'Snow-cialism' rears its head in Baltimore

March 07, 2010|By Vedran Vuk

There is a silver lining to every snowstorm -- getting to know your neighbors, both good and bad. With 40 inches on my block last month, I've learned a lot about my neighbors -- and, strangely enough, socialism.

My corner of Baltimore, Mount Vernon, seems like a good place to ride out a storm. After all, innumerable cars are plastered with Obama bumper stickers, and windows display signs like "Universal Healthcare Now." In essence, it's a very liberal neighborhood in an extremely liberal state. What better neighborhood to be in times of need, right?

The architecture ranges from early 19th to early 20th century row homes, which as a result demands parallel parking. This isn't a great inconvenience most of the time, but with the snow, it's an absolute nightmare. First the clouds drop 40 inches. Then the city snow plow piles another mountain from the street onto your car.

Successfully liberating the vehicle from its icy prison can take hours. After leaving the spot, anyone can take the laboriously freed space. Restoring regular parking conditions quickly requires everyone chipping in for the common good.

During this street clearing process, my neighbors sorted themselves into four groups, according to my highly unscientific observation:

• The Saint (1 percent of the neighborhood). Every couple of blocks resides a truly amazing human being, living to serve others. He's shoveling out his neighbors' cars, dumping bags of rock salt down the whole street, and passing out shovels like he owns a hardware store.

• The Good Citizen (15 percent of the neighborhood). A caring person doesn't just shovel enough snow to drive away. He carves out the front and back. After leaving his spot, someone else can parallel park without digging. If everyone did this, normal parking would resume in a day -- if not less.

• The Self-Interested Person (70 percent of the neighborhood). This person doesn't really care about helping anyone. She carves just enough in the front to get out. The next person must dig before parking.

• The Malicious Creep (14 percent of the neighborhood). Instead of shoveling snow to the curb, the creep stacks snow onto his neighbor's car. This saves the creep approximately 15 minutes, while adding an hour to his neighbor's work.

While my neighbors love President Barack Obama and universal health care, they obviously aren't such good socialists on their own block. This is no surprise; everyone on earth is an armchair Mother Teresa. We all have noble thoughts at the coffee shop or over beers. But when the snow shovel has to come out, so does the truth.

So let's face it. Universal health care supporters are much like the folks on my street. There are a couple of saints, a few good people, and a large chunk who are either self-interested or just plain selfish. Most support it either because they will benefit directly or because they think the tax burden will not be placed on them.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 34 percent believe that health care reform will increase their own costs. Gallup also points out that most don't think health care reform will benefit them personally -- hence, they are supposedly altruistic. But it's not altruism when only 34 percent believe that they will do the shoveling.

You don't think this is true? Just look at the Republican Party's anti-universal health care campaign. The GOP hasn't appealed to morality or fairness but instead to selfish elements among voters on the fence with the issue. The message is that the plan will cost more for everyone, and your health care will get worse. So far, the campaign has worked.

One can speak sweet nothings while pleasantly sitting around a warm fireplace. But in the end, a snowy day and a shovel will always reveal the selfish nature of a socialist underneath.

Vedran Vuk, a Baltimore resident, is an analyst with Casey Research. His e-mail is vedran@caseyresearch.com.

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