And the grift goes on...

I've heard it all.

Having been a public-school educator and social worker for the better part of three decades, I'd thought I heard and seen all the worst in the way the public sector functions, both on the delivery side (the government) and the receiving side (those eligible for entitlements).  Over the years, I've seen my fair share of corrupt union bosses, incompetent (yet impervious to dismissal) office drones and teachers occupying space and time, absentee parents, and ungrateful recipients of public assistance who feel staunchly entitled to benefits that hardworking taxpayers subsidize.  Grossest of all among these classes of users are the scamming grifters who are smart enough to play the game while sly enough to keep their schemes on the down-low.

I had the displeasure of encountering a special new variation on the grifter theme in a recent interaction that I had with a forty-something able-bodied man working as a security guard who confessed his manipulation of the food stamps program to me.

This admission – entirely unsolicited and offered voluntarily – crystallized in my mind the utter failure of the allegedly well-intentioned modern nanny state to do what it was supposed to do – namely, to provide a safety net for the desperate, the disabled, and the truly misfortunate.  Instead of providing temporary relief, the handout culture has birthed generations of parasitic users who know how to work the system to their benefit while adding, drip by drop, to the drain on the national treasury.

So how did I come by this admission?  I was at a concert where my wife, a professional singer, was waiting in the wings to go on stage when one of her band mates casually introduced me to one of the security guards, whom I'll call "Ken" for the sake of protecting his privacy.  Ken claimed to be a part-time musician (as am I), and we started to talk about music and playing in bands.  he indicated that he was looking for a new project to play in to earn some extra money.  Then Ken told me that he does security work when not on a music gig to make ends meet.

Well, he's an industrious chap, isn't he? I thought.  Performing music gigs, working as security guard, doing whatever he must so he can put food on the table.

But then the big reveal came...

"Yeah," Ken continued, "I like doing security like this 'cause it's off the books...I gotta keep my food stamps coming, ya know?"  And he gave out the nervous laugh of a person who knows he's doing wrong but doesn't want to stop.

In my core, I felt heartsick upon hearing his self-revelation.  I proceeded to jokingly play "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," with my hands alternately covering my eyes, ears, and mouth, also nervously laughing with Ken in a lighthearted attempt to let him know that I did not want to hear what I had just heard.

"I got to keep my medical, too, ya know?" Ken went on to admit regarding his reliance on publicly funded health if the thought of a relatively young, seemingly healthy, and ambulatory security guard playing the public trust like a funky piano – no little thanks to the corruptocrat political class's legalization of the theft of the private property of Joe Sixpack through confiscatory taxation for vote-buying purposes – using his freshly replenished EBT card at the grocery store of his choice to get his grub on wasn't enough offense to my constitutional conservative ears.

We finished our conversation politely, as Ken needed to get back to work (for which, as an under-the-table job by his own description, he would pay no tax to any entity until he bought something in the marketplace, which collects the sales taxes and funnels them back to the same people who are grabbing the subsidies in the first place).

And I desperately felt the urge to grab a bottle of tequila to drown my sorrows.

What has happened to America that a social service program like food stamps (known by the Orwellian euphemism here in the once Golden State as "CalFresh benefits") could be so misused?  What has happened to our culture that a full-grown man of working age and ability would find no shame in ripping off the government by taking public monies that are supposed to be given to the indigent, the sick, and people with disabilities?  Is this what the Founders thought of when they referred to "the general welfare" of the nation in the Constitution? 

The fruit of the welfare state is indeed poisonous.

The do-gooders, social gospellers, Marxists, and other assorted left-wing collectivists cannot – indeed, they will not – accept the reality that human nature is flawed and selfish.  Thus, they do not understand that giving people money just for being does not promote gratitude, good stewardship, thrift, or eagerness to work.  Instead, it stimulates sloth, greed, irresponsibility, and mountains of selfishness.  Instead, in cases like Ken and who knows how many others like him, it sets up ample opportunities for the dark element of the human character to act out its selfish ambition at the expense of others.  The largesse of the state in this regard produces a harvest of votes but destroys the productivity of the field in which it is planted.

John Steinreich is the author of "The Words of God?," an analytical comparison of Christianity and Islam, available on Lulu Press and on Kindle.