Mises Daily Articles
Uncle Sam Wants Me ... And My Children
On August 5th, I awoke at 6:30 a.m. to find my 7-month pregnant wife at my bed side sobbing, telling me she thought her water had broken, but she wasn't certain. After a phone call to the doctor, we packed up our suitcases and left the Hilton in Cincinnati where we had gone for her birthday. It was to be a marathon run to our hospital in Toledo, hoping that if it was labor we had time to make it.
Although I was stopped at one point by the State Highway Patrol, we managed to get to St. Vincent's Hospital with two hours to spare. Our son was born premature, but for those who are curious he is now 4 weeks old and doing well.
Of course, I am very proud to be a father again and to be populating the earth with another little libertarian (named Nolan, by the way). However, I have a very different reason for making this happy announcement. It regards, once again, the intrusive and maternal approach of our federal and state governments.
Approximately 5 hours after Nolan's birth we received our first non-relative visitor. It was a nurse carrying a packet of information instructing us how to apply for state financial assistance to pay for various medical bills, as well as continuing care for our newborn. We also received a letter informing us we must submit information for his Social Security card, as well as details on the wonderful programs like Help Me Grow from the great state of Ohio.
Okay. So what? It's not like any of you are surprised to hear this. Although the state has managed to increase their response time on getting these pricey literature packets into the hands of parents, it's not like you didn't know it happens.
Perhaps it is the human response to all of this that disturbed me the most, and should get your blood boiling as well.
About a week after receiving this information, we were down in the neonatal area visiting Nolan, as was the routine twice per day. I recall that day we were crunched for time and only had around 25 minutes to spend with him. When we arrived, one of the nurses commented, "Good, you are here. I'll let [so and so] know. She needs to see you about the Help Me Grow program," to which we replied, "Well, can we do that another day," not really wanting to see her, "because we're in a hurry today and want to spend all of our time with Nolan." Apparently our request wasn't good enough, as the state nurse for Help Me Grow snuck up on us anyway.
Granted, I was very irritated by this but managed to keep my cool. I had hoped a few quick "No thank you" responses would send her on her way. Now, I must interject, I had no ill will toward this person. I sincerely believe those like her are simply misguided. They have a desire to "do good," but are simply ignorant as to the harm and injustice they are supporting. It's a result of the way in which our society currently influences people in their thought and upbringing.
So, back to the story. As the state nurse (not an employee of St. Vincent, I should note) rattled on about the benefits and reason to participate in Help Me Grow, our body language and expressions indicated to her our lack of interest. Apparently, she must have assumed we thought she worked for the hospital and was trying to sell us something, for she then said (paraphrasing), "Understand, I don't work for the hospital. Honestly, I don't care if they get paid or not. I'm just here to let you know about Help Me Grow."
It was at that point that I simply asked, "Aren't there private practices that do this? I mean, aren't these the things we'll be getting a pediatrician for?"
From here the conversation quietly wrapped up and we all went on our way — a little disappointed about the fact that she stole time away from us with our son. But I was deeply offended at her lack of concern for whether St. Vincent was paid or not. They were in the process of saving my son's life!
But the "shock and awe" that we saw in the faces of "do-gooders" from then on failed to cease. You see, perhaps the most surprising thing in all of this was the attitude of those who were trying to peddle public assistance. They actually looked offended at our polite refusals, at our sense of responsibility in all of this.
After my wife went back to work styling hair, she gave me daily updates regarding clients who also gave her grief for not wanting to dip into the public trust. The most common arguments? "Well, you pay taxes." And "Everyone does it; you need it!" It got to the point that my wife chose to stop informing clients of Nolan's condition, so as to avoid any discussion of the potential financial strain on our part.
Yes, we do pay taxes. And, perhaps, "everyone does it." But I believe that as libertarians, we should never do anything to support the validity of these programs — and "getting back what's mine" is not only a fallacy but a way for the state to add you to the rolls of "those who needed this program."
Ironically, as all of this was taking place with Nolan, my 8-year-old daughter Lilly was about to start third grade. On her first day, when she got back from school, she brought home yet another form to enlist us in one of the myriad state assistance programs: free school lunches. However, it has now developed into the "free lunch and breakfast" program. Do I need to even discuss this? Perhaps in a few years we'll have "meals on wheels" stopping in at school children's homes to deliver the dinner that parents have forgotten to cook. I mean, the state is doing a fine job of telling parents, "Don't worry about remembering to feed your children. We'll do it once they get to school, and at no (apparent) cost to you."
Shall I continue? After tossing the lunch form in the trash, I told Lilly to run out and get the mail. She returned with Nolan's Social Security card. Granted, this is one thing our government has managed to make nearly impossible to do without.
However, evidently more people receive Social Security cards than you may think. After removing his card from the envelope, I read some of the information included. I simply laughed — as anger was futile — when I read the following lines: "If you are an alien without permission to work in the United States, your Social Security card will be marked 'NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.'"
Without having to ask the obvious question, I will simply state that this entire experience of helping my son dodge the draft of Uncle Sam's new public assistance army has been quite an eye-opener. Our nation is slipping away fast, and they are using our children as the crack in the door.