It’s starting to feel like we’re being bought off.

I’ll be honest.  Facing a massive imminent bill for a prematurely failed septic system while I’m in the midst of a career adjustment and at a high-water mark for higher-education expenses spanning generations, news about a state-administered federal program to hand out up to $50,000 to homeowners initially felt like an opportunity:

The newly opened Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island, or HAF-RI, was rolled out by Gov. Dan McKee’s office Monday morning. The $50 million available in Rhode Island is part of a $9.96 billion pot of federal funding included in the American Rescue Plan Act last March. …

Eligibility for HAF-RI depends on household income, with limits ranging from $90,850 for a one-person household to $171,300 for an eight-person household. To qualify, a homeowner must own and occupy a one- to four-unit dwelling in Rhode Island; have experienced a financial setback related to the pandemic since mid-January 2020; and have an original mortgage balance below $548,250.

Hand over some information and get a check.  Nice and easy.

While homeowners are at it, they can get around mask shortages by calling up Uncle Bradon:

You can now get rapid COVID-19 tests delivered right to your door for free, but what about masks?

The Biden Administration plans to announce Wednesday that they will provide 400 million Americans with free N95 masks.

The masks are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. They will start shipping by the end of next week and will be available at pharmacies and community health centers.

Free masks.  Free tests.  Free money.

Conservatives tend to respond to these stories by noting that nothing is free.  Somebody is going to pay for all these handouts.  But to me, the handouts themselves are starting to feel like a bigger problem — even if they were free.  I kinda wanna feel like an adult, y’know?  If I can’t make my situation work, maybe it would be better for me to have to take responsibility and make some big-boy decisions, about both the things I spend money on and the activities by which I try to provide value to others.

Maybe we shouldn’t make the temporary declaration that few of us are “essential” into a deep cultural theme.

From our perch in Rhode Island, this growing sense that maybe we shouldn’t want things to be free couples with daily reminders that government is failing massively at everything that is supposed to be its responsibility.  Politicians are committing to debt on our behalf in order to give us handouts that deprive us of our responsibilities in order to distract us from the fact that they can’t live up to theirs.

Even if they somehow manage to avoid the economic ruin that common sense would predict from such a strategy, the cultural and psychological harm is going to rival that of the more-direct elements of our COVID response.


Featured image by Daniel Lee on Unsplash.

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