Socialism and Welfare (excerpt from Politics IOU)
The night was chilly when Spider and Ginsee arrived at the fast food restaurant. They had arrived early but their good friend Parker was there ahead of them sitting on a rigid metal chair.
Parker was a wizard with wood; he could make anything with wood. In the better times he had made household knick-knacks, organizers and furniture, each unique piece more beautiful than the last. Spider and Ginsee sometimes sold some of his exquisite wall planters and lamps at their art shows. Since the crash with the cost of raw materials skyrocketing, had had to resort to making model airplanes which he sold to the military. As he said, “It’s a living.”
“Can’t compete with the dollar on the dime store?” asked Spider.
“Don’t want to,” said Parker.
“Too tacky,” said Ginsee.
“Yep!” said Parker.
He had been hit harder than most by the Shadow County betrayal, losing many accounts; the only vendor who had had more county accounts taken was the hotheaded jeweler Noah who had lost 39 venues. Noah had been going into every little County facility that had ever existed.
”Where is Troy?” asked Ginsee.
”Let him go,” Spider looked up at Parker in sympathy. Troy was Parker’s long time helper.
“Was it the insurance?”
“Yes that was the final straw.”
“How much does it cost to have a helper in these days?” asked Ginsee.
Probably time and a half. If you pay a worker ten dollars an hour there is easily an extra $5 (maybe more) for the government, the city, for the workman’s comp, for FUTA and and any other acronym the politicians and bureaucrats can dream up. And now with the Care Bill the small business man has to also to pay the medical. If the minimum wage is ten, maybe more than fifteen I don’t know Ginsee. It is obfuscated. It is all very confusing.”
“Yes that is what is so wrong.” said Ginsee. “Corkscrew promised transparency.I don’t see it.”
“Troy was a good worker,” said Parker.
“You been together a long time?”
“Yes. nearly twenty years. I always paid him paid him more than minimum. The trouble is, what with only the planes making any kind of money . . . I would really have liked to keep him on, and I put off letting him go as long as I possibly could, but I honestly can’t afford him anymore. Heck I can hardly afford me right now. . I really held on as long as I could, Spider.”
“I know you did.”
“I will miss Troy,” said Ginsee. She had been fond of him.
“What about you two, are you still going to do the shows?” asked Parker. He had changed the subject because he didn’t want to show just how much he also missed his helper.
“I won’t let Spider quit.”
“Do you need any help, parker” asked Spider.
“I‘ll get by.”
“Sticking?” asked Ginsee.
“It’s what I know and what I do best.”
Like Zafia and like Fred ( their framer) Ginsee knew that Parker would survive. He was an innovator. He was also a survivor. His products had been – well they were just uniquely beautiful and totally functional.
“And what of Troy, is he going to be okay?” she asked.
“For now he is on welfare.”
‘Oh yes, when all else fails there is always welfare,” said Spider.
The Six Dollar Twins came waltzing through the door. Of all the vendors they were making the most of this strange economy. The twins rolled in eight display racks to their corporate shows, all filled with Six Dollar items. They were supremely organized, upbeat and insouciant and so they were popular.
‘Hey Parker, you applied for food stamps yet?” asked Ben.
“What !!” blurted Ginsee.
“Gotta work the system,” said Ken, ‘the food-stamps don’t make up the shortfall from all the county crap but it sure helps. . . “
“You on food stamps?” asked Spider.
“I don’t think Spider is going to qualify,” said Ben.
“You make more money than we do,” said Spider surprised.
“Ah but that is not how they see it. You gotta figure out the system and work it,” said Len.
“Parker would qualify, he lost more county accounts than we did.” suggested Ben
Parker was quiet. He would rather starve than go on welfare.
“Seriously Parker, every little bit helps.” said Len.
“It is not about pride, Parker, it is all about beating the system,” said his twin. “You either sock it to them or they sock it to you!”
Parker was silent.
“Have you’all been to the Hospital Headquarters yet? You still go there?” asked Spider keeping the peace and changing the subject. ”We are going there next week..”
”Be ready for a shock.”said Ben.
”Not another new manager?” asked Spider.
“Yep, third in a row, but this one decided to remodel the Cafeteria, “ said Ben “Now she allows us only two small tables way at the back of the room.”
“Oh no,” said Parker “that isn’t going to work.”
“Is she also a mean one?” asked Ginsee thinking of Pearl and the volunteer strike.
“Yes” said Ben.
‘No,” said Len.
“Well which is she?” asked Ginsee
“Well it is like this, she is not really mean, just socked into her own little world. Cafeteria looks real fancy but the truth is Ginsee, there is nobody goes there no more,”
“And I expect the room can’t be used for fundraising or meetings or classes any longer?”
“You got it.”
Spider sighed. So typical of the new breed of managers. Managers or employees for that matter, were no longer judged on their performance statistics. It was all about the image.
“So where did you sell, no way you can only use only two small tables with your set up?” asked Parker
“We went out on to the patio.”
“Better take string Spider – that patio is breezy.” said Ginsee
“Did you make as much money as before?” asked Spider.
“You gotta be joking!”
“If I don’t as make any money there I am going to go apply for food stamps.” said Spider goading his little wifey.
“Over my dead body,” said Ginsee rising to the bait.
When all else fails there is always welfare.
“Hey Parker, what are you trying to do?” asked Len.
