QotD: A Word from Charles Sykes

I’m watching Mr. Sykes on CSPAN-2 right now, talking about his new book, A Nation of Moochers. He read the following passage from his book — it’s worth your consideration.

My 401K is down 40%, my employer just cut the match; and it looks like I may have work until I’m 70 years old. I also pay for pensions to public employees who retired in their 50s.

I don’t have enough money to go on vacation this year, but I paid my share of the federal government’s $2.6 million grant to teach Chinese prostitutes to drink responsibly. I pay for bridges to nowhere.

I drive a 1997 Honda Accord, but I had to pay for my neighbor’s $41,000 electric car. I also bailed out the United Auto Workers.

I contribute to my children’s 529 college savings plan, but since I don’t qualify for financial aid I pay for other people’s kids to go to school as well. I also pay for the sociology classes where I am sneered at for my lack of social conscience and denounced as the very essence of greed, racism and environmental insensitivity.

I exercise regularly, watch my cholesterol, and pay for my own health insurance as well as copays and deductibles. I also pay for Other People’s tonsillectomies, appendectomies and occasional rhinoplasties. I pay taxes for Medicare, Medicaid and for various medical programs for poor children and now I will get to subsidize the health care of several million more non-elderly, non-impoverished Americans.

My small business just lost its line of credit, but I paid to bail out Citigroup, AIG, and Goldman Sachs, whose executives get bonuses bigger than my entire net worth.

I pay my mortgage, but I also pay to bail out banks who made risky loans and yuppies, who have trouble paying $700,000 mortgages on their McMansions they bought with no-down payment, adjustable rate deals.

I pay for groceries for my family, but also pay millionaire farmers not grow stuff like rice. I buy dinner for more than 41 million food stamp recipients (although, they now call it Food Shares.). I also pay for school lunches. And breakfasts, since others parents apparently can’t be expected to feed their kids. I get to have red meat once a week, but I get to pay for urban hipsters to buy organic salmon at Whole Foods.

I pay my electricity and gas bills, but I also pay for other people’s air conditioning, cell phones, digital televisions, new windows, subsidized rent, and remodeling,

I pay for my daughter’s ballet lessons, but also pay for universities to develop computerized choreography programs that will help develop “interactive dance performances with real-time audience interactions.” I probably won’t be able to make the show, since I’ll be working.

I’m trying to save enough money in case I lose my job, but I pay for more than 70 different means-tested poverty programs

Because I work hard and am successful, I am in the 10% of Americans, who now pay more than 71 percent of the total federal income tax burden. The top 50 percent of earners pay 97.11 percent. In others words, the bottom half of American earners– theoretically 50 percent of the electorate – pay less than 3 percent of federal income taxes. I pay for them.

I pay property taxes, sales, excise taxes, taxes on my phone, my cable, my water; state income taxes, Social security and Medicare taxes. I also help pay the bills for the nearly half of households who no longer pay any federal income tax. I also pay the bills for the 60 to 70 percent of households who receive more from the government than they pay in.

I expect no gratitude for any of this; it has been years since the term “provider” was a matter of societal respect and personal pride. I understand that the transfer of wealth from makers to takers is seen as morally purer than the efforts of those who created wealth in the first place.

I know my role.

I am the piggybank.

In particular, the antepenultimate sentence — “I understand that the transfer of wealth from makers to takers is seen as morally purer than the efforts of those who created wealth in the first place.” — is at the heart of the problem. Consider the old lefty’s line from my post a couple of days back:

“The New Deal and the Great Society were eras when “money was not the driving force in choosing a career,” he said. “Passion was. People wanted to be able to do something about the country’s most pressing problems — and government was the place to do that.”

Let’s also reflect on the words of our President:

Of course, each of you has the right to take your diploma and seek the quickest path to the biggest paycheck or the highest title possible. But remember: You can choose to broaden your concerns to include your fellow citizens and country instead.

Part of this, of course, is the master of the false alternative doing his thing. Nonetheless, it’s also indicative of an attitude where those who work are seen as the piggy banks for the important people — the ones who have “passion.”

You know what? I have passion — and I found a job and a way of life where I can follow that passion and keep the lights on anyway. What a novel idea.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to QotD: A Word from Charles Sykes

  1. Alpheus says:

    I’m a pretty dedicated opponent of the entitlement state but when I read Sykes’s words, my gorge rises a little. I suspect Sykes feels no serious desire to trade places with the “moochers.” And if he doesn’t, what’s the point? Meanwhile, I suspect a lot of those people Sykes is “paying for” would love to trade places with him and would be willing to work damned hard to have a decent shot at doing it. Probably more than a few of them are working damned hard *right now*.

    No wonder conservatism keeps losing the big battles and the long run. We’re still making arguments on the basis of the nonsensical idea that those who are rich are ipso facto more deserving than those who are poor.

  2. pst314 says:

    Alpheus, do you have an intelligent point to make?

    • Alpheus says:

      Intelligent? I don’t know. My point is that conservatives aren’t at their best when they seem to whine about having to support the disadvantaged. A great many people who might be receptive to other conservative arguments will be put off by Sykes’s victim act. (The Prof. has glossed Sykes’s plaint more charitably than I would have: Sykes manages to lump “means-tested poverty programs” in with “computerized choreography programs.” To most people, these are not equivalent uses of public funds,)

  3. Zion says:


    • profmondo says:

      Well, that’s a comment, but might you elaborate a bit? Which portions of Mr. Sykes’s claim particularly arouse your ire? In any case, thanks for dropping by.

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