This is my third attempt to address this topic. Attempt #1 and Attempt #2 left me feeling unsatisfied. (Plus, nobody read my blog then) There's something about this that really bugs me, and I'm having the hardest time elaborating on exactly what. I feel that both times I attempted this in January, I fell short. There were circumstances this weekend that reminded me, so I'm going to try yet again.
I'm not going to use my standard disclaimer that I'm not a tree-hugging hippie, because some of you know that and the rest won't believe it. Some of you just think my whole reason for existing is to attack Christians. That's fine. At least I still have credibility, right?
&bsp   Six months ago, I linked too much wealth with the cultural and economic demise of the United States in the future. I want to talk about this on a personal, anecdotal level. My wife and I live in a quiet suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Despite my love of cities, I was tired of the apartment lifestyle. I was tired of living cheek to jowl with other people, of smelling their cigarette smoke on my balcony, of hearing them fight and have sex in the apartment above me. I wanted a house with a yard and a quiet neighborhood street. The neat thing about Atlanta is that you can get these things intown. In fact, there are neighborhoods in walking distance from downtown and midtown that meet these criteria. However, they have one of two problems: they either have a large supply of crack houses or they have a price range close to or above $1 million. So we are as close in to the city as we could get and still afford the house we want (that's not very close in). We're actually surrounded by $800,000-$1.2 million riverfront houses. Our house is set back, in a much more modest neighborhood. But we're still in the million-dollar school system, so our neighborhood is in high demand with families. In fact, I believe we have a disproportionate number of single parents in our neighborhood, since this is the best school district they can afford on one salary. It's a hard-working neighborhood, full of single-parent homes, dual-income homes, and families just starting up. It remains affordable because the people who can buy more expensive houses usually do - there are plenty of choices nearby.
&bsp   So who are my best neighbors? Just about everybody. It's an older neighborhood, so there's no mandatory association, but people work to keep their yards neat and maintained, and there's a volunteer group to keep the entrances pretty. So are my worst neighbors? They're the family that moved in next door about 9 months ago. Here's my introduction to them: I was setting up my yard for Halloween one night after work - putting up lights so the kids won't trip and things like that. I noticed a few SUV's at the house for sale next door. They back out and drive away, except one, which drives over to my house (25 yards away). A middle-aged, slightly balding guy gets out and introduces himself, saying he just bought the house. "Congratulations," I said, holding out my hand. "Welcome to the neighborhood." "Oh, it's not for me," he said. "It's for my daughter. And her kids. And her... live-in." I fought back surprise to stay polite. "Oh. Well, I can't wait to meet them." "I'm not so sure about that. Her boyfriend's not the friendly type. Well, I hope they don't give you too much trouble. I'll probably be around a lot, mowing the lawn and fixing up the house. She's too young to do those sorts of things. I probably stared as his Suburban rumbled away. We've met this girl - she's actually very pleasant. She's a little younger than us - although obviously not "too young" to mow the lawn. Her two kids (by 2 different fathers) seemed nice too, if a little spoiled. We never did meet the boyfriend, but we did learn from conversations with this girl that he doesn't work and neither does she. In the past nine months, we've been treated to gangsta' rap at all hours and the delightful scent of pot smoke wafting from their garage. Now, I'm not in a condo or townhouse. For us to smell pot smoke in our kitchen with the windows closed from next door means they were having quite a party. What happened this weekend was that one of her kids was having a birthday - 5 years old, I think. And they were having a party. I was out working on the lawn, and I got to see the guests arrive. A few had kids in tow, but it was the presents I noticed. No Harry Potter or Tickle-Me-Elmos. They were carrying 6-packs of Natty Lite and closed brown bags. And the entertainment for this children's party? A boombox in the driveway yelling about "pimping 'dem hoes".
How is this relevant? Well, obviously the girl's father has too much money. He's not super-rich or anything, but for his lifestyle, it's too much. Enough that he never saw the need to educate his 25-year old daughter to keep her legs closed or work for a living or even maintain her own residence. Nice girl, but pretty worthless in society. For her kids' sake, I hope her father lives a long, healthy life. But is this why we have money? Is this the Republican ideal? Is this why when it comes to setting tax policy they oppose taxing gifts and inheritances? I say that because unless you're a militant anarchist, you understand that our government needs revenue to operate. And it has to get that revenue from someplace. Someplace=taxes. So the question is, when we get taxes, what is best for our society? And the answer seems clear: not from people who want to ruin their children. I truly believe that what this father is doing to his daughter is child abuse. Or maybe just plain abuse, even though he treats her like a child. He is funding his daughter's descent into the dregs of our society, and instead of allowing her to reap the fruits of her (non-)labor like a good Republican (I noticed the "W" sticker on the car), he's propping her up and enabling her behavior. Which is actually punishing me and my hard-working neighbors. Because now the prices of starter homes is going up since so many of the purchasers are parents of over-age children who are not price sensitive. I make a good living, but I stretched to my limit to afford my house. This guy bought his deadbeat daughter a house that cost more than mine and promptly began $20,000-$50,000 of renovations.
I'm not just mad about this girl, although that hits closest to home. I have millionaire coworkers who have children my age. Most are screwed up - they can't finish college, they're getting pregnant (or getting someone pregnant), they're sitting at home jobless. And it's all funded by their parents. (They're all rabid Republicans too, and complain about welfare and race and people being allowed to work on Sunday) The response to a kid getting knocked up? Buy her a $300,000 house! To be fair, some of my coworkers' kids are responsible and mature. Their parents, while wealthy, did not give all their money to them. One coworker, in particular, has 2 houses, an RV, a houseboat, a pontoon boat, and 2 waverunners. These are his toys. His kids? They got summer jobs at McDonalds and Publix in high school, they bought their own homes, and they were married before they thought about having kids. Is it selfish? Or is our society in better shape if it allows people to use their money to spoil themselves, but not ruin the next generation or two? If we as a society have to decide where to get our tax money, should it be from the people working two minimum wage jobs or from the people who have no further use for their own money and are giving it away to a broken generation? Silly questions. Obviously it needs to come from those evildoer minimum wage folks.