Gap Babies

I feared posting No No NAFTA? was going to leave me soaked like the proverbial child pissing into the wind.   My position on free trade did bring some negative comments; however, it didn’t raise as much fury as I thought it would.

In spite of the fact that most of my friends in manufacturing (including myself) have been battered by foreign competition, I drove on recklessly to proclaim that free trade was good for us overall even though some can get stung by free trade consequences.   I didn’t come upon this position based on how nicely I have fared (I haven’t) because of free trade, I did so after reading and studying as much as I could about the subject deferring to experts in economics and history (in spite of my disagreement with Mr. Pat Buchanan, a scholar I respect).

No matter how much I would like to be protected by some government intervention, I understand how government intervention always comes at a cost, and that cost is almost always greater than the value acquired by the intervention.   Whether specific or not, some element of our society will pay for bureaucracy’s efforts to protect some other segment of society.   Sometimes bureaucracy will make arbitrary decisions clearly unfair to some specific group and charge it off to necessity required for the greater good.   Quite fine if you’re not in the group sacrificed for the greater good.  

The masses seem to interpret these government interventions reasonable because they always affix the costs to citizens other than themselves.   Most often these costs are spread amongst a great number of people in society and the benefits go to relatively few.   Because these costs are generally small and spread amongst so many, they pass under the radar and cause negligible dissatisfaction.  

These costs are transformed into benefits to lucky recipients via some government subsidy or via exclusive access to some valuable market.  

I suppose I would be all for trade barriers and subsidies and regulations if I somehow could benefit from this government intervention, however, all my experience shows me that I (and most in the middle class) never seem to be the beneficiary of these policies.   Worse, stack intervention atop intervention and we build a government offering far more to its citizens than it has the ability to pay for.   Currently, interest on our national debt consumes 8% of the total budget.

As much as foreign competition beats the crap out of me, under free trade I have the chance to figure out how to compete using my own ingenuity to be excellent and smarter than foreign competitors even though they have the huge advantage of low wages and few government regulations.  

When I lose because government is going to take things away from me for my own good , my only recourse is to slip green backs into the pockets of those politicians capable of providing me with preferential treatment.   Thing is, I don’t have the green backs, and I don’t know any influential politicians.   Foreign trade doesn’t seem so ominous all of a sudden.

Considering government’s promise to protect me, I am reminded that income tax was introduced only for the richest Americans in 1913 at 1 to 7% and America was assured it would never affect the middle class.   As for tariff of foreign goods, I don’t want to be forced to pay arbitrarily high prices for these products because some union thinks janitors ought to make forty-five dollars an hour.

Hearing Barack Obama promise to help all the stupid homeowners who purchased overpriced housing, and in many cases with no money down, I fear that being a responsible homeowner with plenty of equity, it is me that presidential hopeful is going to call on to fund his program.   I am also reminded of the occasional griping my grandmother would indulge describing her Social Security benefits.

Because there was some sort of budget shortfall (imagine that?) in Social Security, a bureaucrat arbitrarily decided that everyone born in 1918 would receive lower payments come retirement age.  

My grandfather, who was born in 1915 received higher Social Security payments than my grandmother did even though he made less money and paid less into the system than did my grandmother.  Likewise, some of grandma’s friends born in the twenties also received higher payments even though many paid less into the system than she.  

Since my grandparents were divorced, my grandmother got to see her Social Security benefits go disproportionately to my grandfather and his new spouse thirty-four years his junior, and subsequently, my uncle fifteen years younger than me.   My grandfather passed away last year, but my grandmother-in-law just a few years older than me will get his Social Security checks.

My grandmother always called the people born in 1918 the gap babies because those Americans were capriciously selected to receive reduced Social Security benefits.   A lifelong Democrat, she couldn’t bring herself to tell me the unadulterated truth; the government arbitrarily screwed the citizens of 1918.

When all is done someone has to pay for government’s interventions, who do you think it will be?   The sturdy laborer working forty plus to take care of his family, or the CEO who regularly plays golf with your state’s senators?  

My grandmother never played golf.  


Copyright 2008 Jim Pontillo

10 thoughts on “Gap Babies

  1. Pingback: Pregnant Celebrities » Gap Babies

  2. At last, what could possibly be a sensible and reasoned article…not that I entirely agree of course. Clearly, if Jim were to be in the position of one of these ‘stupid’ homeowners he would be thinking quite differently. If he didn’t earn such a healthy salary, he would probably also be slightly more worried about the foreign competition ‘beating the crap’ out of him.

  3. Don’t worry Matt, at the rate this country is going you will soon have the imperial government of oppression there to watch over all your decisions to make sure you don’t make a bad one and to protect you from the big bad meany-weenie world. Now go eat your gummint cheese

  4. Matt,

    The reason Jim has such a “healthy salary” (not that healthy) is because he made the proper decisions to ensure he would obtain one. Would you prefer healthy salaries to be doled out by government fiat, outside the market’s demands?

