Eric Harwood Is Voting His Own Best Interests

Eric HarwoodMatt 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.

“Why is it that we’re bringing in illegal aliens into our country, and now bringing in more refugees spending billions and trillions of dollars on both.” —Eric Harwood

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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

20 thoughts on “Eric Harwood Is Voting His Own Best Interests

  1. What frustrates me at this point is when you do talk to people such as Mr. Harwood, they immediately assume that some non-white person will just flop over into the local SSA office and literally have money thrown at them. Mostly people who are Hispanic based on the region. Regardless of how many stories and statistics you show them, they still think this way. Always because they have some friend of a friend who had this experience therefore you are wrong.

    It is where dry policy discussions loses people-they know it was better once and they don’t know why it is not now. Trying to explain it to them takes extraordinary patient, endless discussions that have to be done over and over again because they let their thinking slide back. And if they catch a wiff of you being smarter than them, they will discount a single word you say or show them.

    So Mr. Harwood, when he comes to AZ, will be even more worse off because of people I know who write laws to make it impossible for him and his family to succeed. But he sure will vote for the people who think this way because they only talk about the “undeserving” and never mention it means him too regardless of how often we tell him it does.

    • I have a friend who complains about all these special programs we have in California for “Mexicans.” We do have special programs for Latinos, but they are small and they aren’t for people who are here illegally. But I’ve given up talking to him about it because it really does bring me to the point of wanting to punch him. And there is never any evidence. It is just his absolute conviction that everyone has it so much better than he does. I can point out all the advantages that he has but it doesn’t matter. He’s also convinced that he would have better prospects if he only spoke Spanish. Well, he would have better prospects if he spoke Spanish as well. And he’s actually good with languages, but he’d rather whine. On the good side, he’s a sold Democratic voter, so I just try to avoid the subject.

      As for Harwood: it’s really all about affinity. He votes for the people he thinks are his tribe. Too bad for him that they don’t think so.

      • Welp, I just found out that the Bundy clan from Nevada has taken over a federal building. So much for a quiet remaining winter.

        But at least they have their tribe. *rolls eyes*

        • They should be tried for treason. It’s long overdue. But somehow when its right wingers, it isn’t treason but “patriotism!” It’d sure be a shame if the place caught on fire and they all burned to death. When are conservatives going to learn that you honor your country and not what you think your country ought to be. Honoring what you think your country ought to be is being a revolutionary or a terrorist. But don’t worry: if these domestic terrorists die, Fox News will be there to make them martyrs.

          • They should but you know that if the Democrats charge someone who actually did commit treason, the Republicans will charge Democrats who didn’t.

              • Yep-which is why Clinton was impeached. Even though everyone outside of D.C. thought it was ridiculous. It is so annoying to have to deal with this abusive party.

    • I did taxes for H & R Block one year. (Note: never use a tax-preparing service like H & R Block. They are basically criminal loan sharks.)

      Invariably people would ask about all the tax freebies “those” others got. White people asked what tax freebies Blacks got. (None.) Black people asked what tax freebies immigrant Somalis got. (None.) “They’re given cars” was an oft-repeated mantra, maybe thanks to Reagan’s magical mystery Cadillacs back in the day.

      And the truly bizarre thing is, if you look at poll numbers, Americans are fine with actual government programs to benefit struggling people. And everybody who comes into an H & R Block for a “refund-anticipation loan” is struggling. What they fear and suspect is that the system is rigged against them. And they’re not wrong! They’re simply confused about who the system is rigged for.

      • That’s it exactly. And now you remind me that tax season is upon us and everyone I know will come to be to help them with their taxes.

        The problem is that people are right that they are being oppressed, but they support their oppressors. It ain’t the immigrants who are oppressing them. But what are you going to do when everywhere on television people are saying that the rich are great.

        • People are spooked about doing their taxes, as if they do them wrong the IRS will batten down their door. It’s the opposite. If you fail to take an exemption you qualified for, you will get a letter from the IRS explaining how you screwed up, and a check refunding the difference.

          The following is the greatest thing ever I learned from my time as a tax preparer. I’m not making this up: it’s in the IRS instructions.

          “Illegal activities. Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity. ”

          I wonder what Vito Corleone put on line 21.

          • Of course. You don’t have to say what the money came from. Services rendered. You got the money, you owe taxes. It’s simple.

  2. A pedantic nit regarding “insurance” versus “benefits”. You’re following Matt Bruenig’s usage which seems confused and even I’m now getting a little confused.

    Insurance is usually something you pay premiums for with the understanding that the insurance company may pay benefits should an unexpected or expected event happen in the future. SSI is “Supplemental Security Income”, not insurance. With respect to Bruenig’s article, Harwood may or may not have had short-/long-term disability insurance through his employer; if he did have that insurance and his application for *benefits* was accepted, he would have received benefits (income mostly, probably for a fixed amount of time). Harwood wouldn’t be fighting the Social Security Administration for insurance, he would be fighting for disability benefits.

    I got a little confused because the Wikipedia entry for SSI has a link to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which the linked-to Wikipedia article confusingly uses to refer both to the insurance program and to the benefits.

    Regarding the social net, I’m always annoyed by conservatives who think “Social Security” is their money and that they should get back what they paid in. It’s an insurance policy as evident in its full name and a person may get back less than they payed in (if they die early) or more (if they are fortunate enough to live longer). Have these folks ever tried to or even thought they could get back the premiums they payed into auto insurance policies when switching insurance companies?

    Getting Social Security disability is difficult for too many people. When I was on long-term disability from my company, I was required to apply for Social Security disability and the LTDI company told me beforehand that they had lawyers on hand to assist me if my application was rejected. So I imagine rejection is common. Probably because my doctor was associated with a prestigious university hospital and knew the ropes, my very first application was accepted. From reading forums about my disability, I learned about other people with the same disability, often from rural and other areas that didn’t have the same access to quality (or even knowledgeable with respect to this disability) healthcare, who repeatedly applied for SS disability and were repeatedly rejected and left living on the edge.

    • “Pedantic nit’ are two words which make my heart smile. Well done. I’m totally stealing that in the future.

      What disability do you have? Not to pry. I’ve worked for 15 years as an attendant with adults who have disabilities, and I can’t make heads or tails out of how the funding works. Nobody can. It’s completely baffling. If you can shed some light on the process, its goods and bads, that would be hugely appreciated.

    • Excellent point on SSI. That drives me crazy too.

      In the case of Harwood, he clearly did have insurance. The problem seems to be that because his friendly employer helped him out, he ended up not qualifying for benefits. This happens with private insurers all the time, so this isn’t a government issue regardless. I had a similar issue with disability when I spent 5 months in the hospital about 10 years ago and almost died. Because the hospital screwed up in submitting the application I had made for SDI, I lost out on about $10,000. It sucked. But the fault was with the hospital and me for not keeping on top of them (although I was in pretty bad shape). The government system is the government system. And the way to fix it is by electing Bernie Sanders and other like minded people; not by electing Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

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