2/3/2012 1:35 PM ET|
America: A nation of moochers?
An author says there has been a dangerous cultural shift, so that the most productive citizens are expected take care of everybody else.
You've played by the rules. Worked hard to put yourself through school. You've gotten a decent job, and you pay your taxes. You're faithfully paying down your mortgage and saving money in a 401k -- all to secure your finances and your future. But now there are a lot more "takers" than "makers" in this country -- and the impact is systemic and long-lasting.
A prevalent new "moocher culture" is changing the character of this nation -- that's the core message of "A Nation of Moochers: America's Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing," a new book by Charles J. Sykes, senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and the author of six previous books.
"This has been the flash point in American politics for the last several years," Sykes told The Fiscal Times in an interview last month. "In the wake of the Great Recession, we've shifted from a culture of celebrating and encouraging those who are productive and hardworking, to a culture where handouts, bailouts, freebies and entitlements dominate. You start to wonder, 'Why am I paying the freight for those who have been reckless and irresponsible, whether it's on Wall Street or in Washington or anywhere else in the community?' I think we're becoming a very different nation."
Excerpts from our conversation with the author follow:
The Fiscal Times: With so many people out of work and so many suffering -- through no fault of their own -- how do you draw the line between real need and a so-called "culture of mooching"?
Charles Sykes: That's obviously the most difficult part, the gray area in the middle. There's a distinction between needing temporary aid versus using a vast network of dependency as a way of life. Unemployment compensation, for example, is necessary for an amount of time. But when you start getting into 90-plus weeks of unemployment, hasn't a temporary stopgap now become an excuse for people to avoid taking jobs? A number of economic studies have shown that the longer these benefits are extended, the higher the unemployment rate is. People make a rational calculation that it's easier to stay on the couch than to get a job that maybe isn't as great as what they had before.
TFT: Isn't it a big leap to go from someone on unemployment to a wholesale expansion of dependency?
CS: If we have hungry children, of course we as a compassionate society have an obligation to take care of them. But I think we're going through a massive, concerted effort to expand the number of people who are dependent, who are looking to the government to buy them free breakfast, lunch and dinner, far beyond any reasonable definition of genuine need.
TFT: Is this new learned helplessness, as you describe it, a replacement for the employed-for-life, taken-care-of-for-life notion that many in earlier generations have known?
CS: Maybe. But ultimately the use of other people's money and the vast expansion of benefits won't substitute for what used to be provided for by the private sector. You can certainly understand the attraction of the bailouts, the freebies, the handouts, the dependency -- for people who are nervous about the economy. But some politicians play upon this anxiety by promising things that are ultimately unaffordable and unsustainable. This endless promise that there's always enough money in someone else's pocket won't work. It's very seductive in some ways, but it's not a solution to our economic problems, and it's changing the culture and character of our society. It's not the self-reliance and sense of independence and industry that our nation was founded on.
TFT: You worry about the children and the young people coming up.
CS: Yes, I do. Other people take a slightly more optimistic view. They say the reality is that most Americans still have the belief of working hard and being rewarded for it, that we still have a middle class that wants to do the right thing, and that these folks don't become somebody different even if we are in economically tough times. That's true. But I also see a new class of dependency. How many generations does it take before the younger people look around and say, "Of course somebody else is going to pay for me. Of course there's a bailout. If I screw up or don't save any money, it doesn't matter." I say we're living on borrowed time. We've drawn down the balance of our bedrock values. Once the stigma of being dependent is eliminated, more and more people want to be that way.
More from The Fiscal Times:
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Mooch off the government and steal under the table people are everywhere today. The battle cry is "I'm not paying" or" I need to feed my babies" when the truth is the babies are feeding the adults through welfare. Then when social security kicks in the government gives them supplemental social security to add to their regular payments because they did not work much through the years. Hud gives them half off rent and the feds give food stamps. Treating a lot people too good when their really moochers' & thugs who work the system. Regular joe who pays taxes and goes to work gets the finger from the government who is too busy helping welfare thugs and ignoring honesty.
Mooching or welfare state..?
The jobs that paid a living wage which you could raise a family with have gone
to other nations...They have been replaced with minimum wage, or low paying part time jobs that have No Benefits, insurance, or retirement plans...
Washington is spending our tax dollars like its water....Giving our tax dollars to countries that hate our guts...letting us be overrun by illegals, refusing to enforce the immigration laws of America, and suing the states which try to enforce our laws...?
Wall Street is being manipulated and fixed by a group of crooks that are above the law...
Yep...things have changed and its not good...
Remember to Vote this year...
It seems that the "War on Poverty" is really just a euphuism for "War on the Prosperous".
This is disgusting. A generation or two ago, a barely literate person could walktz into a factory and immediately get a great paying job, with a pension and great benefits. Now, kids with bachelor's and master's degrees can barely get a min. wage job, or part-time job with no benefits. Whose fault is that????
I say the moochers are the "financial experts" that make 2% off of my retirement accounts for doing next to nothing!
You are darn right we are a country of moochers. It is not good enough that we reap what we sow, but we and to reap what others sow. Remember the woman on tv then night obama was elected? She said "Obama is going to buy me a new car"? Is this mooching or not? We have lost the drive to be self sufficient and do for ourselves. We want others to do for us and for us to get what they earned and do nothing for it. The democrats and liberals want it this way. They want you to be self-sufficient on government and for the government to think for you. Then if the Republicans want you on your own two feet, the liberals scare the heck out of you.
