>And yet more Takers

>This is one of my favorite recent news stories.  Welfare recipients in Fairfax County, Virginia are being housed in Luxury Condos at taxpayer expense. 

The first link is to the Fox 5 report, while the news Reporter interviews a man obviously coming from work, waiting on a bus to take him home; we get to hear about the pool tables, swimming pools, indoor basketball courts, and beautiful landscaping that welfare recipients (and some honestly disadvantaged people) are being provided with his (and everyone else’s) tax dollars.

The second link is another article that shows some good pictures of the properties in which welfare people get housed while many working tax payers can not afford anything near as luxurious.

Fox 5 Investigates report
Kingstowne Patch article

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>A quick diversion to "Living Wage’ versus "Minimum Wage"

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I just finished reading a piece by someone espousing the idea that the US needs to set the minimum wage standard to a “Living wage” level.  By the author’s calculations based on living expenses, the new minimum “living” wage should be $48000 per year.  I am posting my response to this socialistic, entitlement-minded idea.
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How does an employer pay someone $48000 per year for making $20000 worth of cheeseburgers?  The only way this is possible is to raise the price of products and services sufficiently to cover the costs of payroll and benefits and still make a profit.  So, it becomes a vicious cycle.  You have computed the living wage $48000 annually, in order to pay that companies must raise prices, they must also raise prices additionally to cover the increase in operating expenditures caused by every other company charging more for products and services, and the government must raise taxes because they are also paying more for products and services; with the higher prices and taxes $48000 is no longer a “living wage” according to your formula.  So, do we raise the living wage again to, say, $65000 and start the whole chain reaction over? 
The same is true for Universal Healthcare.  Only 51% of American households pay any federal income taxes; how can half of country afford to pay for their own and the other half of the country’s healthcare?  Universal Healthcare will make medical care more affordable in the way that mandatory automobile insurance made the insurance more affordable; it didn’t.  The only thing Universal Healthcare will accomplish is to raise the price those who aren’t getting it for free will need to pay to maintain their own health insurance and increase the taxes on the half of the country that actually pays any.  And to exacerbate the situation, millions of people who currently maintain insurance would stop paying for coverage that they can qualify to get for free under UHC.  Many employers that pay some form of healthcare for their employees currently would either drop coverage because the fines would cost them less than actually paying for health benefits or drop employees to maintain the profitability of their companies.  The addition of more unemployed, non-taxpaying people and shrinking pool of those actually paying into health benefits funds would precipitate a rise in the overall cost for those who actually pay for healthcare benefits, and the increased expense would require the government to raise taxes to cover the costs of providing healthcare benefits to those who do not pay for themselves.
Back to your main subject, the living wage; another thing happens when lower skill-tier wages are arbitrarily raised; people who are earning something between the current and new minimum wage rate become disgruntled.  A person who works a job that requires some skill to do or is undesirable due to being physically demanding or having harsh work conditions was compensated for having the necessary skills or willingly enduring the rigors of the job.  Now that these people can earn the same or better income and benefits for doing a job that requires less skill and knowledge or is in a considerably nicer environment, they will either leave the harder jobs for easier ones or demand higher compensation.  Those who leave will create a deficit of needed minimal staffing levels, which in turn drives the prevailing wage for those positions upward because employers are forced to pay high enough wages to entice people back into the positions.  And then the same thing happens at the next higher tier of jobs; everyone who was paid more than the people who just got raises because their jobs require even more skill or have even harsher work conditions will go through the same progression until they are again earning more than the tier II Skill/Environment group.  And it continues up the pyramid until everyone again earns proportionally the same that they did before the living wage adjustments.  The bottom line is that you can not pay someone mowing lawns the same that you pay a person working in a steel mill because we need steelworkers and no one is going to do it if they can make the same pay selling pants at the mall.  By the same token we need surgeons, but it requires far more training, skill, and knowledge to be a surgeon than it does to work on the rolling mill lines; who would endure the time and expense of the years of training, deal with the stress of doing surgery, expense of malpractice insurance, re-certification, etc., etc. if they could make the same living by driving a delivery truck? 
For the most part, prevailing wages are at the levels they are due to market forces; supply of people able and willing to do a job versus the need of companies to employ some one to perform a certain function while maintaining a profitable margin.  It will never be possible to pay people a living wage for performing unskilled work because it drives up prevailing wages for harder jobs and the overall costs of doing business, thus driving-up prices and eventually resulting in the same proportional distribution of buying power and earnings value that existed prior to the change.

