Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I'm from the government. I'm here to help.

A high school friend on Face Book posted one of those videos. You know the ones, they are not really videos but rather Power Point presentations that are turned into videos.

This video was one of those heartwarming stories with a “why can’t more people be like this?” message.

It concerned a business owner of some kind who was having breakfast at a Chick-Fil-A. We don’t know the city, the business he runs, or anything specific about the business owner except that he eats breakfast at Chick-Fil-A every day. We’ll call this person “Buzz.”

As Buzz was leaving the Chick-Fil-A one morning he noticed a homeless man – whom we shall call “Guy” – with his dog on one side of the building. Guy needed some money. He used to live at a KOA campground but had to leave because he did not have money. Buzz offered Guy a job. Guy was a good person – not a freeloader – and he accepted. He said that he was a good worker and that he would give his best to Buzz.

Buzz took Guy to the job site. Guy was right. He worked hard and was productive. At the end of the day, Buzz was going to take Guy back to where he was picked up. On the way, Buzz stopped at his bank and withdrew eighty dollars to pay Guy for the day’s work.

Buzz picked up Guy the next morning and every morning for the next two weeks, stopping at the bank at the end of each day. Guy was able to move back to the KOA campground. By that time, there was no more work to be done at that job site, but Buzz picked Guy up and started taking him to another job site across town. Each day, they stopped at the bank at the end of the day so Buzz could withdraw eighty dollars cash to pay Guy.

This is the kind of story that makes you feel good about human nature: one person reaching out to help another. Who would have a problem with that?

Well, me, for one. I commented. “What about income tax withholding? What about Social Security? What about unemployment insurance premiums?”

My friend’s reaction? “Oh, come on, Matt.” I didn’t even get into workers comp. What would have happened if Guy had been hurt on the job? His employment was strictly off the books. If Guy had been hurt, I dare say that Buzz would have been portrayed as an exploiter of Guy, not a savior. Meanwhile I am seen as a bad guy for pointing out the real-life consequences of such an arrangement.

Perhaps you have heard of the Cajun Navy, a group of volunteers whose efforts have saved hundreds of people during the recent flooding in Louisiana. Their efforts are to be applauded, right? Guess again. A Republican member of the Louisiana State Senate is working on legislation that would require such citizen groups to be licensed by the government. Perhaps he has some valid concerns regarding safety and liability.  However, as the expression goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.”

Conservatives are portrayed as ogres for wanting to deregulate things, for wanting the government to get out of the way. In the first story, Buzz probably would have faced hefty fines and possible jail time if authorities had discovered his arrangement with Guy. In the second story, how many more people would have died had the Cajun Navy – an ad hoc organization – jumped through hoops to get licensed? Perhaps the organization can become more formal, but the government would probably require training with high time and monetary commitments. The government would probably also require a great amount of liability insurance. In other words, in order to make sure that people are protected, the government would have been happier if hundreds of people had died.

But conservatives are the heartless ones.

1 comment:

  1. I'm from the government, I'm here to help.

    Tell me Mr. Meaney what was your first mistake?