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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

August 28, 2004

A Nation of Snots

The headline in my local paper caught my eye and interest: Feds send Florida hurricane victim $1.69.

Sounded pretty stupid to me, so I read the story. It seems that one Donald Seither, a 74-year-old retiree, asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send him a check to cope with a damaged roof, shattered windows and no electricity, all courtesy of Hurricane Charley.

Ever agreeable to dishing out other people's money, FEMA agreed and sent him a check a week later, for a whopping one dollar and sixty-nine cents. Why would FEMA send such a ridiculously small amount? According to the story, "It's a quirk in the system intended to provide serious relief for those whose lives have been disrupted or destroyed. FEMA says for many, a small sum is better than nothing." Mr. Seither did not qualify for a larger amount because he has insurance coverage.

A small sum doesn't help Mr. Seither repair his roof, though. But that's not the point. Says Butch Ducote, a FEMA spokesman, "I know $1.69 sounds ridiculous, but if the guy seems entitled to it we're going to cut the check. I can assure you that checks that small rarely happen, but it does show you the effort."

FEMA's mission is to "provide serious relief" for the "uninsured and underinsured in the aftermath of major disasters." It should go without saying that one dollar and sixty-nine cents is not serious relief. But the spokesman gives the game away. Anyone who feels entitled to other people's money will get some. It's not about providing relief but placating a person's sense of entitlement. It's about feelings and making an effort.

But what relief does a $1.69 bring? Back to the story: "The token relief carries an unintended consequence. For residents who spent much of the past two weeks living amid rubble without electricity, it can feel less like help and more like a slap in the face."

And my favorite part, the esteemed Mr. Seither's reaction to the check: "I fell to the floor and started to cry."

Then he called FEMA "in a rage" and demanded an explanation. He was told the check could buy a gallon of gas for his generator. But that did not console him. "I said, 'Evidently you don't live in Florida.' Because gas here is $1.83."

This story is very wrong on many levels. FEMA shouldn't be handing out checks just because someone asks, for one thing. And why does Mr. Seither need a handout when he has insurance?

But the main thing that strikes me is a grown man's response to not getting his way. He threw a fit. Fell to the floor and bawled. This is not adult, responsible behavior. It is the action of a spoiled, juvenile, ungrateful brat.

This is one of the more insidious effects of the welfare state. It turns a population into a collection of whining and demanding children with perpetual demands who refuse to grow up and take care of themselves. Those who resist and do grow up are then forced to provide for the rest, leaving them with fewer resources to take care of their own families. Politicians then vie for the votes of these adult children by encouraging that sense of entitlement with more programs and handouts, placing even more demands on the producing adults. The problem perpetuates itself with no solution in sight. In fact, it's barely recognized as a problem in the first place. Those who point out the problem are called selfish and greedy, while the politicians who take money from others are called generous and caring. 

A nation of sniveling snots cannot stand. It cannot defeat terrorism. It cannot govern itself. It cannot remain free. I hope that when enough people finally realize it, it's not too late.

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