I’ll have the free lunch – as long as he’s paying for it


Here’s an unsurprising bit of news out of our nation’s capital:

An overwhelming majority of Washington, D.C., residents support a proposal before the District Council to give each worker in the city 16 weeks of paid time off to care for a newborn or for a dying family member, according to the Washington Post.

The predictable part is that more than half of those polled also say they don’t want workers themselves to have to pay for the largesse.

Sorry, guys (and gals), but as Milton Friedman stated ever so eloquently, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Someone somewhere is going to have to pick up the tab.

If you understand and accept that you’re going to pay one way or the other, that’s fine. But if you expect others to willingly pony up, or that benefits will flow like manna from heaven, you’ve got another thing coming.

The last time I looked the District of Columbia doesn’t have its own printing presses with which to churn out money, so D.C. would have to raise taxes and/or cut employees to pay for such a benefit.

Understand, that’s not a judgment on whether the benefit is worth the cost, but a simple matter of fact. If workers are going to be allowed 16 weeks of paid time off to care for newborns or dying family members, the district will need funds to oblige.

Those pushing for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 an hour need to recognize this reality, as well. Over the course of a year, a full-time worker making $15 an hour would earn a little more than $32,000. That’s all well and good but, again, that money has to come from somewhere.

As the alchemists of old discovered, you can’t get something for nothing. There is a cost to every benefit, even if that cost is hidden. To pretend otherwise is to be foolish, disingenuous or willingly naïve.

8 thoughts on “I’ll have the free lunch – as long as he’s paying for it

    • How could anyone possibly give an accurate accounting of economic incentives given the smoke and mirrors involved with the whole process?

      I don’t even think the people who hand out the incentives have any idea of the real cost.

      I can tell you that companies make out like bandits and S.C. residents gets screwed over time and time again. If we had anything more than a shell of a new media left in this state they could have a field day investigating this pervasive and ongoing scam.

      Not that I have any feelings about the practice one way or the other.

  1. This was part of an editorial I read a while back, seems like it sums it up nicely.

    “Politicians who base their re-election on never raising taxes are desperate to find sources of revenue for expenditures that even they admit are required. By pandering for so long to no-tax freeloaders, they have nurtured the adolescent, statewide attitude that South Carolina, unlike every other political entity on the planet, can have something for nothing.

    That debunked notion is now so thoroughly cemented in the minds of so many of our voters that it has become the 11th Commandment. But there’s no manna from heaven. There’s no free lunch. Boeing and BMW are not riding to the rescue. There’s only tax revenue to maintain and improve our communities and our state.

    Nothing dooms South Carolina to 49th place in everything that matters except its unwillingness to part with money for anything but guns and football. One of the secrets of highly successful states is that they are run by adults. These adults persuade constituents that support systems work best when all are willing to pay — and sometimes sacrifice — for the things that add quality to our way of life. Education, health care, infrastructure, public safety, assistance to the disabled, the environment, etc. and dozens of other concerns require thoughtful and adequate budgeting. None of these areas of government responsibility can meet citizens’ needs if they are shortchanged.

    Government is evil only if it neglects the needs of its citizens; and the needs of citizens can be met only if everyone pays his fair share. If the word “taxes” makes you feel faint, please check with your physician. Perhaps he has a cure for your irrational reaction to the solution to state problems that grow longer in the tooth year after year.

    At this point those problems appear intractable, but they aren’t. Let me amend my earlier sentence: Government is evil if it proposes revenue sources that risk greater harm than benefit to those it governs.”

    • I especially like the last sentence. Not every proposed tax increase is bad, but neither is each one automatically worth embracing. Too often money targeted for one use ends up funding another, which leaves some disillusioned with the process. But any politician who runs on a “no new taxes” platform is posturing.

  2. Per Wikipedia:
    “There ain’t no such thing as free lunch”, appears as the punchline of a joke related in an article in the El Paso Herald-Post of June 27, 1938 (and other Scripps-Howard newspapers about the same time), entitled “Economics in Eight Words”. [The phrase is used] in relating a fable about a king … seeking advice from his economic advisors. … the ruler asks for ever-simplified advice following their original “eighty-seven volumes of six hundred pages” as opposed to a simple failure to agree on “any major remedy”. The last surviving economist advises that “There ain’t no such thing as free lunch.”

    The same reality you point out applies to having porous borders, and to addressing undocumented and documented immigrant needs as identical, in re: sharing the wealth. While both groups do contribute, both use and contribute resources unequally. Immigrants–of both types–wanting to come here are potentially limitless in number, and tax-based resources are not drawn from a limitless pot. Yet, if one points that out, accusations of hard-heartedness outshout any reasoned discussion.

    • I agree we can’t let everyone in that wants to come in. On the other hand, many of those who do come here aren’t all that interested in handouts.

      What is often overlooked is the fact that those who take the risks to come here are among the most daring and ingenious – which means the countries they come from suffer when they lose such individuals. An ideal solution would be if other countries weren’t such miserable hellholes that their best and brightest weren’t constantly trying to leave, but instead wanted to remain and improve things there. I can’t fault them for wanting to escape a miserable environment, however.

      • If one is fair-minded, one doesn’t blame a person for escaping poverty by any means short of damaging the body or property of someone else.

        The issue doesn’t seem to be whether our doors should be open, but how open (to how many), and to whom?

        One’s perspective on how open depends upon whether one believes in the sinking lifeboat theory, which I do. We cannot save anyone if the lifeboat sinks.

      • I think we both agree on this. We can’t allow everyone in, no matter how much we’d like to help everyone. We can’t keep everyone out, either. It’s unfortunate that some countries are so miserable that people are willing to risk life and limb to leave. A solution to the latter issue would go a long way to resolving the former.

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