Losing the Old Ways of Being

I caught an old film on television, Million Dollar Baby (not the recent Clint Eastwood movie of the same name), in which a rich British lady, played by the wonderful May Robson, gives a million dollars to a young American stranger she grows fond of during a sojourn in New York. The girl enjoys the wealth for a while but it starts to cause problems. Eventually she gives it all away and takes off with her musician boyfriend. They plan to marry and live on what he earns on the road, $75 a week. The boyfriend is played by Ronald Reagan. Isn’t that just perfect?

The British lady takes in the lesson that Americans don’t want gifts and giveaways but prefer the chance to make their own way. Now she knows what America is “all about.” “Where else could it happen that a couple of youngsters like that would refuse to take money simply because they hadn’t earned it?” she concludes. “Where they don’t want to live on Easy Street unless they build their own home? Ah, there they go, bless their hearts. You know, it’s youngsters like that that make you have faith in the future.”

I did say it was an old film, didn’t I? Yes, from 1941. But I’ll bet there are many Americans like that still around. The direction of the country goes against them, however. For example, there are many low- and modest-earning Americans who have nevertheless been managing life on their own, but who are now compelled to take a government subsidy in order to afford mandated medical insurance they do not even want. The healthcare subsidy is worse than other forms of government aid, including student loans. Whether you like government aid for higher education or not, loans do at least theoretically presuppose eventual self-sufficiency; they do have to be repaid and are for a limited period of time. The healthcare subsidy is a straight-out handout and can go on indefinitely, turning formerly independent people into government dependents. More and more the old ways of being are being destroyed.

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