July 24, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Our social safety net

Much conversation has occurred and is still occurring about a social safety net for the citizens of this country. These conversations include such things as a minimum living wage being paid to every citizen, single payer medical coverage, raising the minimum wage, etc. These conversations miss the fact that we already have a social safety net.

Our social safety net is jail; when people are unable to pay their fines, or their court costs, or fees to get their driver’s licences returned, or probation fees, or restitution to Walmart, they go to jail. All very simple. I don’t know how we have missed the obvious — we already have a social safety net — incarceration. After all, once in jail, the state is responsible for food, bed, medical care and any other necessities of life. One no longer needs to worry about such things as housing, day care, groceries, or any other of the necessities in modern America. The “market” becomes irrelevant.

And if you are poor, or disabled, or simply unable to function in our modern world of capitalism, jail or prison is a very logical and appealing place to be. No worries, just do as you are told as usual, and everything will be fine. Three squares and a bed, TV and an occasional institutional job to keep you moving and the blood circulating.

One issue however, is that it may hurt the economy for the rest of us. Our entire economy would collapse if people didn’t buy thousands of dollars of stuff they didn’t need. Since one’s income is significantly reduced in jail or prison, incarcerating all those who require the social safety net might very well reduce the total spending of our population resulting in even more need for the social safety net. This appears to be a conundrum and one which I am unable to find a solution. The more people we put in prison, the more the rest of us have to spend on stuff we don’t need to keep the GDP increasing at a steady rate.

In conclusion, we need to search for answers. We apparently don’t have any at the moment. Our leaders, both state and federal, do not seem inclined to address the issues that face us. Why is it that I am required to buy thousands of dollars of stuff I don’t need? Is it my responsibility to my fellow countrymen to buy stuff I don’t need so everyone can have a job and earn money to buy more stuff no one needs? When thinking about this whole situation, it really doesn’t seem to make much sense. Maybe jail isn’t the answer after all, but fortunately we at least have that.

Richard E. H. Phelps II