This time of year my local Post Office falls short on providing source material because with chill winds blowing and chores to get done between rain showers and before the snow flies we don’t linger as much to chew into mulch whatever it is that bothers us about other people. I’m not quite as bad about seeking to reform others because I know I’m an idiot proven so many times. An idiot; I didn’t take mom and dad’s direction to make “good” money in some lucrative area. Idiot; I followed what I felt was my vocation in life knowing for pretty-darn-sure the way to wealth was not as a teacher or small time how-to author.

Actually, and I’m somewhat proud to say so, I improved my performance on the idiocy scale by deciding against one of my early career aims; poetry. When’s the last time you met an affluent poet? My mom and dad would surely have felt it confirmed I was a lazy bum had I hitched my wagon to poetry horse. Lots of people (my depression era parents among them) have trouble with the idea that not all career or life choices are about income. Now of course people know this, but some find it awfully hard to admit. For all their “make money” cheerleading my mom and dad didn’t start a family with the intent of turning a profit. They’d claim in public that life was 90% about the Moo-la, but a good many of their choices were no more income oriented than mine. However, it surely had to distress them (they were stubbornly conservative in word) that I was equally stubborn in following my path; one I’ll say avoided wealth at every natural turn along the way.

Joining or listening in on a gab-o-ree outside the Post Office is often like resurrecting my dead parents in order to bewail me with an account of what I’m doing wrong along with recrimination for not doing better. I heard so much of that at home (especially during my tenure as parental care giver) that it rolls off like water from a beaver pelt. At times I listen for humorous content of the unintended type such as when someone said with a perfectly straight face “Obammy’s race doesn’t matter to me.” I smiled and said nothing. What could I have said that would either have gotten through or could have beaten that statement for piquancy of race typing? I’d met my master and left the field with as much grace as I could. I didn’t even laugh (not too harshly) until I’d driven well out of earshot.

But, with winter winds breaking up Post Office gatherings I’ll sometimes turn to news blogs as a source of gauging the public mind. Just the other day an article about reductions in fuel assistance by the Feds brought some fine material indeed. Taking the role of my dead parents some writers jumped in on the lazy bum theme saying the slobs should get a job and buy their own fuel. (I have every confidence that if fuel assistance went to one million folk some percent but not all of them would be slothful.) Countering the lazy bum opinions were those saying 92 year old grandmothers unable to afford their medications had a legitimate need for assistance. (I have every confidence that in the million assisted some percent would indeed be impoverished elderly.) It seems to me, though, that neither of those two choices of tactical argument is worth a darn when it comes to understanding.

With a little thought (I’m capable of that) it seems to me whether it’s fuel assistance or food stamps the payment isn’t a lump of cash given the recipient. The recipient sees no cash. They don’t even hear it as it whizzes by from its agency source to the fuel supplier or local store. I suspect government isn’t as stupid as some people say. Government knows that if you gave poor people money and told them to stay warm with it a lot of them would say to heck with the North Country and board the first bus for Florida. Poor does not mean stupid.

I was amazed by some of the bright ideas tossed around as legitimate answers to low income people facing high heating costs. Wear a sweater is good advice, but will do little to keep the plumbing from freezing. Burning wood could be an option, but I doubt most apartments (especially low income ones) have fireplaces or can accommodate wood burning. Some recommended the lazy bums close off unused rooms, but in many cases not practical because kitchen, living, dining are open. What do you abandon then, bath and bedrooms? Practical or realistic ideas aren’t important when the aim is satisfaction that comes from telling others how to live their lives. That’s an American sport rivaling the NFL.

One thing I noticed in the comments was their partisan swing to what I’ll call either the lazy bum attack or the impoverished elderly defense. Not a single comment in those I looked over for near an hour so much as hinted the high heating cost might be due to housing with leaky windows or a contractor who improved his profitability by cutting corners on insulation, etc. In cases like that it is neither the lazy bum nor the poor elderly who is responsible for the flaw causing their high heating costs. But in terms of a good old fashioned argument of the sort my mom and dad favored, going after the lazy bums is a lot more emotionally rewarding than examining the R factor in apartment or low cost housing windows. This is true in part because the hand in the glove of the lazy bum argument also favors the less regulation mitten which in the heating cost situation requires that the innocent renter pay in higher costs for the neglect of an owner or the builder’s cost cutting. No, no, we don’t want “excess” regulation. The result, however, is being asked to pay for the cost of that failure by subsidizing the substandard and shoddy.