What’s the best way to “help”

September 3, 2013

Before I go on to another subject, as a person who listens to the radio a lot, I just want to say that if there is still someone out there who can’t figure out how to use an automobile child safety seat, I would have to say continual playing of public service messages on the subject isn’t going to reach them. After the same old messages have been played several thousand times, they clearly aren’t getting the message. Can’t those radio stations do something, anything, else with that air time? This is such an overblown subject that recently a large newspaper published an editorial decrying the small number of people available in a particular law enforcement arm certified to teach parents how to correctly use a car seat. And we wonder where all of our tax dollars go.
Whew, glad to get that off my chest, again.
Recently, I wrote a column where I pointed out how addicting and society-destroying government help can be. The older I get (and according to my kids, I’m really, really old) the more I believe in the importance of work and achievement (good thing too because my station in life has always been to work hard).
Personally, I truly do believe in helping people who need it, but the problem with giving someone help is that just right amount of help, which by the way doesn’t always mean money, at the correct time, is very hard to judge. Private foundations, private donors, churches, charitable organizations, and just ordinary people struggle with this all the time. As complex and difficult as it is to truly help people, putting an entity such as the federal government, which has a very long track record for screwing things up, in charge of it is provably a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong, assistance on a large scale is going to have to be handled by a government entity of some type, but the problem is now the government is telling us who will be helped and how, rather than we the people pointing out who we would like to spend our time and treasure helping. Frankly, describing what’s going on with federal “assistance” programs as a mess is being unfair to messes.
So what should help look like? Well, that’s a really good question, and I honestly don’t know a good all around answer. I will say that if at all possible, help should be as small as possible, and delivered in an undetectable manner. Barring that, “help” should be difficult to get, onerous to maintain, and be something people wish they didn’t have to avail themselves of. Keep in mind that what I’m talking about here are people who can make their own way through the world, but need some kind of boost to get them either started, or back on track. What I’m not advocating is making life hard for retirees or people who are truly disabled or handicapped.
For the most part, I grew up in a small rural town that was a combination bedroom city for a larger city, and agricultural community. In the area around this town there was a rancher, actually there were lots of ranches, who had quite a large, well known, operation. This particular rancher had a lot of cattle, and grew his own hay rather than buying it from someone else. This meant that every summer when he was having hay cut and baled, he needed to get it out of the fields and into storage for the winter.
Readers who aren’t familiar with ranching or how hay used to be handled will have to bear with me here, but the story I’m about to tell does have a point, and I will get to it.
Anyway, and remember I’m working from memory here, this particular rancher’s hay of choice was hay grazer, and because he baled so much of it, to manage costs (in those days pretty much everything to do with charges on baling and handling hay was by the bale, not weight) he baled it as heavy as practical. What this meant was approximately twenty five thousand, eighty pound bales of hay sitting in the fields every year which needed to be picked up and stored. Not only were those bales heavy, and tightly packed, but they also had a fair amount of cockle burrs and grass burrs in them. I always wondered how the cattle handled those in their food, but judging by the size and weight of this ranchers cattle, it must not have been too big of a problem for them. On the other hand, a cockle burr or grass burr driven into your leg by an eighty pound bale of hay isn’t a lot of fun, particularly when it happens over and over.
After those bales of hay were picked up out of the field, they had to be stored somewhere. While some of this hay may have been stacked in a field somewhere and covered, most of what I worked with went into “pole sheds”. Basically a pole shed is a tin barn open on one side only. The process for this type of storage is to back up to the open side, start at the back of the barn, and stack the hay bales as tightly as you can all the way to the roof. Did I mention that this kind of hay hauling takes place in the hottest part of the summer? What this means is that when you are working to stack those bales of hay all the way to the roof (and be sure and don’t stand up because the nails holding the tin roof down will shred you) you’re doing it directly beneath a scorching hot layer of tin.
Because there was so much hay to be picked up, and additionally, because if at all possible it needed to be done before it could be rained on, a lot of temporary labor went into getting this hay crop in. While this rancher may have had a different system, it looked to me like pretty much any group of people who could put together a crew, and something to load hay into, could show up there and be put to work. At least that’s what I thought then. At the time, and keep in mind I wasn’t even sixteen, I thought this particular rancher hired as many people as possible, paying them an average to high amount per bail hauled (in other words, an adult rate for adult work), solely to get his hay crop in as fast as possible.
These days, looking back, I have a much different take on the whole thing. As a business owner myself, with years of experience in getting projects done, I can see it really wouldn’t have been that difficult for him to arrange some other way to get this hay in than hiring lots of boys. Not only that, but even though the boys he was dealing with were used to hard work (the first day of this kind of work pretty much weeded out the ones who weren’t up for it), they weren’t the most disciplined work force ever assembled. Naturally this lead to a lot of extra headaches he probably wouldn’t have had with an adult work force.
So now I’ve reached the conclusion that this rancher, while certainly interested in getting his hay in, was really more interested in putting a chance to work in front of young people who had a desire and a need to work and earn money. As far as I was concerned at the time, I earned every penny of the money I made hauling hay on this particular ranch. If anybody had ever told me then that I was receiving some kind of “help”, I would have had some pretty unpleasant things to say about that. Which of course, in the end, means the rancher gave me exactly the right kind of assistance, undetectable, unknown, and best of all, when I got paid, I just knew I’d earned every penny on my own without any help from anybody.
Maybe we should take the “War on Poverty” programs away from the federal bureaucrats who now mis-manage them and give them to some old ranchers to run. The ranchers might not do any better, but they sure couldn’t do any worse.

Bruce Kreitler is the author of Obamageddon (the Culmination of the Progressive Looting of America) and posts this and other articles at BruceKreitler.com.

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