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Something for nothing, something for dummies, and nothing for something

Last week you no doubt heard news about the highly successful scam: The Obama administration will pay your utility bills! Just give us your social security number …

First thought is what kind of moron would fall for that? Second thought is: a whole nation of morons. Isn’t that exactly how the welfare state works, anyhow?


Speaking of dumb stuff to fall for, Microsoft is revamping its Office suite. One of the big changes is that it will now store all documents and settings in the cloud by default. (H/T PT for the link.)

Nothing against the cloud. I can see its uses. And as David wrote in a comment a few months back, there are ways and there are ways. But letting Little Brother default all of your documents and settings out of your physical control is, I’m sorry, just nucking futz. Especially when LibreOffice is right there …


Speaking of something for nothing, I befriended a neighbor a few months ago and am regretting it. I first met his little kids while walking the dogs. Later I learned the family had been homeless on and off and had just been kicked out of an old church where they’d been staying for free. Now they have a house about five blocks from here.

The kid are sweet and I felt sorry for them, so when Dad started asking a few small favors, I was glad to help. I drove him to a food bank in a nearby town. I found somebody who’d give him a free used computer. Stuff like that. No big deal.

Then I asked Dad to help me move a heavy piece of furniture (for pay). He showed up an hour late with no apology, and was obviously sound asleep when I called at noon to remind him. He did an incredible job when he finally showed, hoisting a desk onto his shoulders and carrying it upstairs without wanting any help from me. Impressive.

But now he seems to expect things from me with zero neighborliness from him in return. Last week he came over and asked if I would take him to a grocery store in another town. There’s a supermarket within long walking distance of here. But that one wouldn’t do. It had to be the smaller, but nicer, store six miles farther away. I said no, but with the wussy excuse that I was busy.

Today his kids showed up on my doorstep saying Dad sent them over to borrow $6 so they could go swimming. He’d pay me back this weekend. I was appalled. What kind of parent would send little kids to a woman they barely know to borrow money? Still, I like the kids and it was a rare day for a swim. So I gave it to them. Yeah, weak.

I’ll be surprised if I see that $6 again. But that’s good. It’ll give me a reason to say more solid nos to these folks; eventually they’ll decide I’m useless and quit tapping me for favors. It would make all the difference in the world if anybody in the family reciprocated. You know, bring a batch of cookies. Have the kids draw a thank-you card. But nope, it’s all one way.

Dad has never been nasty, but he’s a big dude and with his outsized sense of entitlement, I worry a little about how to extricate myself without ticking him off.

The family is on public assistance, of course. And just had a fourth child. Sigh.


But of course, when you consider the kind of mentality people are actually encouraged to have, these days …

H/T JS for that link, which goes to the now-famous statement from Our Glorious Leader about how if you have a successful business it’s only because government made it possible. The creepy thing is, there’s some truth in what Big O says. Every one who achieves anything builds on the accomplishments of other people (note to Obama: some build a heck of a lot more than others). But wowee shazam, is there ever a huge difference between saying, “We all stand on the shoulders of giants” or “Millions of people pursuing their own self-interest make the world go ’round” vs. “Hey, what’s yours is everybody else’s, so hand it over so I can pass it out to my buddies.”


  1. Teresa Sue
    Teresa Sue July 17, 2012 5:30 am

    Claire, Claire, Claire, you have to trust your inner cynic. People like that usually seems to have a flair for picking up on people’s weakness. The dogs hooked you, then you felt bad for the kids (who, by the way, even if they don’t realize it, are learning first hand how to scam from dear old dad) I’m sure this guy is always looking for an opening to freeload. If he wasn’t he’d have a job. Yeah, yeah, I know the economy is tough, but I also know a lot of people don’t really look for work, they would rather some one else take care of them.
    I would be very unavailable to this family and quick.
    Be safe.

