    It’s a great system, and the IRS and the government even approve of it!

  4. That letter seems to be a form letter going around. I’ve see a version of it several times over the last few months. Your comment is on point, and the “I built it, it’s my money” claim is bogus and narrow minded at best.

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