|"A large part of the time of
courts and police is spent enforcing the laws against (those) whose "crimes"
hurt only themselves. . .: narcotics addicts, alcoholics, homosexuals,
prostitutes, producers and possessors of pornography, etc. . . .the courts
are also clogged with divorce and insurance cases which, with proper legislation,
could be solved without court action."
The difficulty seems to lie in defining "victimless"
crimes. At present we are all victims of contempt for law, physical risk
and a sense of unease that erode the good life as surely as a constant
infection erodes good health.
LITTLE GUY VERSUS THE MACHINE
|"Many government institutions
have become so big that I have little or no control over the way they affect
my life. Most decisions affecting my way of life are made by the 'powers
that be' and not by me."
Another aspect of this feeling that nothing makes
sense is of course bureaucracy. Red tape, rudeness, and indifference on
the part of public servants, impersonality, the proliferation of agencies
and the phrase "unresponsive government" were mentioned in hundreds of
|"I phoned a number listed in
the telephone directory re a welfare matter. The answering party knew nothing
and gave me another phone number. A total of 17 numbers were given me before
I spoke to the right party."
Predictably the IRS forms were bitterly critized.
One man went so far as to send the IRS a blank
check with the note, "You figure it out!" It was, of course, returned.
Experiences like these, which we have all had,
contribute to the meaninglessness of life, not because of their seriousness
but because of their frequency. Under the heading "Bureaucracy" everything
from nepotism to junketing Congressmen came in for its knocks. But somehow
all the complaints were related. All of them indicated despair over a government
machine -- federal, state, county, and local -- that doesn't care.
OTHER GUY -- PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
|"It is disheartening that the
working man is expected to help support so many people. There are a lot
of people on some kind of public assistance who don't deserve it."
"The indignities and uncertainties
[welfare recipients] must undergo are not in keeping with basic humanitarian
Most people object to paying taxes to support
"those who won't
work." On the other hand, people in authentically
desperate straits wrote that because of technicalities they did not qualify
for any or enough public assistance. Everyone seems to recognize that there
must be some assistance for those who can't work. At least the first
16 years of a person's life and probably the last ten or twenty years,
with life expectancy increasing as it is, are not
If people are not supported by their families during those 26-36 years,
or if they have not been able to provide for their own old age, no one
wants to see them go hungry, particularly the children.
And yet welfare abuse is understandably a very
sore point. There
are some chiselers on the welfare rolls, and when
a big boondoggle comes to light it is disheartening to those who work and
pay high taxes. Welfare needs restructuring, not only to eliminate the
possibility of cheating but to change the "system" that keeps people on
welfare for two or three generations. The present system does not restore
families to the work-force as it encourages able-bodied men to desert their
SECURITY -- AN EARNED RIGHT
|"I receive $51 per month minimum.
. .farmer all my life but self-employed farmers not covered till 1955.
Those were the years of my decline. . .drouth, health expenses, death in
family, nervous breakdown. . Just barely able to qualify for self-employed
farmer's social security. I will not ask for welfare or food stamps. I
live in an old shack without plumbing or adequate heating. I have no transportation
and too old to walk far for necessities. I pay no rent. My home is very
old and the wind blew a corner off the roof. I own this property but cannot
keep it up any more. . .I worked hard in old days when I could. Built miles
of fences, raised and sold tons of beef. Raised wheat and alfalfa. I am
not a bum, just old now. My circumstances are awful bad. If only the minimum
social security could be raised but it is getting too late for me but maybe
there are others that could be helped."
"The term 'Social Security' is
misleading advertising which causes a great many of our young people to
take for granted a suitable retirement income and fail to make proper savings
for the future. The name of this program should be changed to 'Federal
Supplemental Income," or some such, and the fact that it will not provide
security at retirement should be widely publicized."
"A couple on Social Security
have absolutely nothing left after they pay the taxes, utility bills and
groceries. One solution is being able to earn more than $1,680 when you
are on Social Security and not lose your benefit."
So many wrote to me in bitterness and shock having
found that their benefit was not enough to live on, that I would have to
agree that a re-education program is in order. Social Security is an earned
right. It was never meant to replace completely the income a person loses
at retirement, but with the way things are now it is frequently not even
an adequate supplement, and I believe the Congress must do something to
bring the benefit rates up to adequate levels.
EDUCATION: ITS SUPPORT AND ITS QUALITY
Property taxes are another way in which the old
suffer. Two or three wrote that they had had to sell their houses, which
they owned outright, because their pensions did not increase with taxes
levied to support public schools. Their own children had left school long
ago, and they didn't see why they had to bear the burden of educating other
It is agreed that there must be public education,
but there is a great deal of controversy about what should be taught and
Low pay, too many non-teaching duties, over-crowded
classes, low morale, and lack of funds and facilities can combine to make
it almost impossible for teachers to do a good job.
I received a thoughtful analysis of the class
response to my questionnaire from an American Problems class in a Tucson
high school. These students mentioned, in their comments on drug abuse,
that drugs were readily obtainable even in school. This suggests that there's
a lot more to the "problem of education" now than there used to be, and
many hinted at a real over-haul of the philosophy of education.
|"I was watching TV the other
night and it showed B-52 bombers going to bomb in Laos and along the North
Vietnam border. Cost: $1 million plus per day. Yet, we have hungry children
in southern Arizona and many other places."
The Viet Nam war has certainly produced a great
deal of waste, material and spiritual, and has, I think, been a great factor
in making us reconsider what we are and what we want as a nation. There
were a few letters protesting the end of the war without a military victory,
but many wrote about the disillusionment with their country because of
our continuing involvement.