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Remembering our lessons from kindergarten


By Nick Jacobs




Trying to pinpoint one central issue that pervades the entire 2012 election is difficult to say the least. That is, unless you remember your lessons from kindergarten and then take a look at Washington’s dysfunction. Remember when your only goal for the week was to learn how to cooperate with others? Remember when sharing meant caring?

The moral problems we face as a nation are not homosexuals marrying to thumb their nose at your institutions, senior citizens smoking marijuana with their grandchildren and “out-of-control” women demanding abortions. The moral problem we face as a nation is our incredible lack of community or a sense of duty. And all of this partisanship does not make it any better.

Remember, our representatives are supposed to represent the will of the people, not the party. Maybe that has something to do with the inherit individualist nature of the American spirit, or maybe it has something to do with the laziness induced by instant gratification in the form of celebrity tweets, trendy memes and websites focused entirely on pictures of cats trying to eat cheeseburgers.

If it doesn’t benefit me right here and right now, then why should I even bother? How do I envision the use of the money they pull out of my paycheck when there’s no live webcam feed?

The problem with America is our immaturity when it comes to helping each other out. Yes, I understand the one rule that governs the state of nature is survival of the fittest, but that is why we have government.

One of my friends posted an excerpt from a newspaper mocking the hilarious hypocrisy of the Department of Agriculture handing out more free meals and food stamps than ever before.

Yet at the same time, the Department of Interior warns visitors of our national parks to not feed the animals because they “will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.” The fundamental flaw of this argument is that the people who benefit from food stamps are not animals. This is fairly simple in my eyes.

Just using rough numbers here, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s (SNAP) budget for fiscal year 2011 was $75.6 billion. Now, divide that by the roughly 53 percent of Americans who actually pay taxes  (~185 million), and you get a per-person liability of about $412 per year.

Now, for your average anti-food stamp, small-government kind of person, generally well-off, $412 is probably less than a week’s worth of wages. Hell, if you’re a lawyer, you probably make that in an afternoon. But for the average minimum wage worker who benefits from this program, it takes them more than 50 hours of washing dishes or flipping burgers to make the same amount of money.

Now thinking about the diminishing marginal utility of each additional dollar owned, it should be more than obvious that those who benefit from the program value that money at least a little more.

I understand it’s your money and you want it now, but how about showing a little compassion for the people who have to tell their kids they won’t be eating dinner tonight because some D.I.N.K.s want to buy Kobe beef (not realizing they can’t even buy it in America).

I’m not trying to say if you disagree with food stamps you’re a bad person. I’m saying if you can’t pay forward $412 in one year to help about four struggling American families buy groceries ($133.14 is the average payout per month) , you should probably take a good look at yourself in the mirror.

I’m not sure if people realize this, but everyone in America pays taxes in some form or another. Yes, some people pay more and some people seemingly pay none, but in the end we all pay what we can.

The economy is flapping up and down erratically like a fish out of water, and millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Indeed, you don’t have to be a part of the bottom 99 percent to feel it. This is a problem we all face.

And the first step to solving this problem is going back to kindergarten, learning how to be decent doggone human beings and beginning to work together again.

This is wholly plausible, as long as we stop cutting public education budgets across America.

­— nicjacob@indiana.edu

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