Riding the Government Gravy Train


By David Glenn Cox

Up on the hill four Republicans are balking at the stimulus package because they say unemployment benefits are too generous. Only people who have never struggled could use the words unemployment and too generous in the same sentence.  Unemployment is at best half of your normal wage, most of us are just getting by on all our wages. Half is a catastrophe and heaven forfend a few extra bucks. It isn’t just about being stingy or greedy. This is a mindset, this is their world view.

Henry Ford said, the American worker wouldn’t do a good day’s work if he could get out of it. It goes back even further to our Puritans fathers. They were reformers and wanted to fix everything and were run out of the two most religiously liberal nations in Europe. They didn’t come to New World looking for a new life, they were asked to leave the old one. Man is sinful and dirty, and we must pray and work hard for the glory of the lord! Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Fines for not working on Christmas Day. The lord has decreed that Sunday be thy day of rest, so get busy.

I’ve always said if you cull the general population for a hundred people to do a job, you’ll probably get five or six that won’t do you much good. A cousin of a friend of mine passed his Army intelligence test by one point. He was inducted into the services of this great nation and after a military career spanning six weeks was sent home without a parade. He had done his country a great service. Through him the Army had learned they must tweak their intelligence test scoring a little higher. He was a great guy and a nice human being but if you think you’re gonna shout orders at him and get results you better go ahead and buy that boy a bus ticket.

Ambition is a great thing, turning thought into motion. Nickola Tesla never worried about money and gave away most of his royalties to George Westinghouse. Tesla always thought, I’ll just invent something else. In his genius his work was his life and his life was his work. A matter of liberating his ideas from his skull. But we’re not all Tesla’s and we’re not all Steve Jobs but it doesn’t make us lazy and shiftless. I was sitting in a fast-food joint and at the next table the manager was interviewing the applicant. He asked, are there any days you can’t work? She answered, I don’t want to work Sundays because I’m involved with my church. Can you work a couple of Sundays a month? The slippery slope…do you want the job or not?

You see the way it works here is, we make these fucking little hamburgers with as few people as possible. So, in order to maximize our profits, we must ask you to divest yourself of your religious beliefs for minimum wage and a tee shirt. If we get busy, we’ll work you to death and if it gets slow…we’ll send you home. That Puritan self-loathing, I can’t love myself so I can’t love you. We must all work harder and push the football down the field to prove ourselves worthy. For only success means that we’ve worked hard enough.

Theo Van Gogh had this lay about brother. The boy wouldn’t get a job and painted pictures all day! Henry David Thoreau wrote a book about living in the woods and doing a lot of sitting around. If these Republicans had their way, they would turn the entire world into a Chinese cell phone factory complete with jump nets on all the windows. After passing reckless tax cuts for the affluent they now rebel at the idea of a guy just scrapping by, trying to live his life might get fifty or a hundred bucks too much.

There is irony as always. The reason of the need of the stimulus package is that the economy is on its ass. It doesn’t matter how big a stimulus package you give to big business; business won’t get better until people can afford to buy stuff. You can’t say Great Depression anymore without being specific. The crash of 29 or the crash of 08, and now the crash of 2020. In 1929, Ford’s River Rouge plant was the largest factory in the world. It was tooled and ready to produce cars only it had no customers. Herbert Hoover proposed two billion dollars in loans, so business could have start up capital to reopen shuttered factories, but the factories had no customers.

I am grateful for the twelve-hundred-dollar check, if I get it. But twelve-hundred-dollars isn’t going to put me on easy street. I’m real glad for it myself but if the goal is a stimulus, you’re trying to solve the world’s hunger problem with potato chips. No one can eat just one. Maybe if I wasn’t saddled with debt caused by an income too low for market conditions, I might just go out and buy something like an oil change or a set of tires, you know, luxury items. All the people could be helped with a larger check while some of industries can’t be helped at all.

If you think the cruise lines are coming back anytime soon, you’re throwing money down a rat hole. The vision of fourteen days trapped in that tiny little cabin like Boreman and Lovell in Gemini seven. The cruise lines will need some time before people eradicate the images of sickness and claustrophobia from their memories and will be as popular as “The Donner Party Wagon Train Experience” in the meantime. Money won’t fix them time will.

But time, as in my time and my life will be affected by a few extra bucks. We live with societal tension at a fever pitch. The fear and the terror of losing our jobs not being able to get by. The real and palpable fear of losing everything and becoming homeless sleeps with me. Half wages and twelve hundred dollars checks aren’t going to save anyone. The miserly approach will net meager returns. Lost in a belief system that says we’re no good and can’t be trusted, the Republicans worry you’ll get too much and ride too high on the government gravy train.

“If I were hungry and friendless today, I would rather take my chances with a saloon-keeper than with the average preacher.”
― Eugene V. Debs

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