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Feb. 11, 1997

By Peggy McCracken

Uncle Sam doles out

misery instead of aid

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Three major news stories that I worked on last week - proof reader Cara
Alligood calls them stories from hell - involved federal government
grants. First it was Reeves County's HOME program that was supposed to
fix up 13 houses. Then farmers complained they haven't received
government subsidy checks due last September. And in a continuing saga,
Head Start stuff hit the fan again.

Government giveaways usually look like a good idea up front. We all
would like to see people living in decent housing. The farm program
gives some stability to a business that is too risky for any but the
most hardy to engage in. And who could deny underprivileged preschoolers
a little boost in education and health care that may make them good
students when they get to real school?

The problem, as I see it, is the source of the money that pays the
bills. Too many people think dollar bills grow on a tree in Washington,
D.C., and our kindly Uncle Sam doles them out to the most deserving
among us. Greenbacks may look something like leaves, but they dang sure
don't grow on trees. It is only by the hard labor of people like you and
me that dollars even exist. Kindly Uncle Sam comes around with his
pruning shears and lops off one quarter of our money trees each year.
After he hoards 95 percent for his bureaucrats, kindly Uncle Sam throws
a few leaves to the clamoring nephews and nieces hanging around with
their hands out.

And that's how Reeves County got $340,000 to fix up 13 houses; $1
million a year for the Community Council of Reeves County ($500,000 for
Head Start); and God only knows how many millions for farmers to not

Having grown up on a series of poor farms, I know how hard it is to
make a living raising cotton and maize and peanuts and hogs and cows and
chickens and other stuff to feed the world. You never know when it is
going to rain enough to make a crop; or stop raining when the fields or
already flooded; or when hail will wipe out your bumper crop, as it did
in our fields near Quitaque this year. Bob Bickley tells me that
government subsidies help keep the market stable and food prices down.
He is probably right, but when I hear of "producers" getting checks for
land they neither own nor lease, I see red. Some farmers are in the
business only for that government check, I'm told.
Any time "free" money is floating around, cheaters are going to get a
big cut of it.

Supporters of the Head Start program (and they are legion), say it not
only helps underprivileged kids, it helps their parents by offering them
jobs as janitors, cooks, bus drivers, teacher aides, teachers and
administrators. Education for the staff is paid by the "free" government
money, so they can climb the ladder. And that's good.

My question is, would there be as much friction among the parents,
teachers, administrators and volunteer boards that run these programs if
everybody pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps instead of
depending on that "free" money Uncle Sam hands out?

Don't trot out that old argument that if churches and individuals were
doing their job of taking care of the poor, etc., these government
programs never would have been invented. Government programs are too
often invented by bureaucrats wanting to expand their domain rather than
by any desire to help someone.

Yvonne Martin tells me the Head Start program does help some parents -
those who want to be helped. But those who want to hang onto their
welfare checks reject that boost up the ladder.

Too much help can ruin the best of us.

Scratch any successful man or woman and you are likely to find one who
learned early to take responsibility for his own actions; to work and
spend her wages wisely; to lend a hand when a neighbor needed help; to
make learning a lifelong pursuit; to trust God and thank Him for it all.

"Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to
get wisdom?" Proverbs 17:16, NIV.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is an Enterprise writer, editorial page
editor and Living off the Land compiler whose column appears each Tuesday.


Lawsuit jackpots at public expense

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What do lawyers lined up at the county courthouse have in common with
rioting prison inmates? Both are holding the rest of us hostage in a
system that hands out lawsuit jackpots at public expense. ...

Last week, Hamilton County Courthouse had lines longer than a Garth
Brooks concert, as lawyers rushed to file liability and medical
malpractice suits before a new state law limited damages and raised the
threshold for liability claims.

... To settle a lawsuit by inmates of Lucasville prison, Ohio taxpayers
will give $4.1 million to the inmate ``victims'' of an 11-day prison
riot in 1993. Another $50 million will be spent by taxpayers to improve
psychological services for prisoners.

Let's overlook the odious implications of reimbursing burglars, rapists
and murderers for their ``property damages'' and ``personal injuries.''
Let's stipulate that prisoners are entitled to some degree of safety in
the slammer. But $4 million?

Just as we all pay for damages by rioting inmates, we all wind up
paying the damages of litigation run amok.
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Blues-busting book brightens any day

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Watch "It's a Wonderful Life" again and again and again.

That's one of 569 pieces of advice listed in «MDUL»Blues Busters,
suggestions for beating the blues,«MDNM» palm-size book that can be read
and digested in snippets of time between jobs.

Jessica Paige and Michele Paige gathered short suggestions, from common
place (take a horse and carriage ride) to zany (take a shower with your
pet parrot) that will amuse you as well as give you something to think

Holiday blues affect millions, the authors say. They have found that
anything positive helps break the spiral of sadness. Something as simple
as jumping on the bed or buying a new pen and writing letters can make
you feel better.

I like the one about the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," because I
watched it again Christmas and got a great lift. Its message never
changes, and the good guy wins in the end.

I also like "Pick wild berries and make berry pies." One of the most
memorable years of my life was in a country home where blackberries and
raspberries grew wild along the creek just steps away from our front
door. They seldom made it into a pie, because we ate them as we picked.
But what fun!

Blues Busters sells for $8.95 at bookstores or by calling 800-778-8785.
ISBN: 1-80336-10-3.
--Peggy McCracken
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