Seven Decades on Government Aid

Four Generations of Government Aid

I’ve been on government aid since before I was born. It started with my mother and father, who went to public schools, funded by government. Through that government-funded program, they learned to reading, writing, history, math–the usual stuff we take for granted and expect our schools to teach.

I went to public schools too, and so did my children. We all got an education for which the taxpayers paid. I went to a state university. So did my husband and my kids. Without the state’s paying for elementary school, high school, and college, where would we be–we and all the other millions who benefited from government education?

All my life, I’ve eaten government-inspected meat. I’ve driven government-regulated cars. (I remember the unholy ruckus the car manufacturers made when they were first required to put seatbelts in the front seats.) I’ve ridden on government-inspected Ferris wheels, driven over government-maintained roads, taken off from airports and in airplanes that I relied on the government to keep safe.

Even the clothes we wear now have tags telling what they’re made of, where they’re made, and how to take care of them. Before 1960, you had to guess whether a material was cotton, linen, or polyester.

I had tons of cavities as a child, but my children had almost none, because of government-treated water.

Now I’m old, and I’m on a government pension. And Medicare. One more government program, and thank God for it.

All of these programs have problems, yes. Everything has problems! (I had a dishwasher once that was a total lemon, and without, as far as I know, any government involvement.)

And some of the programs are relatively new. My grandmother heroically encouraged her children to finish high school–heroically, because she needed the money they might bring in by working. Dad’s childhood included the charity ward at the hospital,  doctor’s visits in old clothes (in hopes of a break in the price), dimly-lit rooms because electricity costs money, and borrowing fifty cents from a neighbor to buy food. They weren’t the poorest of the poor, either.

There was no SNAP, no WIC, no Medicaid.

Go back further, to, say, 1880. You can buy household books with handy hints to help you tell whether your sugar is partly sand, your milk is partly water, your pickles, clothes, and wallpaper are dyed with arsenic. But you practically have to be a chemist to apply some of those tests. Is that “linen” tablecloth really linen? Is your neighbor’s dog rabid? How much opium is safe for a baby? Who knows? The government is certainly no help. You may literally dose your child to death with dangerous over-the-counter remedies, and no one cares. Public dollars aren’t for keeping private babies alive.

If you have a good income, you try to save a third for your old age. If you don’t have a good income, you either move in with your kids or you and your spouse go to the poorhouse–probably separate poorhouses. Husbands and wives aren’t kept together. It’s sort of a Trump poverty scheme–make poverty as miserable as possible, lest someone, somewhere, take advantage.

Funny, no one says, “Make wealth as miserable as possible, lest some rich person or company take advantage.”

But they do take advantage; oh yes, they do.

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