CAL THOMAS: Human nature and government checks

Books and articles — scientific as well as theological — have been written on human nature. Still, most people don’t understand it, or refuse to learn from it, or worse, play to its dark side.

Some politicians play to the dark side of human nature because it empowers them and extends their careers at taxpayer expense. They never have to solve a problem; they only have to appear to care about a problem. Doubt me? Then why after many years of talking, legislating, studying and spending are so many problems unresolved?

The Wall Street Journal reported on several states that have stopped or will soon cease sending out unemployment checks. This has resulted in many of the former recipients of other people’s money going out to find or return to work. Who knew?

This reminds me of the welfare reform bill worked out by President Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich 25 years ago. Some critics then said the measure would cause people to starve in the streets. It didn’t. Most found work when they realized government checks would no longer be forthcoming.

Everywhere there are “now hiring” signs. Some stores and companies are offering incentives for employees to return to work, including cash bonuses and electronic devices. It makes one wonder what happened to what was once known as the “work ethic” when work was seen as noble and having a job that provided for one’s self and family was a mark of good character.

During the welcome reduction of COVID-19 cases and deaths, it was widely reported many people were refusing to go back to work, because for some, their unemployment and other government benefits were higher than their previous wages. It’s human nature.

As the Journal noted, “Federal pandemic aid boosted unemployment payments by $300 a person each week and extended those payments for as long as 18 months, well longer than the typical 26 weeks or less.”

Forbes magazine calculated that combined state and federal unemployment benefits ranged from the mid $500 a week to nearly $800 per week, depending on the state. That’s more than some people earned by working. Getting paid not to work can be addictive.

Accompanying reluctance to return to work is another reflection of the dark side of human nature. It is indolence, which is defined as: “disliking work or effort; lazy; idle.” Granted, not all who have been reluctant to return to work — at least while the checks keep coming — are necessarily indolent, but many seem to be and that is a bad condition to encourage in an individual and a nation.

Part of this, I think, is also related to the never-ending attacks by the Left on “the rich” and successful. The notion that one is entitled to certain things without having to work for them, along with envy of others who have made the work ethic work for them, is also a bad character trait, because it diminishes appreciation for the successful and subsidizes failure.

What we promote we get more of and what we condemn we get less of. In condemning wealth and success, we are likely to get fewer people striving for those things that improve their own lives and the lives of others. That, too, reflects the dark side of human nature.

We can’t say we have not been warned with ancient wisdom that includes this admonition: “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4).

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