Robbing the poor to give the rich a way to get by

March 27, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

Ijust got a call from my broker. And the news is good.

He checked my assets and also my deficits and concluded that I'm not poor.

This is a relief since we live in an era in which it is definitely unfashionable either to be poor or to know someone who is poor.

And yet, I understand that many people enjoy being financially disadvantaged (poor is so, uh, declasse). At least that's what I'm getting from listening to the debate in Congress these days from many congressman, who also aren't poor and have never been poor and who think being "on the dole" means backing a particular presidential candidate.

Here's the gist of the Newtonian plan to solve the problem of poverty in our land:

If we can only get people weaned from welfare -- the quicker the better -- they will go out and work for a living and have everything we have, like two-car garages, property taxes and maybe $12,000 on the MasterCard.

There's no incentive for poor people to do this now, because they've got that $395 welfare check coming in every month. Also those food stamps. And the kids get the free lunch at school.

This is living. Yes, sir.

You get to live in public housing and take public transportation and go to often money-poor public schools.

Who wouldn't want that?

As an example, having your own car is way overrated. Two cars? You kidding? My insurance bills alone are sufficient to feed a family of four, especially a welfare family of four, which isn't eating too much steak. And that's good because too much steak is bad for your cholesterol.

And, look, when your kid comes to you after watching some morning cartoon asking for Game Boy or some other 50-buck toy, if you're poor, you can say, "We just don't have the money, little Johnny." Don't you wish you could say that to your kids? No, you have to go out and buy the sucker when you could have used the money for something important, like a new Nicole Miller tie.

Meaning, let's get all those welfare moms working, so they can face the same problems the rest of us do.

And while we're at it, let's take food stamps out of the hands of the federal bureaucrats (if they lose their jobs, will they have to go on welfare?) and into the hands of the state bureaucrats, who are obviously so much closer to the situation. And if the states eventually have to cut back on food stamps, well, let those little kids tighten their little belts.

(By the way, Rush Limbaugh said we -- meaning, the liberal media -- should stop lying about the Republican school-lunch program. So I'm pledging now: No more lies. Because if there's anyone who should be an expert on lunches, it's Rush Limbaugh, who, I'm guessing, has rarely missed a meal of any description.)

Here's the interesting part -- and it's true, Rush, I swear. Part of the money that is being saved in the welfare-reform plan would be used to help pay for a tax break for people with children and who make as much as $200,000. No, seriously.

The Contract with Normal Americans calls for a $500 tax credit for each child of each family making no more more than $200,000.

If you're poor, you don't get the credit. Which is another incentive to get off welfare and get a job, say, as a stock boy or maybe a stock broker.

You're probably asking: Why would someone who makes that much money need a tax credit for his kids?

Enterprising reporter that I am, I found such a person. He was shopping. For a BMW.

"Are you nuts?" he said.

"Here's a secret I'm going to share with you. I used to be, well, barely lower-upper-middle class. It was hard. We had to do without certain things. Imported beer. A fax machine. Me and the wife would get single cappuccinos, instead of doubles.

"The kids? We would go for months without shopping at GapKids. The other kids at school would make fun of them. But, hey, that's life, isn't it?

"Finally, we made a little money. We leased ourselves his-and-her Beamers. And his-and-her cell phones. We got a big house. Put the kids in private schools. Took up golf. But here's the funny part, we still don't have any money. That's the secret I was talking about. The more money you make, the more you need.

"I'm making about 180 grand. But it's not enough. If I got that $500 credit, I'd put it down on a big-screen TV. Isn't that what made America great?"

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