No soda or chips for you!

Ethan: So, Gov. Paul LePage wants to stop people from being able to buy chips and soda with food stamps. Why is it that you conservatives claim you want government to stop forcing people to make certain choices except when it comes to poor people? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg bans soda for everyone. Conservatives are outraged. LePage wants to ban soda for poor people. Conservatives celebrate. I am just looking for consistency.

Phil: Are you talking about the same Bloomberg who wants more gun control while he is surrounded by armed guards? That kind of consistency?

Ethan: Perhaps if we had stronger gun control, he wouldn’t need so many armed guards. But, if you see that as inconsistent, then yes.

Phil: Let me rephrase the original question. Isn’t it great that LePage is proposing that people who commit felonies should be taken off welfare, so we can serve those in need who abide by the law? And in an effort to help poor people, he is assuring that their taxpayer-funded meals are being spent on good nutrition, which is especially important for youngsters.

Ethan: I’d believe your angle if Republicans held everyone to the same standard. Unfortunately, they dish out corporate welfare and tax breaks without regard to whether the recipient has ever gotten in trouble with the law. Nor do they tell companies how they can or can’t spend the taxpayer money they receive. But with poor people? Strings, strings and more strings.

Phil: A brighter line between our political philosophies couldn’t be drawn. You espouse the philosophy that all money in the hands of “we the people” actually belongs to the government, and if the politicians give some of it back to us it’s called corporate welfare. Yet, if the government takes our money and gives it to a convicted drug felon, and we want it to go to someone playing by the rules, we’re labeled as mean-spirited, right-wing extremists.

Ethan: It sounds like you are insinuating the poor don’t pay taxes. Quite the contrary. Poor people actually pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than most of the rest of us. So, if your argument is that since corporate welfare is just returning money to people who paid in, and therefore they should have no strings, then your logic should be consistent.

Phil: You’re missing the distinction. When people can’t or won’t reach a level of self-sufficiency and, therefore, need someone else’s income to live, asking them to make good choices for themselves is not unreasonable. What people do with their own life on their own dime is not government’s province.

Ethan: Are you insinuating that elderly people who pull more out of Social Security than they put in should be forced to spend that money only on what the government says?

Phil: Social Security is not welfare. It is an underfunded pension plan. In fact some pull out more than they pay in, and others die before they can pull out what they paid in.

Ethan: Agreed. But everyone gives to government, and everyone gets back. That’s how it works.

Phil: And let me add that I don’t think conservatives are “outraged” or “celebrating” as you said at the beginning. They are simply pointing to the liberal philosophy that says government’s role is to lord over everyone — from what to drink, eat or whether they can own a weapon to protect themselves. And then in the next breath, they verbally assail taxpayers who suggest that dollars taken from them in the name of compassion enables the very people we all want to help to further diminish their potential.

Ethan: I am simply looking for consistency, and conservatives are very hypocritical on what money gets strings and what doesn’t. Look, I can live with restrictions on food stamps. I have no problem with the government saying how tax money should and shouldn’t be spent. But I just want the same strings attached across the board.

Phil:  We’re finally making progress. How about we get rid of all welfare — for companies and individuals — except for the disabled and frail?

Ethan: I certainly don’t think that’s the answer. The answer should be accountability — but at all levels. If the government gives you money, you should be held accountable to the expected outcomes. Whether you are rich or poor, an individual or a corporation. Pretty simple.

Phil: Of course we should also hold the government accountable for the success or lack thereof. Don’t you agree? After 50 years of programs designed to end the war on poverty, we certainly have enough evidence to prove that it hasn’t worked. It’s time to try another approach.

Ethan: If LePage creates the “Commission on Government Accountability in Human and Corporate Welfare Programs,” I’ll be happy to serve.

Phil: Just leave the potato chips at home.