  2. JG
    JG July 17, 2012 5:52 am

    When I was a teenager, my mom hired an unemployed guy to paint one side of our house. He said he would start at 6am and get it done before it got hot. That saturday, 6 came and went. at about 730 I went and painted the area myself. He finally showed up at 1:30 in the afternoon smelling of alcohol and failure with a sob story about his truck not starting. So I fired him. I told him if he couldn’t show up on time there was no use in paying him to do anything.

    The next time any of them come by asking for money, tell them they are welcome to work for it, and yard work starts early.

  3. M
    M July 17, 2012 6:10 am

    Something for Nothing – now if .gov promised “Chicks for Free” – well then we’d be talkin’

    Seriously – where will this stop?

  4. Claire
    Claire July 17, 2012 6:56 am

    “Trust my inner cynic.” Yup. That’s what I should have done. Funny thing is, when there are emotional (or financial) scammers around, I’m usually the one warning my friends against them, not the one getting used. This time … mea culpa. Got hooked by adorable kids and what seemed to be a sad story in an otherwise sound and loving family. And yeah, the really sad thing is what those sweet little kids are learning from Dad.

    JG, wonder if that guy ever learned. Prolly not. But kudos on doing the smart thing — even though, being a teenager, I’ll bet you weren’t too thrilled to have to pain that wall yourself.

  5. Claire
    Claire July 17, 2012 6:58 am

    LOL, M, now I’m going to have that song going through my head all day. At least (thank you) it’s a great song — unlike the execrable commercial jingles that usually worm their way into the brain.

  6. Victor Milán
    Victor Milán July 17, 2012 7:22 am

    Why not just try saying, “no”?

    You owe no explanation. And why make excuses?

  7. Claire
    Claire July 17, 2012 7:59 am

    You’re absolutely right, Victor. A simple “no” is exactly what I’m working my way towards. However, the people-placating, good-neighboring, protect-the-children, please-don’t-hurt-me, want-to-explain-everything sides of me militate against that seemingly simple “no.” I’ll get there, though.

  8. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal July 17, 2012 8:41 am

    I have gotten myself used several times. I could beat myself up over it, but generally I know what is happening as it happens and I do it because I care. Only once or twice was I surprised at the outcome. But I still felt good about myself- just not about being used.

  9. Jim B.
    Jim B. July 17, 2012 9:01 am

    I think you’re being an enabler for this guy. Why should he get off his butt and find work when all he has to do is give you a sob story? The more successful this guy becomes, the more he won’t be encouraged become a decent productive indivdual. Why should he when he has people to enable his way of life.

  10. Scott
    Scott July 17, 2012 9:18 am

    Isn’t it amazing how the same old tired scam will work every single time? All that needs to be done is change the wording.
    I fell for something similar years ago-except it was my own relatives..I “owed”(so I was told) them because “I had money”(translation-didn’t drink/smoke up every dime I managed to get, and didn’t buy a lot of crap I didn’t need). Not only did they want free transportation/food/whatever, but it had to be on call. Like your neighbor, they got picky and demanding about stores they wanted to go to, and so on. What my Dad called “Welfare Royalty”. I felt sorry for them because they had children. There might not be food in the fridge, but there was a carton of cigarettes on top and a 12 pack inside.
    Yeah, I felt like an idiot after a while, and was mad at myself for falling for it. Saying “no” isn’t always easy, and creates a real crapstorm if it’s relatives.The upside is at least the children got some toys-after removing them from the package so Daddy couldn’t return them to the store..

  11. Latigo Morgan
    Latigo Morgan July 17, 2012 9:20 am

    Dang, Claire, tick him off! Besides, you know meaner folks than him, if he wants to make something of it.

    Like was said above, if the kids want money from you, I’m sure there is yard work that needs to be done.

