Living in the Welfare State

Published 11:04 am Friday, April 6, 2018

By T.J. Ray

Not being a subscriber to the New York Daily News, I cannot attest to the quality of that publication. But as a retired English professor, I appreciate the literary moments therein.

For instance, on Friday, Nov. 4, 1949, it waxed absolutely poetic.

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How could one congressman be so creative and prophetic in one fell swoop?

Ode to the Welfare State

Mr. Truman’s St. Paul, Minn., pie-for-everybody speech last night reminded us that, at the tail-end of the recent session of Congress, Representative Clarence J. Brown (R-Ohio) jammed into the Congressional Record the following poem, describing its author only as “a prominent Democrat of the State of Georgia.”:


Father, must I go to work?

No, my lucky son.

We’re living now on Easy Street

On dough from Washington.

We’ve left it up to Uncle Sam,

So don’t get exercised.

Nobody has to give a damn—

We’ve all been subsidized.

But if Sam treats us all so well

And feeds us milk and honey,

Please, daddy, tell me what the hell

He’s going to use for money.

Don’t worry, bub, there’s not a hitch

In this here noble plan—

He simply soaks the filthy rich

And helps the common man.

But, father, won’t there come a time

When they run out of cash

And we have left them not a dime

When things will go to smash?

My faith in you is shrinking, son,

You nosy little brat;

You do too damn much thinking, son,

To be a Democrat.

How close have we come to the catastrophe the little boy fears in the last sixty-nine years? Some research already suggests that there are more people on welfare than there are working folks who actually pay taxes.

Twenty-nine years before Brown’s poem to Congress, another writer already had a vision of the future: “As democracy is perfected, the office of President  represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be occupied by a downright moron.” That’s what H. L. Mencken wrote in The Baltimore Evening Sun in July 1920.

In a discussion of a possible 28th Amendment, many potent and perceptive sentences appear. Here’s one of them: “Our current form of government is no longer a ‘government of the people’ but a ‘government of the two parties.’ It seems to me congressmen and senators were created to serve the people of the geographic area that elected them and not the party to which they belong.”

These days one only has to turn on the two C-Span channels on TV to watch Government of the Party at work. If the majority in Congress switched from Republicans to Democrats, the speeches would be the same, constantly spending more time on their own power than on the needs of the people they represent. And so officials make their own choices based either on their personal principles or the direction of their most generous supporters.

Mencken was absolutely right —citizens get back what they send up by ignoring government, spending more energy being angry at ineffective government than in raising their voices to demand better.

T.J. Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.