A Nation of moochersHow about a WORLD of moochers .. starting with governments, companies, organizations, employed, unemployed, retired, old, sick, young .. and the stray dog whining at the door. If we have to put a scale to the moocher index maybe we should try the "trickle down theory".
Quit calling people on social security moochers! By the time you draw it you've paid into it all of your working life, for some people since they were sixteen years old. It's self sustaining and not broke accept for government theft. Millionaires don't need it and should not be drawing it. Take the lid off and people should pay as long as they work no matter what they make, of course the rich would scream their heads off if that ever happened. Extending unemployment checks forever is ridiculous and should be stopped. The way the world is today the rich want it all and they don't care who they hurt.
I REALLY hate bums! Anyone that comes up to me for a "handout", I tell them to go pound sand. I work in an extremely dangerous environment and I risk life and limb every minute I'm there. Last year, I made over $130,000.00 in less that ten months, (I did not work the full year). So I'm not readily willing to part with my hard earned cash for the likes of street people and politicians. Yeah, politicians are bums in my book too. ALL of them. I remember laughing out loud last year, when the whole "Obama Care", kerfuffle was going on. What the politicians were not letting on, is that while they have the best medical coverage, they don't want the general public to get same, though it can be done. What's good for the goose..... .
old man 76,
Your post below cites the old (and long-ago discredited) "lump of labor" theory. Does it not occur to you that if you got rid of 100 million people that you would also get rid of 100 million consumers?
In high school in the late 1950s I tried to read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and after around 100 pages I gave up as it has to be one turgid mess. Sure, considering that she was born and raised in Stalin's Russia, it is no wonder her viewpoint is to the extreme opposite. Who is John Galt? I guess Sykes' family members or anyone he knows never has taken advantage of any local, county, state or federal bucks, right? No federal housing or educational funds? I doubt it.
I was an example of the first paragraph until I lost my job at age 44, despite advanced education and two decades experience with uninterrupted professional employment.
There is some "common sense" behind what jobs you apply for or accept if offered. I get $410/wk. gross from unemployment. Divide that by 20 hrs., and you get $20.50/hr. $20.50/hr. x 40 hrs./wk. x 52 wks./yr = $42,640/yr. Assuming that this salary would include some basic benefits, an offer less than that would only serve to set me further and further back on my goal of working towards financial security in my old age (when I probably won't physically be able to work much or at all) and meeting current basic expenses.
Note that I divided my unemployment by 20 hrs., not 40. Why? You won't have accrued much or any time off if you accept a low paying job that doesn't meet your current and future needs (see above). Job interviews typically take place during weekday business hours. With the swarms of applicants for each job, no employer is going to accommodate an off-hours interview. That 20 hrs. gives you time to search and interview for a job that meets your current and future needs.
I live in a 1 BR condo and drive a Honda Civic, so this isn't about finding a job that helps me pick up where I left off on the path of foolish conspicuous consumption. Unlike many other unemployed people my state unemployment counselor has told me about, I am not stubbornly refusing to look at anything below I was making when I lost my job. (For me, this is up to $20,000 less than my final salary.)
So the author suggests he should have just chucked the American dream, give up all he had put into his house and at best string together a few low/minimum wage jobs? IS THIS WHAT America has come to? So much for getting that degree and working hard...
All you need to do is look at the titles of the "research" findings/opinions of this think tank to tell their bias if you don't detect it in the language they used in the article.....
I've been employed nearly 35 years and never had to, thank God, need unemployment. But I don't begrudge those who really need it. How sad.
But I think we're going through a massive, concerted effort to expand the number of people who are dependent, who are looking to the government to buy them free breakfast, lunch and dinner, far beyond any reasonable definition of genuine need.
This guy is on some conspiracy train to sell some book, and it's the people who perpetuate this type of class warfare, against the most vulnerable, that makes me sick to my stomach.
You can't tell me that someone limping from unemployment check to check extension is out to make a living on $300 a week. The vast majority of those not working would rather work, and no right-wing nut job (making a living off of this class warfare) is going to spread that lie. Sure, there are freeloaders no matter what we do, but the idea that there is some concerted effort to expand the roles is just laughable.
Next, will it be the disabled? The mentally ill? The Jews, that are the scapegoats? Let's talk about the radio-talk hosts chasing Limbaugh's salary by seeing who can blame others for the greed that turned this country into a, "I'll make money anyway I can" attitude, and "to hell with ethics, as long as I get on top".
Sadly, where do you expect these people to work? With unemployment hovering around 9% there aren't enough jobs for the those who actually want to work. On top of that a statistically significant number of people are under employed and struggling just to feed their families. For the last thirty years corporate America has been sending jobs overseas and lining their pockets and those of their executives with the money they saved. The welfare state is the end result of their short sighted greed based thinking. For years we've been told that 'what is good for business is good for America'. Now we know better!
Who is asking to get taken care of? I havent heard any of that anywhere, except from republicans? Who is asking you for money?
The people in charge of job creation shouldnt complain there is too many unemployed. Dont like the unemployed? Hire people.
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