July 3, 2016
By Mencken's Ghost
The scene: The dining room of a 24/7 nursing facility in a retirement community in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The cast: Myself and the following:
Two 20-something Mexican-American women whose parents were immigrants. Both have children, and both have manual laborers as husbands.
A 40-something black woman from Chicago.
A 30-something black woman who emigrated from Kenya.
A 40-something black man who moonlights as a motorcycle mechanic.
Two 50-something Native Americans from the Navajo Indian Community of Northern Arizona.
Two 30-something whites (aka Caucasians).
The foregoing are Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who care for my mom and the other residents of the facility. They not only feed residents who can't feed themselves but also do such difficult and back-breaking work as getting the residents in and out of bed, changing their adult diapers, brushing their teeth, giving them showers, and taking care of other hygiene issues.
Most mornings I help the CNAs feed my mom. I've gotten to like them a lot over the years. They remind me of my working-class roots and my immigrant forebears. I enjoy their company more than the hoity-toity phonies and naive bleeding-hearts who populate much of Scottsdale and other higher income cities throughout the country.
The conversations between the CNAs are often politically-incorrect and come without trigger warnings. They are a refreshing change from the sanitized social commentary in academia, in government, in the media, and in big corporations.
For example, a recent conversation was about the government's plan to not allow stores to participate in the food stamp program unless the stores sell healthy food and not just junk food. Because the CNAs live in neighborhoods where food stamps and other forms of welfare are common, they had strong opinions about the plan and the people they know who are on food stamps. Representative comments:
"That's ridiculous. Those people aren't going to buy healthy food."
"If they want healthy food, they can go to the supermarket instead of the convenience store and buy fruits and vegetables."
"Have you ever seen what they fill their grocery carts with at the supermarket? Nothing but big bags of chips and cases of soda."
"A lot of them don't have jobs but do have iPhones, expensive clothes, and fancy do's [hairdos]."
The woman from Kenya said that Americans are fat and eat lousy food.
The conversation then triggered a related conversation about common welfare scams, not only with food stamps but also with Section 8 housing, Social Security Disability (SSI), and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The CNAs see the fraud every day and wonder why the government can't uncover it and stop it.
They went on to lament that a common fraud is for a mother and father to stay unmarried and pretend that they live apart when they actually live together. The father will use another address as his home address, oftentimes the address of his mother or another relative. This makes his female "partner" eligible to live with their children in Section 8 housing, if her income is low enough or she has no income. Usually, she'll be eligible for food stamps, and her children will be eligible for free meals at school, as well as other free stuff. Moreover, by not filing a joint tax return, both of them increase the likelihood that they will qualify for an earned income tax credit.
The black woman from Chicago and I then got into private conversation, which started when I asked her how she had come to live in Phoenix, a point of interest to me because I had relocated from Chicago to Phoenix.
She exclaimed, "Do I look like a fool? Only a fool would stay in Chicago with all the black fools with their asses hanging out of their pants who are killing each other. I got out of the hood when I was 19."
"Why do other African-American Chicagoans stay put with no future and endanger themselves and their kids?" I asked. "Why don't they go down to the bus station and get out of there?"
"Because too many of them like being slaves," she responded.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that they've been on welfare for so long that they can no longer get their lazy asses out of the house to get a job, assuming they could get a job with their goofy first names and tattoos."
I asked, "You work two jobs, right?"
"Yep, I work here on weekends and work at another place like this during the week."
"Good for you."
"It's not a big deal. A person's gotta do what a person's gotta do," she said in her normal cheerful manner.
As I was driving home after the conversation with her and the others, I realized that any of them could do a better job at running Health and Human Services than the incumbent, whoever that might be. And today, this day before Independence Day, I reflected that because so many Americans are on the dole and living off the labor of others that tomorrow should be renamed Dependence Day.