Kids Today

Michelle Singletary is billed as the "Personal Finance Columnist" for the Washington Post; she devoted a recent column to people she called "Bailout Snivelers".

There are two kinds. As we'll see, Michelle conflates the two varieties, calling them both "snivelers". Here are a couple of examples of the first kind:

"How come only those who spend irresponsibly get bailed out?" a reader asked. "As a person who thinks before he spends, I have a lot to be frustrated about these days."

Another reader from Indiana wrote: "Frankly, I'm infuriated. I don't make a ton of money, but I live within my means. I purchased my home eight years ago and just paid my mortgage off this past November. It's extremely frustrating to see us bailing out people who made foolish decisions while many others meet the obligations they agreed to."

This is understandable. When you rob Peter to pay Paul, Peter is understandably pissed. Michelle ignores that minor issue, instead quoting The One like Holy Scripture, and turning her condescension dial up to 11:
"We have lived through an era where, too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity," Obama said.

I understand that people who did the right thing are frustrated. They saved. They scrimped. They crunched the numbers and bought homes they could afford long term.

I understand their need to have someone pat them on the back.

So consider this your pat.

If Michelle were a man, and tried that line in person, instead of from a newspaper column, I'd bet the "pat" would be returned with a punch in the nose from many.

It gets better, though. Because Michelle is not only condescending, she's very, very tired.

But I'm getting increasingly weary of people carping that they aren't getting a piece of the billions of dollars in debt the federal government is amassing to try to dam up this economic mudslide.

These people are suffering from what I call "WAM Syndrome" or "What About Me?" disease.

My children have WAM. I see them looking as I pour juice or cut a piece of pie. They watch closely to see whether their siblings get more. If I give one child a little extra of something, the other two pout and whimper, "What about me?"

But I expect this from children. They often don't understand that sometimes one person -- whether he or she deserves it or not -- will get more. They can't comprehend that life isn't fair.

Yes, Michelle really is calling people who complain about the inequity of bailing out the irresponsible at the coerced expense of those who played by the rules to be just like her tedious children haggling over pie. And she really is making the dreadful analogy that the relationship between government and governed is like that between juice-pouring Mommy and kids.

She apparently sees nothing wrong with that.

But wait, it gets even better, because Michelle introduces us to Margaret from Massachusetts:

Several readers have complained that they can't take advantage of the new $8,000 first-time home buyer's credit. This is an improvement on a $7,500 tax credit that is really a 15-year, interest-free loan.

Margaret, a first-time home buyer from Massachusetts, said she was outraged that some people will benefit from the $8,000 tax credit, which doesn't have to be paid back.

"I am a single woman who has worked long and hard to finally purchase a home," she wrote. "I purchased a home on July 30, 2008, and await my $7,500 interest-free loan. I was thrilled and grateful that this was offered to me."

After learning about the better tax break, Margaret is no longer grateful.

"I am totally disgusted. I would like justification and an answer to how this administration can justify doing for some and not for all," she wrote. "If you do for one, you must do for all. After all, this is America."

This is the second type of sniveler, significantly different from robbed-Peter irked at paid-Paul. In this case, Mark's being robbed to pay Matthew and Margaret. Margaret eyes Matthew's take suspiciously, and bitter resentment—this is America!—occurs if there's the slightest bit of perceived favoritism there.

And here is where Michelle actually has a point with the analogy to her kids.

Because what group naturally springs to mind when you think of those who receive undeserved benefits from the hard-working?

Sure: children. And we don't mind, because we love 'em, right?

But lesson one from this bailout should be: when you treat people like children—like irresponsible tykes who can't be expected to provide for themselves, who shouldn't bear the burden of their unwise choices, who are utterly dependent on the resources of others…

Why should you be surprised when they act like children?

The pointer to Michelle's column came from Russell Roberts of Cafe Hayek. He has similar comments about just how degrading it is to civil society when mommy-government doles out taxpayer-funded goodies to freeloaders. Bottom line: watch for more Mad Margarets screaming like spoiled brats.

Last Modified 2017-12-04 6:27 PM EST