Parker was fiddling with the fast food restaurant’s table. “These things are bolted to the floor and I can’t move them together.” At the restaurant they had always taken over with four long tables and much revelry. One year there had been over fifty vendors attending.
I have some little folding tables in the van,” said Len, “shall I bring them out?”
“And I have some fancy lace table cloths!” said Ginsee entering into the spirit of the evening. Together the five old friends set about making the place festive despite all the setbacks.
”No liquor but they do have great coffee! Here taste this!” Pleased by what Parker and Ginsee had created, Spider approached them with a tray full of coffee in paper cups. Only eleven people showed.
Next to join them was Nancy and Russel with a very sad tale to tell.
“We’re here but we ain’t in business no more. This is our last time, Spider!”
“You’re quitting?” Of all the vendors Ginsee had not expected this of them.
“We don’t have a choice, Ginsee, we no longer have any stock,” said Nancy.
“We got robbed.”
“Selling East in Shadow County and staying over in a motel.”
“Lots of agriculture there,” said Spider. “Rich place”
“Rich and poor!”
“It wasn’t good?”
”It was a disaster,” said Russel.
“In the morning I went out to get the trailer in the motel parking lot … “
Nancy interrupted him,” He came back with eyes as big as saucers. She mimicked his deep voice, ‘The van is there but there ain’t no trailer!’ ”
“They stole the trailer, sawed it off just before the lock.”
“ They took it all, Spider, fixtures, signs, easels, clothing racks and everything.”
‘That is just awful,” said Ginsee “Were you insured?”
’For the van, but not for the trailer and its contents. I guess that was silly, “said Nancy.
“Insurance had been going up and up. I just couldn’t keep up,” said Russel.
“What about the City police, couldn’t they help you?” asked Ben.
“The police, hah!” said Nancy. “Fat lot of use they were.”
Russel went on, “You do know Spider that our clothing is original. We get the cloth and then Nancy prints her own designs. Only then do we make our own unique outfits. There is nothing else quite like what we sell on the market.” Nancy was an artist in her own right and Ginsee loved the dresses she had bought from her.
“I called the police and reached a helpful clerk. I explained to her I had done a photo shoot of all the products just the week before for a new catalog and I had digital pictures of everything that was stolen. The helpful clerk was able to put my photos on the city police intranet.”
“So of course they got your dresses back?” asked Ginsee.
”But all they would have to do is go to the street corners and swap meets on the weekend, find your dresses and that would lead them to the trailer?”
“That’s exactly what I told them.”
Nancy called the policeman in charge of the case (theft of our trailer) “said Russel “After several failed efforts to reach him over a period of weeks, with us getting more agitated by the day, she finally got him on the phone only to be told nothing could be done. He didn’t work on the weekend; he worked only Monday through Thursay.
“What!” Spider was flabbergasted. To recover their stolen merchandise was an easy task, but the police had to be on to it almost immediately. A delay of a few weeks and the stuff could be shipped anywhere. Here was Nancy working 24/7 which she had done for over twenty years. She was an incredible artist but she also had a short leg so it couldn’t have been easy to go on doing shows. “Did you ask to speak to a supervisor?”
“I talked to the Chief of Police. He told me he no longer dealt with stolen vehicles. They had closed the department”
“What is their tax rate?”
“Nine and a quarter, top tax rate,” said Ben.
“Go figure, “ said Spider. “And what hours was the Chief working; did you think to ask him?”
“Yes,” Russel gave a lopsided smile. “Their Chief of ol Police works Tuesday through Friday and he said he had not worked a weekend in his life.”
”Didn’t I read that that City is attempting bankruptcy?” asked Parker
“You heard right and we have decided to do the same,” said Russel.
“You are declaring bankruptcy?” asked Spider, appalled.
“We filed last week. We really had no choice.”
“What will you do to live?” asked Ginsee.
“I have a couple of months before I am eligible for Social Security, “ Russel answered, “ and we found out that with her short leg, Nancy can get disability.”
“And what about all your beautiful dresses?” asked Ginsee
“All gone!” said Nancy cheerily.
When all else fails there is always Welfare.
They drank coffee together and ate hamburger and shared old stories. Once upon a time they had shared goals and dreams at these events.
”Just one thing, where was Noah, I had expected him to at least be here,” asked Spider.
“You hadn’t heard?”
“Noah’s is in jail. “
“Oh no,” said Spider, “what happened?”
“He was out protesting in the park when the cops rounded them up. Don’t worry Spider he’s got a lawyer brother who will get him off. “said Parker.
”I don’t know, “said Spider slowly. “The rule of law is crumbling.” He was concerned.
”Poor Noah,” said Ginsee,” bet he was just protesting the County affair.”
“Actually Noah was able to slip away, he was there for a short while but he wasn’t caught in the park,” said Parker.
“So how come he is in trouble?”
“It was that niece; you know the one he has been helping.”
“The one with no husband, but always getting pregnant?
“That one,” said Parker. ”She ratted on him to the police.”
“After what he has done for her,” said Ginsee appalled.
“How many kids now?”
“And still no husband?”
”Not a whiff of one.”
“Great welfare checks when you are a single parent,” said Parker
“Go figure? And was this not the type of family strife typical of insipient socialism. .
When contraception fails there is always abortion or welfare.
Quote for the Week
God works in mysterious ways but at least he works, he’s never on welfare in a mysterious way.” Stephen Colbert