>Takers part III ( I promise I’ll get to "Givers" soon)

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Through the years I have occasionally forgotten that I should not go to the grocery store on the first weekday following the first of the month (when the welfare benefits get paid).  Without fail, every time that I have been at the grocery during the welfare shopping-spree, I have endured being witness to the same scenario.  I am ALWAYS in the checkout line behind paired women who have four or five grocery carts between them.  Inevitably, one woman will whip-out her welfare card and pay for all of the groceries and the two will then divide the carts and head off for their cars.  Twice, I have personally witnessed the food stamp paying woman get cash payment from the other woman.  Without qualms, in the open for all to see, they had no problem with apparently defrauding the welfare system by basically selling food stamps.
The last time was the best though.  Before the cash-for-food-stamps-purchased-food transaction took place, I had the honor of listening to the women’s conversation.  Apparently the woman who was on welfare was in a pickle; she was not going to have enough money to go with her friend on a vacation to Florida if she had to pay her cell phone and cable bills herself.  Luckily, her friend was able to give her a long list of local churches, county offices, state programs, etc that would likely contribute to her cell phone and cable expenditures.  She was reminded that her phone was needed to get emergent calls from the school regarding her children and from her mother if there were a crisis; and that cable TV was important for getting information regarding weather or civil emergencies, and provided lots of educational programming to help her eventually get a job. 
I was relieved that by the time they left it was looking like the Florida vacation was probably going to happen; because Grandma was going to get to spend two weeks with her grandchildren while “Mom” got some much needed and deserved rest time away from the rigors of finding others to pay her bills and selling enough food stamps to buy her beer, cigarettes, and vacation funds. 

>Givers and Takers II (I’ll get to the Givers eventually)

>Case II, Tim:

For several years Tim earned an income by driving a van that transported Veterans from his home county to the nearest VA Medical Center so they could get to appointments.  As jobs go, that’s not so demanding; he basically drove eight or nine Vets in the morning to the VAMC, spent five or six hours smoking and conversing, and then gathered-up all of his “wards” and took them back home.  During the couple of years that Tim did this job, he lived meagerly and put most of income into building a home on some land his parents had given him.  When Tim’s house was nearing completion, something interesting happened.

First, Tim was able to use his connections in the Veterans Service Organization to get his Bad Conduct Discharge commuted to a General Discharge, and then later to a General Discharge, Under Honorable Conditions.

Then the Veteran Service Officers and VA employees with whom he had developed friendships, assisted Tim with filing a service-connected VA disability claim.  Tim you see had been injured before getting kicked-out of Army basic training.  It seems that Tim took exception to an order issued by his Drill Sergeant who told him to “…move [his] lazy ass off of the truck and form-up like the rest of the platoon…”.  Tim decided that the best way to demonstrate that he was too exhausted to follow this order was to throw a punch at the Drill Sergeant.  Drill Sergeants being as they are, well trained combat-ready soldiers, this one defended himself from the punch by executing a move to avoid getting hit and to knock his attacker off balance.  Tim stumbled and fell out of the bed of the transport truck and broke his wrist and hand in the fall. 

So, Tim, having the right connections, was able to secure a 10% service-connected disability for his hand and wrist injuries.  The next time I talked to Tim, he was filing an appeal to get his disability rating raised because his wrist and hand were hurting a lot lately.  Not that the pain in his hand was keeping him from doing all of the carpentry work in his house to save from having to pay a Carpenter to do it, but it was sufficient to make driving that van harder and causing him to miss a lot of work because of it.  Again, Tim’s friends came through and their efforts resulted in an increase to 50% service-connected with the addition of a partial disability for PTSD because Tim was now having nightmares about that evil Drill Sergeant attacking him. 

