The $50 lesson

By Tom Quiner

The little story below arrived by e-mail this morning.

I don’t know who wrote it, so sorry, I can’t provide much-deserved attribution.

You may have already read it since it is making the rounds on the internet, but it’s worth savoring again:

Recently, while I was working in the flower beds in the front yard, my neighbors stopped to chat as they returned home from walking their dog.

During our friendly conversation, I asked their little girl what she wanted to be when she grew up.

She said she wanted to be President someday.

Both of her parents, Democratic Party members, were standing there so I asked her, “If you were President what would be the first thing you would do?”

She replied, “I’d give food and houses to all the homeless people.” Her parents beamed with pride!

“Wow…what a worthy goal!” I said. “But you don’t have to wait until you’re President to do that!”

“What do you mean?” she replied.

So I told her, “You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and trim my hedge, and I’ll pay you $50. Then you can go over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out, and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house.”

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Why doesn’t the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay
him the $50?”

I said, “Welcome to the Republican Party.”

Her parents aren’t speaking to me anymore.


  1. Bob Zimmerman on March 17, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Sorry I could only give this 5 stars… It deserves 10!

  2. faisalfairuh on March 17, 2015 at 11:46 am

    It was an amazing read! beautiful article.
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  3. travojones on March 17, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    I have a bit of an issue with little stories like this. They work politically because they’re short, and it makes sense if you put absolutely no thought into any of the details.

    The entire point of the story rests on the assumption that the homeless guy doesn’t want to work. Are you willing to let a homeless person you don’t know into your yard with free access to your house? Why is assumed that the homeless guy is lazy? What if the homeless guy takes the $50, thanks the little girl, goes to Goodwill and buys a suit jacket, checks into a cheap motel to use their shower, and spends the next day turning in job applications and asking for interviews?

    In the words of George Foster Wallace, “it may be unlikely, but it’s not impossible. It just depends on what you’re willing to consider.”

    • quinersdiner on March 17, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      If you’re suggesting that the story is overly simplistic, and that there may be mitigating circumstances in individual cases of welfare assistance, of course you are correct. The question is, does this broadly represent reality? A conservative says yes. One with a liberal perspective may say no.

      • travojones on March 17, 2015 at 7:52 pm

        Would you concede that neither of us has any statistically significant evidence to prove our respective points?

        • quinersdiner on March 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm

          I appreciate the question. Yes, I do believe there is legitimate evidence to back the conservative position. I’ll try to provide some in the days ahead. Thanks for asking.

  4. Jersey McJones on March 18, 2015 at 1:26 am

    LOL! Republicans don’t live where homeless people are around looking to mow lawns. I get a few (homeless? can’t really tell, but they show up looking for work!) visiting my house every year. So the premise doesn’t work on at least two levels.

    Conservatives are people who lack the imagination to truly understand the old adage, “there but for the Grace of God go I.” It’s funny, because it’s true, and you can see it in action whenever a Republican is personally faced with an issue about which they would otherwise be callous and apathetic – like Dick Cheney with gay rights, or Sarah Davis with Planned Parenthood, or Jeb Bush with immigration.

    Republicans do not understand homelessness, and like other issues about which they have no knowledge, they usually make fools of themselves when discussing it.


    • quinersdiner on March 18, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Sorry to burst your bubble, Jersey, but you’ve got it backwards. Your premise, that conservatives are less compassionate than liberals, was researched by one of your fellow liberals. Syracuse professor, Arthur Brooks, agreed with your premise, that liberals were probably more generous than conservatives. He set out to research and quantify the results. What he discovered astounded him:

      • Liberals make more money than conservatives.

      • Despite this income gap, conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than liberals.

      • Religious conservatives give an average of $2367 per year to charity compared to $1347 for the rest of the country.

      • Religious conservatives give more to secular charities than everyone else.

      • Conservatives donate more blood, sweat, and tears than everyone else as measured by blood given to blood banks and personal time devoted to directly helping others.

      • Brooks looked at attitudes of folks concerning distribution of income and religion. Folks who do not believe in income redistribution schemes and attend church services gives away a hundred times more than folks who do believe in income redistribution schemes and don’t attend religious services.

      • Secular liberals are the “whitest” and richest of the four groups Mr. Brooks identified. Nonetheless, they give 19% less to charity than religious conservatives.

      Mr. Brooks said “I had no option but to change my views.” Read more about his study in his book, “Who Really Cares?”