“Free Stuff”

Everyone likes “free stuff,” especially if they don’t consider the costs of those “free” goodies, but there’s a cost to the “free” stuff. Facebook is “free” to users, but, as one tech type put it, that’s because the users are really the product. This was brought home to me personally when I installed AdBlock on my computer, and suddenly I couldn’t get access to all sorts of excerpts from publications unless I whitelisted them or removed AdBlock. Mostly, I just don’t bother.

But there are other kinds of “free stuff” that aren’t free, and were never meant to be considered as such, that are targeted by the political extremists on both sides. Right wingers have a tendency to classify social programs such as SNAP ((once known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, and AFDC as free stuff for the poor. These programs are generally considered a social and practical necessity, even though some participants continually abuse the system. The reason why politicians keep funding the system is because of something no one really wants to admit publicly – that without funneling aid to families a lot of children would suffer, if not die, of starvation. So far, no government anywhere has figured out a practical and legal way to feed needy children without also feeding a certain proportion of not so needy adults – and sometimes adults who could work but who’ve discovered that welfare pays better than the jobs they could get paid to do.

What’s more often neglected in the criticism of “free stuff” are other services paid for by taxes where the users of those services get such services at well below costs. Some of those I’ve mentioned before, such as the massive subsidies received from the U.S. Postal Service by charitable or non-profit organizations who can send me a letter for roughly 11 cents, while it costs “regular” users 50 cents… or the massive subsidies for bulk rate mail – and don’t send me refutations unless you include the infrastructure costs as well [because those aren’t included in USPS cost justifications, and using marginal costs is a scam when more than eighty percent of your volume by weight is from discounted service].

For the past several years, banks have been able to borrow money from the Fed almost “free” because of federal fiscal and monetary policies, and that means anyone with a savings account has been screwed, which also resulted in investors trying to get better returns in the stock market, which has caused all sorts of other problems. But I don’t see the financial community complaining about the ills of “free money.”

Nor do I see corporations with healthy profits who pay no federal taxes complaining about that sort of “free money” or wealthy individuals who pocket “free money” in the form of lower taxes because of exemptions or loopholes that the majority of Americans can’t use because they don’t have the assets to do so.

So… when you complain about “free” stuff, make sure you include the free or discounted goodies you get.

4 thoughts on ““Free Stuff””

  1. Lourain says:

    There is waste in any system. The freeloaders in social welfare programs are a sociological example of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Still, I would rather feed one cheater than let 99 children starve. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

  2. Monica says:

    There will always be some who abuse any system.
    However, right now isn’t a good time to even debate this, with so many out of work with legitimate need.
    Where I live, there are a lot who have lost their jobs, because of the pandemic and stay at home orders to combat it. Many families are struggling, and it does no good for someone who may not be to point fingers and say “You don’t need that”.

    1. That’s very true. One of the points of the blog was to point out that too many of those people who are saying “You don’t need that,” are people who are getting other “free stuff,” and don’t even think about it… or even recognize it.

  3. Monica says:

    A lot of what I’m seeing is if it’s a tax cut or free stuff to help businesses, some of them very lucrative, it’s good and passes quickly.

    However, if it’s free stuff to help the people, there are policy makers who balk at “handouts”. Even if they are needed.

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