In the early '80s, our family began a farm equipment dealership on Route 10, south of Stamford. I had put an ad in the paper for a mechanic and the same day the ad came out, I was at that store, and there was a classic Delaware County January blizzard.
At 9 a.m., a man walked in and said: "My name is Bob English, and I need a job." Now, I could see that Bob had lost an eye, and I'm thinking that the equipment business can be dangerous. Machinery seems to have a life of its own, and over the years we've seen some gruesome things. When it comes to farm equipment, a man can't have too many eyes or ears.
However, my father lost a leg as a small child and did manual labor in the Corning Glassworks for 45 years. He was never handicapped. He was just a man with one leg! So Bob's problem wasn't going to be a deal-breaker.
I said, "Do you know anything about farm equipment?" Bob replied, "Not a thing, but I'll learn, work hard, and never be late. I live in Hobart, and I need a job."
"I don't know, Bob; we were looking for an experienced man," I said. Looking out the window at the January blizzard, I noticed that there was no car in our driveway. I asked, "How did you get here?" Bob replied, "I walked." I said, "You walked five miles from Hobart to Stamford in this weather?"
"Yep. Like I said, I need a job, and I hope you'll give me a chance." Well, I figured if a man wants to work that badly, it wouldn't be right to say no. So we hired Bob, and he was with us for quite some time. He learned, always worked hard and was never late.
Fast forward to 2012 and circulating around the news channels is a video by Alexandra Pelosi. That's right. She is Nancy's daughter. It first appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher."
Her video shows welfare recipients coming to collect their checks and freely admitting that they have no intention of working, that they will vote for Obama because he will give them "free stuff," and that one of them has five children with four different women.
Where the heck did this sense of entitlement come from? It began with FDR in the Great Depression and kicked into second gear during President Johnson's Great Society in the 1960s.
Now, with our president and liberal Democrats waging class warfare and fanning the flames of envy, it has shifted into high gear. Shamefully, our sense of self-worth and personal ambition has continued to erode. Instead of embracing the American "can do" spirit, we are quickly becoming a society of lazy carpers and complainers demanding instant gratification and "free stuff."
Sadly, it has progressed so far that this one entitlement alone devours more than 10 percent of all government spending. It is surpassed only by pensions, health care, education and defense.
In 2012, we're talking spending $679 trillion on welfare. Almost $700 billion! That's $1.86 billion per day and $77.5 million per hour. I wonder what percentage of Americans is on some form of welfare. Maybe I don't want to know.
To our discredit, as long as someone else is paying, many of us lack the "ambition" gene. The problem with this sense of entitlement is that it becomes addictive and is passed on from one generation to the next.
Not only is it contrary to the principles the Founders had in mind, but it dead-ends people's lives. Rather than having the "temporary poor," we have created the "permanent poor." It degrades people, destroys families, and locks individuals into a purgatory of low esteem. Even worse, it takes needed capital away from the truly destitute.
Those individuals at the welfare office should be ashamed or at least humbled. Like my old man used to say, "They're healthy enough to pull a cow uphill" and yet they brag about not working, fathering many children and getting "free stuff."
Now, no one is talking about the truly needy. Widows, the sick, our disabled veterans, the truly handicapped, etc. ... are not an issue; neither are those who temporarily use welfare for a leg-up. However, to pay able-bodied men and women year after year and generation after generation to do nothing is insane.
I've lost track of Bob English over the years, but unlike the folks at the welfare office, I'll bet he has made out just fine, and I suspect his children are prospering, too.
CHUCK PINKEY is the owner of River Valley New Holland Inc. in Otego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Star and its editorial board.