Sometime later I again bumped in to Tim and learned that his house was finished and his hand and nightmares had gotten worse.  He was filing a claim for increase to 100% service-connected disability because between not sleeping due to nightmares and not being able to drive from the hand pain he was becoming unemployable.  Tim pushed tenaciously with his VA Doctors to do surgery on his hand and wrist; and eventually one of the Xrays showed a bone chip, or scar tissue, or something that permitted the VA to do the surgery.  After the surgery Tim was unable able to work and in due course his claim for 100% service-connected disability for PTSD and his wrist and hand was approved; with the aid of a Veterans Service Officer lobbying his Congressman from what I heard in the gossip mill.  The last time I saw Tim he had just been driven to the VAMC by the new driver so that he could see his Doctor and get his pain medication prescriptions increased.

Later I heard through a mutual acquaintance that Tim was relegated to a life of playing pool in his basement with friends who brought the beer, and watching movies on his big screen when he was too “high” on Oxycodone to play pool.  Poor Tim, it is heartwarming to know that we’re taking care of him for the injuries incurred during his brave and selfless four months of service in the United States Army.

>Givers & Takers

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Society in our country has evolved from hard-working people who felt that achievement and income were derived from effort and persistence, to masses (and soon to be the majority) of entitlement-minded,  nonproductive beggars.  It absolutely amazes me how many people do not work, by choice; and are willing to live off hand-outs and idle away their time in wasteful pursuits. 
I personally know of extended families numbering as large as 15 members in which there is only one person who daily goes to a job.   The rest are recipients of welfare or workers compensation benefits.  Perhaps it is heredity to blame for there being five members of one particular family that injured their backs at work and are never going to again work.  Perhaps, except I had an inside view of the sixth family member failing to get his workers comp claims approved.  We’ll call him Bill, here’s his story: 
Bill’s first ever job was with a tire manufacturer.  He worked for the company for 12 weeks and then injured his back.  Unfortunately, for him, his claim was denied because he was lifting stuff that was supposed to only be moved with lifting-equipment and had signed the employee notice stating that he understood that he should never manually lift any of it.  So, he puttered around and his wife got signed-up for welfare.  He next came to work at a medical facility, in the canteen as a stock boy.  He was on the job for 14 weeks and then injured his back lifting cases of soda.  Being at a medical facility you’d have thought that Bill would have ran to one of the available Doctors for medical attention.  But, no, Bill finished his work day (without mentioning the accident or pain to anyone) and then called off sick the next three days.  During his sick days he managed to get in to see his personal Doctor who diagnosed that there “could be” a back injury and signed Bill out of work until his pain subsided.  After three weeks the medical facility wanted Bill to come in to have a Doctor examine him to determine the extent of his injuries and his fitness to return to work.  Bill did not comply and instead filed his second Comp claim.  Unfortunately it was also denied on the grounds that he could not prove that his “injuries” had occurred at work since he, contrary to the rules set forth, had failed to report the accident immediately to his Supervisor and/or see any of the 150 Doctors present in the facility.  The Medical Center gave Bill another chance and was willing to pursue Workers Compensation for him if he would allow a Specialist to examine him and document his injuries.  In a huff, because they were “calling him a liar”, Bill quit and dropped his appeal.  After a few months back on welfare, Bill got a job with a house painting operation.  After several months, poor clumsy Bill again injured his back; this time by falling off a ladder.  He again made no report to his boss, but went to his Doctor and got a sick-call excuse from work.  When Bill filed his comp claim it was immediately denied on the grounds that the day that Bill claimed to have been injured and the house at which the accident was claimed to have occurred, the home owners had come back early from vacation and finding the work they had contracted not being done, called the painting company and complained.  The company promptly sent out two subs who spent the day finishing the job; and those two subs never saw Bill at the site.  Too bad Bill hadn’t paid his phone bill, he may have known that the company had tried to call him that morning to find out where he was.  After some time with no income, Bill got a subcontractor job with a roofing company.  It was a good deal, union and all.  Bill worked for a couple of weeks and, lo and behold, he fell off of a ladder again.  This time he even had a witness, sort of; the home owner came out to offer Bill a drink and found him on his back in the lawn.  Witness and all, Bill’s claim was again denied.  Unfortunately for him, he missed that whole part about being an independent subcontractor and having to buy his own workers compensation insurance.  Poor Bill, last I heard of him, he had “borrowed” $100 from his sister; sold the stove, refrigerator, and all the copper pipe he pulled out of the house he was renting, and disapeered to Texas. 
My next installment will cover a few additional cases similar to Bill’s.