  12. billswift
    billswift July 17, 2012 10:15 am

    >Every one who achieves anything builds on the accomplishments of other people

    This is mostly an excuse. The prior accomplishments of others are readily available for almost anyone to build on. Having more resources available (money or time) makes it easier, but even the poorest person can read at the library and put their knowledge to use, if they were willing to work. (And if the local government thugs didn’t shut them down for lack of paperwork and protection money, sorry, I mean permits.)

  13. kevin m
    kevin m July 17, 2012 10:45 am

    Spot on Scott! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Been there done that and I refuse to do it anymore. I told my freeloading bum neighbors and relatives the bank was closed and my phone is eerily quiet now. Winning!

  14. Claire
    Claire July 17, 2012 11:12 am

    Yup, I’ve been enabling. Didn’t realize it until recently, and now it stops. Pats on the back to you guys who’ve had to cut off relatives, old friends, etc. That’s much harder — especially if you’ve got other family members putting pressure on you to keep being the “good guy.”

    Latigo Morgan, not sure I’m ready to piss this guy off. If diplomacy or “just say no” doesn’t work, I’ll plan to be open carrying (without comment or threat of course) on the day I realize I have to make the guy mad.

  15. Ellendra
    Ellendra July 17, 2012 11:32 am

    ” I’ll plan to be open carrying (without comment or threat of course) on the day I realize I have to make the guy mad.”

    Best be open carrying all the time, then, because he may be the one to decide the timing.

    For the kids, how about “I don’t have any money to spare, but did you know that the recycling place pays X for empty soda cans, and there’s a lot of those on the street. I bet you could pick up enough of those to recycle for the money. Hey, here’s a bag you could use!”
    (You’d mentioned previously that there was a litter problem in your area)

  16. Claire
    Claire July 17, 2012 12:01 pm

    Ellendra … Yeah, right again. I am not comfortable open carrying in town. No particular reason; it’s just me. But yes, if I do end up having to piss this guy off, the choice of timing may not be mine.

    I don’t think it’ll come to that. But … well, you never know.

    To their credit, I actually have seen Dad and the kids out looking for aluminum cans (on that occasion, Dad explained that he wanted to be able to buy the kids a pizza). So they do a bit of taking care of themselves. Though even then I had the feeling Dad was telling me that in hopes I’d just take pity and hand over some money. I couldn’t help but notice he asked me for metal the day after he had seen someone else haul a truckload of metal away.

  17. Mic
    Mic July 17, 2012 1:13 pm

    I have a small business and I don’t recall seeing Obama or his cronies around when I needed help stuffing that mailing campaign or spending 11 weeks programming that software or helping me find new clients by making cold calls when I was only a month away from a financial crisis if I didn’t bring in some more cash flow. Nope, don’t recall seeing him or anyone else from the government when I took the risk by signing that bank loan or personally guaranteeing that credit line with my house. In fact, if this whole thing goes south I am betting Obama or his criminal henchmen won’t be there to make sure the bank doesn’t take my house!

    But I can tell you one time I DO see them and that is when I make so much as one measly dollar in income their greedy little asses are at my door demanding their “fair share”! Fair to whom? You sure as heck didn’t help make it so tell me what is fair about expecting any of the gains?

  18. Mary Lou
    Mary Lou July 17, 2012 7:53 pm

    Next time kids come asking for $$, give them chores to do. Same with dad, he wants a free ride to the store, have him mow the yard first (or some other chore.) They’ll either do the chore and get paid, or, go away and not return. Win-win.

    My favorite story on myself … my dear departed SIL, who though very dear to my heart, was a big mooch, asked me to buy her a flower for her porch. OK, we go to Lowe’s. The one flower turned into 10 flowers. And then .. she wanted a $100 BBQ grill … I said no at this point and, she got pissed off. We made it up later on. And oh, what I wouldnt give to have her mooching off me again (she’s been dead now for 5 years … and is, no doubt, mooching off the angels).