    The other reason Jim doesn’t suffer from financial hardship is because he has resisted bad financial decisions. I know quite a few people “in over their head” living in homes they can’t afford. Some I even counseled prior to their decision to purchase such properties, where I was assured that property was going to “keep going up”.

    Many of these acquaintances have purchased homes valued four times more than mine and they earn half as much as me. I wouldn’t buy the homes they purchase because of the financial hardship I would endure…

    …and we are supposed to feel sorry for their situation?

    You waste all the government money you want, instead of 30 billion, spend 300 billion, it won’t matter, people are still going to lose their houses because they can’t afford the payments, and the housing market is overvalued by 40 to 80%. Government can’t wish that problem away no matter how much they spend.

  5. Jim,

    “The reason Jim has such a “healthy salary” (not that healthy) is because he made the proper decisions to ensure he would obtain one.”

    This quote is very revealing. What were those decisions? And what if the opportunity to make those decisions was not available in the first place? This is the situation that thousands of Americans face. They have not got rich becuase they have never had the opportunity to do so. They went to a shit school in a crappy, crime-ridden inner city ghetto, they’re addicted to drugs and they are surrounded by failure. It’s all very well for you to say to these people, ‘you should have made the right decision”. But these people never had the opportunity to make that decision in the first place.

    I’m not arguing here that the decision should be made for them (as you suggest I am). I am saying they should be given the opportunity to make that decision. If they have a decent school to go to, a free system of health care and a very basic income they would at least have some opportunity to make that ‘decision’.

  6. Matt, Matt, Matt …. there are no guarantees in life, and there won`t always be someone there to catch you when you fall. Get with it Dude.

  7. “If they have a decent school to go to, a free system of health care and a very basic income they would at least have some opportunity to make that ‘decision’. ”

    no Matt, your reply is very revealing. There is no such thing as “free health care” you have to steal resources from some to give to others for that “free” health care.

    A “decent school”….what is that? What would make them decent? More money? Matt many of our crappiest schools in liberal shitholes such as Detroit, DC, NYC and parts of California already spend WAY more per student than many outstanding private schools yet they still produce a crap product if the kids graduate at all. I would argue it is because of a union infested teachers union that is more interested in expanding their pwoer and political agenda than they are teaching. And of course worthless parents who shouldn’t even have the kids in the first place but our welfare system made it possible. I say ZERO tolerance for underperforming schools. I would like to turn lame ass zero tolerance policies against the cowardly beauracrats that enacted them.

    What is a “very basic income”? Please elaborate. Do you mean a handout? Do you mean stealing from me to give to some irresponsible baby-mama? There are more programs and opportunity in this country than anywhere else in the world. They can get a basic income doing anything but too many don’t want to work and instead look for a way they can roll on their 24″ rims sippin’on gin and juice.

    Unless you are an invalid and CAN’T work then you won’t get much sympathy from me.

  8. Matt, here is an example to contradict your argument.
    My sister-in-law, who came from a poor family with conservative roots. Because of her good grades in public high school she recieved a free ride to a major univeristy. Started out great, then somewhere along the line she became a liberal, she got pregnent, she dropped out in her junior year, married a looser, got divorced, and now lives almost completely off the state and federal tax payers.
    She had all the oportunity in the world GIVEN to her to become succesful and be a viable member of society. Instead she is nothing but a drain on our tax payers. Why, because of bad decisions, PERIOD!

    So please don’t tell me the poor don’t have a choice, or the chance to pull themselves up by the boot straps and do something for themselves.
    And by the way, she does have health care, she uses it all the time and pays little to nothing for it, but I sure do.

  9. You are all so cute. Especially Jim. You have got to be the cuddliest thing I have ever seen. I just wanna pat your head and take you home in a little box where you can sleep soundly on your own little pillow.

    Back on the serious tip…

    I think that conflicting ideologies are what make this country great. If not for our rift in political opinion we would be a fascist, one party nation so I can sleep comfortably knowing that all of you are arguing out there. It is sad to see how divided we are now, because of the politics of the last eight years. We speak so angrily towards each other but what we’re saying isn’t even completely true to what we really believe. It seems like all you Neo-Cons want a fascist government (a fascist entirely neo-con government) ehilr you liberals want a social democracy (socialism…but still a hint of political-ness and all the same processes.) Sorry to say, but I have to agree with BIG GUNS on this. I think the social democrats will win this one. The neo-fascists are clinging too hard to failed policies of the past, but every now and than it will be good to have one of you come in just so we can be reminded hw much it sucks having you for a president. But democrats are usually not much better sadly… at least there won’t be a reccesion hahahaha. yeah I know I spelled it wrong. i’m just an ignorant white guy from kentucky. i not no nothins bout words n stuff

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