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Land Of The Free, Not The Freebie

Written by Spencer Price ——————————— I was beat. It was early morning and I was on my way home after working a 12-hour nightshift in the ER. I stopped at a small convenience store not far from home to fill my truck with diesel fuel, grab a Coke, and get some cash from the ATM. What happened next spoke volumes about what’s wrong in America. While standing in line to pay for my merchandise, I overheard the woman cashier talking to several middle-aged men sitting around the checkout counter (men, who, by the way, didn’t seem to be purchasing anything). The conversation was about unemployment benefits. Apparently, the cashier was well versed regarding the ins and outs of that particular government program. The men listened intently as she explained that she was on her ‘fourth’ cycle of unemployment benefits. She went on to explain some of the specifics of the program with regard to renewing an application for continuing payments at the end of each cycle. When one of the men commented that the benefits would eventually run out, she replied that ‘Obama’ would ‘take care of them.’ She continued talking as she rang up each customer’s purchases. When my turn came, I placed my merchandise on the counter and reached for my wallet. Just then, one of the men asked if the government deducted her wages from the amount she received in unemployment payments. ’They would if they knew I had a job,’ she said. ‘But they pay me cash here so they don’t know.’ Interestingly, she seemed not the least bit concerned that I or other customers could hear her conversation. As far as I was concerned, that said it all. As she handed me my change, I gathered my items and headed out the door. On the short drive home from the store, I pondered the situation I had just witnessed. By her own admission, the cashier was receiving unemployment benefits and had been for a significant period of time. In addition, she had a job in which her employer paid her in cash likely to avoid paying payroll taxes on her wages. This was an added benefit to her in that, by receiving her wages in cash, she could avoid reporting her income to the government and, thus, avoid having her unemployment benefits reduced. The math on this situation is simple: the woman claimed to be unemployed in order to receive government benefits; she, in fact, had a job but, because she was paid in cash, didn’t pay income tax on her wages; her employer avoids paying Social Security and payroll taxes on her wages thus, saving him money; it’s an obvious win-win for both of them. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody is getting ripped off. And who might that be? You guessed it. The same people that always get ripped off in situations like these ‘“ the American taxpayer. I have long been amazed at the number of people out to get something for nothing. I see them every day in the ER ‘“ people feigning illness to get a work excuse, or people attempting to get a prescription for narcotics that they can then go sell on the street, or those using the ER as a doctor’s office in order to avoid paying the co-pay. When I was in private practice, it was people seeking disability benefits without being disabled or trying to get an electric wheelchair that they could then sell to someone else. But the medical field isn’t the only place in which people seek freebies at the expense of others as the example of the cashier demonstrates. Of course, the phenomenon of people looking for something for nothing is not new. It is, however, seemingly on the rise as more and more people seek their sustenance from the public dole rather than hard work. And political leaders are somewhat to blame for facilitating this darker side of some people’s nature. By supporting entitlement programs in an effort to garner votes, politicians make the problem worse by reinforcing this form of negative, non-productive behavior. The time has come for our political leadership to step up to the plate, make the mature choices, and put an end to the abuse of government entitlements for all but the truly disabled. In doing so, we can reaffirm that America is the home of the free, not the freebie. To contact Spencer, read his blog, or review an archive of his columns, please visit

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