Friday, February 17, 2012

Have you used a government program?

This quote in Paul Krugman's article "Moochers Against Welfare" made me laugh and laugh.
Cornell University’s Suzanne Mettler points out that many beneficiaries of government programs seem confused about their own place in the system. She tells us that 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and 40 percent of those on Medicare say that they “have not used a government program.”
Have I used a government program? Yes. I've been on unemployment three times. In my 20s I owned an S-Corp and worked as a consultant, getting a 1099 to show how much I got paid instead of a W-2. I had gaps in earning all the time but I never got unemployment. I would finish one electronics design project and work on my house until somebody had another new product to transition to manufacturing. I used to make mad bank when I was billing! And I doubled the value of my house in 3 years. It never even occurred to me that I would use a government program.

In my 30s it became more difficult to find consulting work. Nobody was designing electronics to be manufactured in their own factory anymore. I tried going through a temporary agency to get a job with an architecture and engineering firm. The manager was a former rocket scientist (as in he really designed a rocket propulsion system for a loony rich dude) so he understood the scope of my abilities and hired me as an interior designer. I did AutoCAD floorplans, electrical riser diagrams, and edited Master Specs when I wasn't picking the colors and carpet for projects. There was only about 1 week a month worth of that good-taste-required work, but it was intimidating enough to the other people working there that none of them would do it. I got 1/3 of my old hourly rate and the temp agency got to keep most of what they billed the firm. I was going to do that for 6 months and then be hired permanently. But after 5 months they lost all their contracts with the Federal government to design buildings for Air Force bases and had to lay me off. My manager suggested I go to the unemployment office. What? I could get unemployment from being a TEMP? No kidding!

After that round of unemployment I got some more consulting work and started doing more and more menial things, like painting and carpentry and cleaning. Then I moved down to the ancestral home and got a job at another architecture and engineering firm where I worked for three solid years! A personal record! I made $20,000 a year less than my first year out of college. And I got laid off when they lost their contract with the Department of Environmental Protection. You're darn straight I used a government program.

It seems the more my worth is demeaned by society the more I'm willing to use government programs.

I need to think about that for a while.

Update: I think I might have used a government program as a teenager! I might be guilty of this very delusion in the block quote. I was the only person in my high school to qualify for a Georgia Governor's Scholarship, which paid all my college tuition for two years. That sounds pretty much like a hand out to me! But if you had asked me in my 20s if I had used a government program I probably would've said no. If you think about college scholarships there are a lot more people who have used government programs that don't consider themselves welfare class.

1 comment:

  1. "It seems the more my worth is demeaned by society the more I'm willing to use government programs."

    This one sentence says so much.