Steve Curless's Blog

Miscellaneous Musings
NOVEMBER 14, 2008 3:10PM

Nanny State Nonsense

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Last night I heard Dennis Miller rail against the "nanny state" he thinks Obama and the Democrats are poised to usher in whereby the invigorating "American Way" of having to work harder and harder to keep a roof over our and our family's heads, food in our mouths, clothes on our backs, and, if we're lucky, minimally decent health care will give way to the innervating security of big government satisfying our every need and whim while we sit back snugly and twiddle our thumbs.

Well, I work my butt off forty hard hours a week for peanuts, I have no paid holidays or vacations, no employer-funded health care coverage, even though I work for a major metropolitan health care system, and no pension, and I pay an astronomical sum, given my and my wife salaries, for health insurance under COBRA because my "preexisting condition" makes it impossible for me to obtain even remotely affordable coverage any other way. And, even so, I have it better than a lot of other Americans.

I don't think that I or we would be sapped of all ambition and vitality if we had paid holidays and several weeks of paid vacation each year to refresh and recharge ourselves, solid health care coverage provided by our employer or the government, and a livable wage. In fact, I know I'd be grateful for all of this and willing and able to work just as hard if not harder to earn what I received. It seems to me that working too hard for too little in return and worrying constantly about finances and health care is what actually saps our energy and ambition most of all. Many of us are too preoccupied with just staying afloat, and I believe that the "American Way" can and should be about more than this and that the government can play an important role in making this happen without turning our country into an emasculating "nanny state."

I think that Obama, in contrast with many Republicans, believes this too, and this is one reason why I'm glad he'll be our next president.

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Yep, I think you got it right. When people work their asses off, do all they can, and still can’t get ahead, that is when the motivation factor fails completely and they resort to the nobody-else-cares-why-should-I mentality. “Nothing I do is ‘enough’, so I’ll do the bare minimum” becomes the mantra. But when people know their needs will be met, and that their efforts will be rewarded, they do show more motivation. This is something that the corporatists will never fully understand.

The fact that the deck is stacked so heavily against the “little guy” creates a situation in which governmental checks and balances are absolutely essential to a successful society.

I agree with you on "governmental checks and balances." And I think they should be exercised not only to keep the little man from being exploited by the big man, but to keep the big man from getting too big at the little man's expense. For while some might argue that the big man deserves to earn as much as he can for his leadership or entrepreneurship and that the more he earns, the more motivated he'll be to produce even more, I think there's a point beyond which his earning more takes away from others while yielding rapidly diminishing returns for his own well-being and productivity. And I would add that the same is true for the little man. He needn't earn grossly more than his labors are worth, as in the case of Detroit auto line workers without even high school diplomas who purportedly earn up to $150,000 per year when college professors with doctorates often earn considerably less.