The Cable Standard

cableI have a standard for allowing myself to feel sorry for poor people in financial difficulty:  Do they have cable T.V.?

If so, forget it.

A second-tier standard would be cell phones.  You just aren’t broke if you have a cell phone.  Nobody should have the right to other people’s money if they have cell phones and cable T.V.  Please don’t tell me need money for food and water and diapers and…air, or whatever, while you’re texting your sister in Tulsa.

Many people claim that they need government assistance on everything from housing to medical care to education.  And some truly do need it.  I have enormous compassion for these people.  As a doctor, I’m highly motivated to make sure these truly vulnerable people are taken care of and I believe withholding medical care from them for financial reasons is a travesty..immoral, even.

cell1But many others who make their claims of need for government resources do it to free up cash for their cell phones and to pay for 684 channels including NFL Network so they don’t miss a game while sitting around the house not working.  I find that my emotions toward these people are equally as intense as those for the truly needy, but they are feelings of anger rather than compassion.

Socalism actually would work, I think, if there was a way to thwart those who are lazy, materialistic parasites on the system.  cell2Since the fakes are so good at looking like the real thing, however, we have a dilemma.  It’s hard to tell the real from the spurious.  Some take the view that most people are of strong enough moral fiber that they won’t bilk the public good, and as such, we should treat any request for aid as legitimate.  After all, you don’t want to miss someone who really has need even if that means you may at times give money and/or resources to someone who is faking it.

Others take the opposite position, also extreme, which is that far more people are faking need than we really know and so we should abolish the entire idea of social networks. Given the level of chicanery, they say, the entire system will collapse in bankruptcy (see exhibit A – Social Security) if we continue to give free money to whomever walks with a limp and says they can’t work.

Me?  Depends on the day.  Depends on the patient.

Sometimes, no matter what their story is, I’m not doing anything more than I need to do.  I don’t set them up with community resources, don’t make extra phone calls, don’t get them connected with free services.  They can find them on their own.  Other times, I’m a white-boy version of Ceasar Chavez, out to save the world one poor, suffering human at a time.  A good story, told in an earnest and guileless fashion, tends to increase my willingness to risk being duped.

But somewhere in there, count on it, I’m gonna slip in a question about cable T.V. and cell phones.  If you have either one, forget it.  Nobody owes you anything.

3 thoughts on “The Cable Standard

  1. Heidi

    I totally agree with the cable and cell phone thing. I tell my students that everyone has to be good because just one person can ruin it for the class. Its the same thing with the social systems, generally people focus on the “fakers” and say the system needs to be shut down.
    I do believe too many people are taking advantage of it though. Self-pride and self reliance is out the door for the materialistic needs of the average American. Our standard of living is too high and people can’t see the blessing they have in their lives without the extras.
    Oh should I even mention the break down of the family unit and its effect on government handouts!
    Just a note, my family has basic cable and no cell phones but couldn’t get government aide if we wanted.


  2. I totally agree with you also. For example an aquaintance/*former half* family friend of ours.. She gets food stamps, she lives in a nice low income housing apartment in our near dc metropolitan area (average 2 bedroom = 350,000) and pays $250 rent a month. They have a LCD tv, cool stuff, and tons of expensive ish food.
    And then my dad is a PHD oceanographer of 10 years and our standard of living is way lower than theirs. And then they stopped by our condo one day and her daughter(my age) was like ‘are these all the clothes you have…?’ and that made me really really mad…


  3. Rishi Malla

    I like really like your blog and am looking into the profession. I just got into Texas A&M. I am worried that perhaps its reputation may cost me, but from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t really matter where you go.

    I agree and disagree a bit about what you say about cell phones, but simply because I know a special case of a man who is homeless and has a prepaid phone that he holds onto in case of the very real threat that he faces of an health emergency. I think that cell phone was one of the most beautiful gifts that was ever made to him, and that it should not be any marker of his relative socioeconomic status.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s