Last night I had dinner with a few of the “most important” people in the region for our company. Basically, I was sitting next to a few of my company’s leadership and making small talk for two hours while eating over priced, but delicious, Italian food. Just based on the conversation at certain points I realized that despite where the individuals may have “come from” they have completely forgotten what it’s like to have an average income – or especially poor.
It wasn’t that many years ago I was living at home with my parents, receiving free lunch at school, taking my mom to the doctor on her Medicaid insurance, and working doubles on the weekends so I could afford insurance and gas. I’m not complaining – I didn’t even realize that wasn’t normal at the time. I mean, had you asked anyone of my friends it I was completely normal. Working builds character and hardship teaches lessons – even if you don’t even realize you are learning a single thing at the time.
Anyways, back to the rich guys at dinner. They were dropping topics like “lake house”, “sending my child to private school”, etc. Their problems didn’t seem to be issues that regular people deal with – although I am sure to them they were. Poor people worry about keeping the heat on in the winter, worry about their friends judging them because they get free lunch at school – the rich worry about their “insurance going up on the jet ski at their lake house” (real conversation).
All this made me think about one thing – the empathy gap. As you may or may not know I am highly against government interventionism and taxation, but I have to wonder how the poor – the real poor – would get by without government social programs. Could we depend on the rich to be charitable to a group of people they blatantly do not understand – can’t begin to empathize with? I doubt it.
Of course the current system is flawed, I hate it in fact. People abuse the system, the government programs give people incentive to become welfare babies and grow dependent on those resources. However, what is the solution? How do we take care of the poor and needy in this country and still minimize abuse of the system, maximize personal liberty, and minimize government taxation and involvement in the rest of our lives?
I have to believe that due to the amount of bureaucracy, politics, abuse, and general lack of efficiency that any government is not the best way to redistribute wealth – but what is the solution? I certainly do not claim to have the answer.
Republicans may say let the rich keep their money and the wealth will “trickle down”. Democrats might laugh at that idea and push for higher taxes and more social programs to “redistribute the wealth.” I’m not sure that either of those all so common solutions will solve anything for a hard working mother that can’t make ends meet.
I know two things: 1. We can’t rely on the rich to be generous or understanding enough to take care of the poor, and 2. This country can’t afford more failing social programs and higher taxes.
So, it seems, we need answers. We need change. We need ideas. We need leadership not tied to the corporate or political agendas. In the mean time, if you can, be charitable. We can’t rely on anyone else – not the rich and not the government – to do the right thing.