Matt Bruenig wrote, The Story of Eric Harwood. It’s a very sympathetic telling of the story of a 47-year-old working class man who now finds himself disabled with difficulty getting SSI because of some understandable mistakes. It’s very sad and I do hope the whole thing works out for him. He deserves to get disability insurance and live a dignified life.
I’ve written a lot about this kind of thing in the past. Every time some politician starts going on about fraud in government programs, I know what the net result will be: loads of people who clearly deserve help won’t get it just so we can stop a handful of people who probably don’t. But this is the conservative way, is it not? It’s better to let children starve than allow an able bodied surfer to eat lobster at government expense. Or, in another area, it is better to stop millions of people from voting rather than allow one ineligible person to vote.
It turns out that Eric Harwood is an ultra-conservative. He’s hoping that the Republicans will nominate Ted Cruz and Donald Trump; he doesn’t care which one of them is on the top of the ticket. Now I am very tired of hearing liberals complain that conservatives don’t vote in their own best interests. They do vote in their own best interests — as they see them. And Harwood is an entirely typical conservative. I run into them all the time.
Let’s suppose that Eric Harwood gets his SSI — as he clearly should. He will then almost certainly spend a great deal of time watching Fox News and listening to hate radio. He will continue to rail against all those undeserving people sucking off the tit of the American tax payer. The fact that he is doing exactly the same thing will cause no cognitive dissonance in him. And that’s because he is one of the deserving ones. He isn’t some libertarian who thinks the government shouldn’t exist. He just thinks that it should take care of the people who deserve it.
If you look at Harwood’s life story, you can see how the government has helped him along the way. He went to trade school to become a locksmith. That’s great, but it almost certainly involved government programs that made it more affordable if not paying for it straight out. He apparently lost $30,000 in wealth when his condo was foreclosed on. Let’s consider that. I assume a condo in Nevada would cost about $150,000. So let’s say his mortgage was $120,000. In 2005, mortgage rates were around 6%. That comes out to roughly $7,000 per year that he got to write off. He only had the place for three years, so we can figure that roughly $7,000 of that $30,000 that he lost was a direct payment from the government. (Also, it is almost certain that the $30,000 is just what he paid over the three year, so it wasn’t wasted money; he would have had to pay that amount in rent if he hadn’t purchased the condo.)
I know that people don’t think about things like this. But when you slice and dice the world up into the worthy and the unworthy, you are going to find that other people place you in the unworthy category. So now he’s going to vote for Trump or Cruz, thinking that they will fix the nation in such a way that he gets everything he thinks he deserves and other people don’t get anything because he doesn’t think they are deserving. That’s what he’s voting for. He is very much voting in his own interest. It’s just that he’s foolish in thinking that the Republican Party’s platform puts him in the deserving camp.
But I hope liberal policy wins the day and Eric Harwood gets the help that he needs and deserves.