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  • Writer's pictureMark Meier

There’s This Joke

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

As with all jokes, it’s not really funny if there isn’t a grain of truth in the underlying assumptions. So here goes:

There’s a guy sitting on his porch watching a city crew working at the far end of the block. One worker in an orange vest jumps out of the truck and digs a hole in the boulevard strip, then jumps back in.

A minute passes, and another guy in an orange vest jumps out of the other side of the truck and fills in the hole, then jumps back in. The driver pulls ahead a hundred feet and the process repeats.

When the truck reaches the man’s house he calls out, “Hey, why are you digging the hole and filling it in?”

The guy in the orange vest says, “The guy who puts the tree in the hole is off today.”

The joke, which you’ve probably heard before (in one form or another), is meant to show how government works - or doesn’t, in the case of that joke. It’s why people ended up taking their shoes off at the airport. One guy tries to hide a bomb in his shoe and everyone else has to take their shoes off before they’re cleared to board.

But you have to ask yourself why we aren’t asked to take off our underwear after the guy tried to use his underwear as a bomb.

This may seem like a digression, but it pertains:

My paternal grandparents grew up in the Great Depression. They never threw anything away. (There’s another joke about an old lady who died. Her granddaughter found an envelope with bits of string. Written on the envelope was, “Bits of string too short to save.” But they were saved.) My dad pretty much inherited that philosophy. “You never know when you’ll need that.” He saved everything.

So I’m wondering what the effect of the national lockdown will have on those growing up now. Will the teens of today always have a stockpile of toilet paper and bottled water?

Guessing things like that can be fun, but not really fruitful.

Probably a more likely effect will be what the government is doing now: stimulus after stimulus is going through Congress. We’ll probably end up with this generation’s equivalent of the WPA, the CCC, and more.

Some people say the New Deal saved this nation. Others say it prolonged a normal economic downturn into that Great Depression. I’m not going to promote either side of that issue.

Probably the best thing for America in this COVID-19 era is for individuals to help other individuals. Making sweeping changes is inevitable, but people helping people will accomplish more than any government program.

The thing is, the poor know how to be poor. They know how best to help another poor person. And they’re more willing to do it. Taking money from people who don’t want to give it up will only exacerbate the economic resentment in America. Poor people will hate the greedy rich, the wealthy will resent those too lazy to go out and get a job. And neither side will end up really helping the other.

Sure, there are those on both sides of the economic divide who fit the stereotype put forth by the other. That doesn’t mean the majority fit into the mold.

My suggestion is to give to charity what you can afford to give. Non-profits are a lot more able to means-test than the government. Here’s why:

The government has to be fair, so they set up rules. If you qualify (by the rules) for assistance, you get assistance. There are always going to be people like the lottery winner (couple million dollars, if memory serves) getting SNAP benefits. The government cannot deny that assistance because the lottery winner hasn’t worked for a couple of years - unemployed, no income, etc.

But a non-profit can take a look at the lottery winner and laugh. “No way, Mr. Millionaire. You have too much money so you don’t get free cheese.” That means the money and food donated to the Food Pantry goes to help people who really need it, instead of being handed out according to rules that cannot cover every contingency.

Yes, that example is simplistic, but serves as a caution to having the government take care of things best left to charitable organizations. We don’t need to send cash to every man, woman, and child. What we need is for people to turn to other people and help. Hoarding for your own use only makes the situation worse, forces the government to step in, and waste more taxpayer money on programs with a lower success rate than charities.

God created mankind in His own image. Honor Him by helping those He created instead of building barns to hold your TP stash.

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