  19. BusyPoorDad
    BusyPoorDad July 18, 2012 5:09 am

    What is sad is that this man most likely has been beaten by the system so much that now he is addicted to it. It was not to long ago I read an article about how most unemployed and those on public assistance have a majority of the clinical symptoms of depression. (I think the article was trying to justify more money for the county mental health programs or give excuse for why people don’t get off welfare – see it is not their fault, they have a mental problem that needs years of treatment)

    What i’ve found it that people on welfare for more than a few months soon can’t see how to get off. They get told this is “free” government help and that the evil rich guys not paying their “fair share” of taxes are why they can’t get more help. The person on welfare soon learns that trying to get off will be very painful and likely to hurt the family.

    They realize that getting that job at Wal-Mart is going to take food out of the mouth of their kids. (in most states the rate is $1 for every $1 you earn, gross. So you lose $1 for every $0.75 you take home if lucky). What does that do to someone? You work and your family goes hungry, you stay at home doing nothing and you feel less and less like an adult. You can’t take the kids to the pool, you can’t get pizza, If you do go and work you lose.

    You have to go ask strangers for help because asking friends and family is really embarrassing. Asking the gov for help is easy because they tell you it is a right, you’re entitled to this. Then, like Bier Rabbit and the tar baby, you’re stuck. the more you fight it the more you get stuck.

    The system creates this. Sadly there is not an easy way to fix it. It may be too late for your neighbor. From what you’ve written, I bet he is depressed, possibly self medicating, and wants that $45k a year starting job that would get him off welfare with out the loss. But that is not going to happen.

  20. LarryA
    LarryA July 18, 2012 10:36 am

    “But letting Little Brother default all of your documents and settings out of your physical control is, I’m sorry, just nucking futz.”

    These are the same designers who came up with the brilliant insight that MS Word, a program for readers and writers, needed a graphic interface.

    “The Obama administration will pay your utility bills!”

    It’s successfull because, based on Obama’s last two years, it’s so utterly believable.

    As far as my business goes, I owe a lot more to my customers than I do to the government.

  21. Nathan A
    Nathan A July 18, 2012 1:30 pm

    A simple “no” can be very empowering, but people are no longer accustomed to hearing it.

    A few weeks ago I stopped to put gas in my car. As I was walking to the cashier to pay, a woman approached me and asked, “Hey can I borrow your phone?” I paused for a second and took her in: wrinkled, dirty clothing, iPod with headphones in, watery and bloodshot eyes. Maybe she had been crying, maybe up all night partying. I figured I could outrun her if she took off with it but my immediate, instinctual answer was a simple, “No.” And I kept walking.

    She pulled an absolutely shocked face and followed me into the store. “Really? Seriously? No? Just like that? You’re just going to say ‘no’?” “Yes. Just like that.” “Wow. Some people. Thanks, buddy.”

    I pumped my gas and as I got into my car, she walked up again and all but stuck her head in my window and said, “Hey, thanks again for all your help man. That was REAL cool of you. I appreciate it. HAVE A GREAT DAY!” I just stared at her until she was done and drove away.

    Maybe I’m a dick, but if I am then so be it. Maybe the proliferation of people hitting me up for money, or to buy something, or to sign something, outside of places where I am attempting to do business and so many other places, has jaded me. I don’t know. Like those guys on the freeway exits begging for cash. You have no job, no money, and your plan of attack is to stand on a freeway exit and beg for money? With newer and cleaner shoes than the ones currently on my feet? Get bent.

    I have no idea what her situation was, but I listen to my instinct. I learned early on that my major screwups come when I go against it.

  22. BusyPoorDad
    BusyPoorDad July 18, 2012 3:06 pm

    In regardes to “Obama will pay your bills”. Part of the reason it is so believable to most people is they see the tv ads for the “Obama phone” program.

    Yes, you can get a “free” cell phone because as the ads say “Communication should not be limited to people in relation to what they are able to afford”

    This is not something Obama started, rather in 1934 as part of a communication bill that set up what later became AT&T established a tax to help cover the cost of phone service to the rural areas. In 1996 that tax was amended to include internet providers and cell phones setting up the “lifeline” service.

