America, 2014: The Land of Entitlements

I run an employee benefits company that focuses on helping small business owners with medical and other health benefit plans for their employees.

Earlier this week I had lunch with a CPA client of mine to talk with him about increasing the number of his small business clients who provide medical insurance plans to their employees.  Everything I recount herein is from him; I am not making this up.

His answer and the reasoning behind his answer were stunning to me.  In my naivety, I hadn’t even dreamed that I would hear anything like what he was about to tell me.

He explained that essentially, his clientele comprises Spanish-speaking business owners, almost all of whom employ essentially 100% Spanish speaking workers.  They own firms such as restaurants, gardening services, custodial services, small grocery stores, painting companies, trucking companies, and so on.  But, he said, most of their employees who work only 20 to 30 hours a week, with only a very few who work the full traditional “full time” 40 hours a week.  As a result, my CPA client said, nearly all of his clients, the business owners, don’t feel an obligation to provide benefits to these “part-time” employees.

When I asked why they had mostly part-timers instead of full-time workers, he explained that the employees don’t want to earn too much money, or else they’ll lose their government benefits.

They like getting free things like food stamps, a housing allowance, MediCal insurance (California’s government subsidize medical care for low income people), and the like.  They would rather earn less and get the entitlement programs for free than work longer hours, make more money, and have to pay for their own food, housing, insurance, and so on.

He shook his head, admitting that he found it a little embarrassing to be telling me this, and said that it was a sad commentary on the way our country operates these days.  But, he pointed out with a shrug, if these people worked a full 40 hour week yet had to pay for all the things that they now get for free, they’d end up in pretty much the same financial position as they are now – but they wouldn’t have all the extra time to just lie around resting, doing nothing.

I was speechless.  “Are you kidding?” I asked him, but he assured me that he was not.

“They’d rather get stuff for free and spend more time kicking back or hanging out with friends for most of the day than work all day long and end up with no real increase in their standard of living.

“Getting everything for free is a whole lot easier than working for it,” he finished.

I guess the people he was talking about have a very different “American Dream” from what my great-grandparents had when they came to America in the late 1800s.  A sad commentary on how our nation is being run here in the 21st century.

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