The poor you will always have with you" — Jesus H. Christ, first century.

Now this was't some grim expression of fatalism: this was a call, a reminder that we had certain responsibilities to those less fortunate than ourselves. And for a while, we undertook those responsibilities to the extent that we could, keeping in mind of course that charity does in fact begin at home, and your first responsibility is to your own family.

Then came the twentieth century, and the conflation of God and government: from that point on, those responsibilities were shunted off to the government, accompanied by the feeble explanation that only government is big enough to do what needs to be done. And if what needed to be done was the expenditure of trillions of dollars to no discernible avail, then yes, only government was big enough to do that:

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a State of the Union adddress to Congress in which he declared an "unconditional war on poverty in America." At the time, the poverty rate in America was around 19 percent and falling rapidly. This year, it is reported that the poverty rate is expected to be roughly 15.1 percent and climbing. Between then and now, the federal government spent roughly $12 trillion fighting poverty, and state and local governments added another $3 trillion. Yet the poverty rate never fell below 10.5 percent and is now at the highest level in nearly a decade. Clearly, we have been doing something wrong.

It's the nature of war these days: not to win, exactly, because that implies a loser and losers must be protected by statute, but to keep going until the population finally catches on to the fact that all their time and all their treasure has been squandered by people who, were they not fighting this war, would have to get real jobs instead of Changing The World.

Nota bene: Worlds are not "changed" by mass human action. We can screw around with the infrastructure a bit, and maybe rearrange the deck chairs now and again, but the central component of the world is the human heart, multiplied several billion-fold, and hearts are changed the same way they always have been: one at a time.

Part of Changing The World is mocking the efforts of those who are actually doing good while failing to follow the script. There's a medical facility on the north side of town that works on a cash-only basis, at prices far below the going rates as proclaimed by the medical establishment — which means "as proclaimed by the government," since how much the Welfare State will pay becomes the de facto price. This facility, you may be certain, draws detractors:

Yesterday, we operated on a patient from Idaho. He had no insurance. He was quoted $11,000 for his surgery. We did the whole thing for $3740, the price advertised on our website — everything included. I did his anesthetic and it occurred to me during the case that when I interviewed him there was one question he didn't ask me. That's right. He didn't once ask about how our model worked for the indigent, those who couldn't come up with the fee listed on our website. For his family, in his own personal world, he was saved a little over $6000, if you include travel and lodging costs. That's all he cared about.

I have never been asked "how does your model take care of the indigent," by one single patient whom we spared bankruptcy with our fees. Not once. That our fees are charitable when compared to those at the big hospitals seems to escape the attention of the detractors, those who can't stand the idea that cheaper and better are possible without government involvement.

Now if your immediate thought is "How does he have $3740 to begin with? There are no jobs," then Larry Correia has a message for you:

In my life I've milked cows, moved hay, done construction, worked in a cheese factory, answered phones in a call center, given auto insurance quotes, sold books, wrestled drunks, been an accountant, been an auditor, taught pistol and rifle shooting, opened my own business, lost my own business, got into contracting, been a finance manager, and then a senior finance manager, and now I'm a bestselling novelist... So over my life I've gone from very poor, to poor, to middle class, back to poor, to middle class, then to upper middle class, and now I'm rich. I don't feel rich, but democrats feel that it is okay to take half of my income, so I must be rich. For all I know, I might be poor again tomorrow, but at least I know how to cook beans and roll tortillas.

So forgive me if I don't buy into your theory that we're all trapped in some sort of friggin' caste system here. I once held a job where I had to routinely shove my entire arm up a cow's ass in order to grab its cervix and jab a straw of bull semen into it. I'm FRESH OUT OF PITY.

Been there, done something not quite like that:

Over the years, to earn my daily bread, I have smashed cable boxes, embossed metal tags, inventoried grinding wheels and tucked tacos.

None of these were particularly exciting, except perhaps at the exact moment when the Irresistible Force meets the (we hoped) Immovable Cable Box — and that got old pretty quickly. Still, it was a job, and for a brief period it came close to paying the bills. Someone who wants to Change The World would have turned up her nose at such a thing because it was so, you know, totally mindless and not at all contributing to her brave new world where there are no poor people, except maybe for the guys who work for the lawn service, and at least they're making something beautiful, you know?

Confronted with unindividuals like this, I call out: "Jesus H. Christ!" The stupid, like the poor, we will always have with us. And a War On Stupidity would cost every gram of wealth on the planet, and the next two besides.

The Vent

  24 March 2013

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