I HEAR IT in coffee shops, at town hall meetings and across social media. It’s the “back in my day” Archie Bunker styled conversation that happens whenever government announces a new program to help a group of people who are currently underserved.
In the minds of these complainers, the program is a waste of money simply because back in those supposed good old days, they had no choice but to suffer through whatever indignity this program now rectifies. So why, they proclaim, shouldn’t others suffer as they once did?
The battle cry of their righteous indignation always boils down to, “Not with my tax dollars,” and seems founded in the belief that helping others is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“No one helped me with my (insert your choice of – student loan, housing, food, prescription drugs, extended health, maternity leave, retraining, job opportunities, workplace abuse, mental health issues, etc) and I survived.”
For some, equity and fairness only become a concern when they think someone else is getting something they didn’t or won’t get and I find the ugliness of that selfishness appalling.
When I hear these arguments, I usually begin by asking about their property tax and the significant portion of those taxes that go to pay for our schools. Everyone pays yet it could be argued that only parents with children benefit from the services, so only they should pay.
Then there is our income tax which pays for universal health care and we all contribute regardless of whether we need more or less care than our neighbour.
These and other social programs were not always there but over time changed and became part of our Canadian identity. For instance, free healthcare did not exist when my parents were growing up. So using the logic of those opposed to new social programs, the old bootstrap mentality says if my parents could do it so too must you, so pay for your own doctor.
But. of course, anyone born after 1961 and now benefiting from our free healthcare system won’t give it up. “Why should I?” they ask. “It’s my right.”
But it wasn’t always your right and the fact that today one doesn’t have to sell their house in order to pay for that complex and expensive cancer treatment, is a direct result of the hardship of those before us and their willingness to reinvent Canadian society.
No one benefits from everything government does. But if we forgave student loans or made post secondary education free or kept minimum wage above the poverty level, would society not benefit much in the same way we now benefit from the free healthcare we enjoy?
Our education system, our social safety nets, our roads, our policing, our health, everything we need and use on a daily basis is in jeopardy when we misinterpret socialism while yelling, “not with my tax dollars.”
And please don’t tell me you don’t use subsidized or social services or that you boldly and bravely live or die by the free market system. That is a myth, as we are all socialists at some point in the day, every day. It’s just that some of us don’t like to admit it.
Bill McQuarrie is a former magazine publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.