    It was not pushed much till the FCC ruled around 2005 that cell phone service would qualify for payment from the Universal Service Fund. (meaning the cell company, or cell service re-seller, could bill the USF for payment first, and then hit up the customer for any overage).

    Watch a few shows of Judge Joe Brown or the BET channel (as well as many soaps) and soon you will see the worried young lady telling their older mother in the bad neighborhood about the “Obama Phone” free cell phone to make appointments and to call the cops to be safe! A program for anyone on Medicaid, food stamps, Housing assistance, section 8, or even the free school lunch program! Then an quick cut to old mom smiling sitting outside in a very nice neighborhood post calling the cops who says “Thank You Obama Phone!”

  23. naturegirl
    naturegirl July 18, 2012 4:01 pm

    Wow, this topic has twisted and turned and veered into some familiar territory LOL….

    If the same people keep asking for things, and you have helped already – you are a good person, you have done what you could and it’s perfectly ok to say no. Without guilt. It’s not anything you can fix if it keeps repeating, saying no is alright.

    Certain instances that happen can sometimes be solved with other solutions, such as don’t give her the phone toss her a couple of quarters instead? Or at least you have the right to ask why she needs the phone so badly. Then decide from there.

    The person you may see on the side of the road holding a sign asking for something (ride, money) is definitely worth avoiding if you see them there all the time. Maybe even if they look like hell and you’re sure there’s drugs/drinking involved with them somehow. – The ones with nicer shoes or clothes may have just been tossed out on the street.

    Not here to trash anyone, but just to suggest maybe it wouldn’t hurt to ask a few questions before jumping to any conclusions. And the (one time) you reach out to help some person may be THE saving grace for that person.

    Those of us who’ve been in less than stellar situations try like hell to avoid any assistance of any kind (strangers or gov). Unfortunately, having that mindset also keeps you in the less than stellar situations longer and more painfully than any person would like to be. In this age and economy, no one is safe anymore, no matter how much you think you are. We’re all a heartbeat away from some disaster that could put us in the streets.

  24. Claire
    Claire July 18, 2012 9:07 pm

    Obamaphone? Seriously? I knew the program existed, but not having TV I didn’t even imagine that anyone was being cynical and manipulative enough to call it an Obamaphone. (Even though we’re dealing with an administration that wrote Obama into all the bios of past presidents, so who knows what they might come up with?) OMG. An Obamaphone.

  25. Claire
    Claire July 18, 2012 9:13 pm

    naturegirl — humanely said. I can see both Nathan’s point and yours, opposite though they are.

    I grok “charity fatigue.” And there are plenty of people who’d steal a phone or stand on the street scamming drivers out of cash.

    When I think about it, there are times I’ve felt bad about myself for not helping. But there are just as many times when I’ve felt stupid or otherwise bad because I did “help” someone in a way that turned out really not helpful at all (like years ago when, believe it or not, I gave $5 to somebody who said he desperately needed groceries for his family — while standing right outside a liquor store).

  26. AlanR -
    AlanR - July 20, 2012 9:29 am

    We live in a not great neighborhood, the kind where at least one of the neighborhood kids informally panhandles passers-by while out playing. My kids play with them and occasionally I’ll come home and find them eating lunch with my kids. I kind of raised my eyebrow at it at first but my wife shrugged and said it might be the only real meal they get all day. Changed my perspective immediately.

  27. winston
    winston July 20, 2012 11:22 am

    I’m with those suggesting offering rides/money whatever for chores for one simple reason…

    Either he’ll be a decent guy and agree to it, and everybody’s happy, or he’ll refuse and show his true colors as an entitled parasite and start demanding stuff like a spoiled child, giving you all the reason you need to say no in the future. Kind of a test of character.

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