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By Dr. Harold Pease

I am disturbed by a news report this week that shows one out of every three persons in the United States is fed by the other two. This means that in the grocery line before I get to the checkout I pick up the bill of either the person in front of me or the one behind. Since I live in California where we are told a third of all welfare recipients in the nation reside, and assuming that the vast majority receive food stamps, it is more likely that I pay for the one in front and the one behind. The vast majority of whom look to be more able bodied than I.

This news brings to mind a script “Take Down the Bird Feeder,” source unknown, that I read some time ago. Most have shared this same experience sometime in their life. It goes like this: “I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. What a beauty of a bird feeder it was, as I filled it, lovingly with seed. Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food. But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue. Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table… Everywhere! Then some of the birds turned mean. They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket. And others birds were boisterous and loud. They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food. After a while, I couldn’t even sit on my own back porch anymore. So I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio. Soon, the back yard was like it used to be… quiet, serene…. And no one demands rights to a free meal.

Our free enterprise system, vastly stimulated by our Constitution, which limited the government’s power over us so enterprise could blossom, has made it possible to eradicated poverty from this nation for anyone who really wanted to work. I know because I was once poor. I have 14 brothers and sisters and my father, the only breadwinner in the family had severe heart problems from which he died leaving most under 18. About not having enough, I experienced more than I wished; a snack was a raw potato. I watched those who had some measure of wealth (I knew no one wealthy) and I learned early that education and industry could save anyone who wished to use them. Others took the course that led to dependency. Every person in America has the same choice. It has always been so. How, like the birds depicted above, have so many of our people become.

One of the poorest men I ever knew refused the dole and worked till the day he died. His legs were virtually useless. Vastly overweight he could only get off the couch or a chair by first rocking until he had momentum to shift the weight to his legs. A fall drastically limited any meaningful use of his arms. He made no excuses for his situation. He found a job with a moving company answering the telephone where he scheduled help for the “real” disadvantaged, those broken down on the highway.

I tell my students of the folk tale of the old man who came to the Florida everglades to catch some wild hogs reputed to be uncatchable. No one took him seriously, only chuckled, when he inquired where they might be. You see no one had ever been successful in capturing these hogs and those would be catchers were much stronger and faster then he. “Never mind, just point me in the right direction,” he responded. They did. He placed in his old-battered pickup truck a few ears of corn, found a clearing, and left them before driving away. Day after day he did the same thing. No hog ever came forth to partake. They were way too smart. Nor did the younger hogs for they revered the wisdom of the old sages who were quick to remind them that humans were to be avoided at all costs. Day after day the old man did the same thing.

Ultimately the younger hogs began to question the wasteful practice of not partaking of the free corn and in time began to nibble, ever so watchful. There were no negatives, no consequences, only fools would reject this heaven sent meal. The old hogs would still occasionally remind them that there is no free lunch. “If it is free to you someone else is always picking up the tab,” they said. But, obviously, the old hogs were wrong. The little nibbles turned in to feasts and the old man left even more corn. With time, and feeling foolish, the older hogs joined in one by one. The old man did not go so far away. In fact, eventually he did not leave at all and enjoyed watching all feast without concern. After several months of this they, not even the wiser hogs, noticed the old man dig a hole and insert a single pole; eventually another, than another, and the chicken wire in between. Nor did they notice when he attached the only gate. He had captured them all.

So what happens to the “birds” and the “hogs?” If the practice goes on long enough they no longer know how to do things necessary to preserve themselves. They vote for the politicians that continue the practice and begin to believe that the freebies—food stamps, subsidized housing, socialized medicine, and etc., were actually owed them. They eventually lose their freedom—all of it. When the economy collapses, because the freebies cannot be sustained, the new rulers end all welfare practices as happened in every communist county in the 1900’s and starvation followed. For those who are healthy enough to take care of themselves let’s take down the bird feeder before it comes down on its own.