Want to earn $17 an hour tax free plus get a meal or two each day?
Several folks kept tabs on the sidewalk "feature" outside of a local McDonald's last week. They were stunned to observe the panhandler taking in $50 plus numerous food items during a three-hour period.
To put that in perspective you would have to make at least $20 an hour to clear that after taxes are taken out.
If the man panhandled for eight hours and the misdirected generosity of his marks kept pace his daily take would be the equivalent of netting $160 for an eight-hour work day. In a year's time he'd clear $41,600 or just under $5,000 or so of what a single person making $65,000 a year would clear after paying typical payroll taxes.
It gets worse. I can name a dozen - if not more - young adults in their early 20s struggling to make it on a minimum wage of $9 an hour. Since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, they can't get more than 30 hours - if that - from their entry level employment due to business concerns about insurance costs. And because their hours are now more flexible than before they have a difficult task juggling two jobs which they need to survive. As a result they are living at home with parents or staying three or so to an apartment.
In short, they gross $45 for a five-hour work day while a panhandler nets $50 plus food for three hours of strumming his guitar and hanging out with his dog.
Then let's not forget the people whose jobs it is critical so the rest of us can eat - farm workers. They work at piece rates that no matter how hard they hustle falls below minimum wage. Three years ago, onion pickers in Stockton were paid 80 cents per bag or the equivalent of $60 a day. Again, the panhandler who might get a free Big Mac with onions the farm worker picked clears more in three hours of begging than a hardworking man or woman in the fields does in eight hours.
Every year, typically two of the 100 plus families that return annually to the migrant farm worker camp in French Camp eventually save enough money to buy a home in Stockton. They aren't panhandling. They're busting their rear-ends to make a living. And they certainly aren't spending their hard earned cash on booze and non-essentials.
The bottom line is if despite all odds they can stand on their own two feet and even managed to own part of the American Dream as modest as their homes may be why do others look for a free ride -and get it - thanks to "generous" souls?
Yes, I've heard their argument. There are many homeless with mental health issues but there are those who chose to drink away their money or not adhere to rules needed to get off the street. It is a choice. You can make all sorts of excuses but it is a conscious decision.
Thirty years ago while working for The Press-Tribune in Roseville, I penned a column about a transaction that I observed in a 7-Eleven. A woman paid for some items with food stamps then used the several dollars in change along with some money she pulled from her pocket to buy fountain sodas and several lottery tickets.
I wrote that people getting assistance should forgo "luxuries" such as soda and lottery tickets since welfare was designed to cover the essentials needed to survive. And if they could splurge they certainly weren't as bad off as they contended.
I got a dozen angry letters saying how mean-spirited I was and that even welfare recipients were entitled to things such as soda and lottery tickets.
They actually used the word "entitled."
I don't see farm workers mouthing that word nor do I see single moms or young adults trying to make ends meet on minimum wage jobs utter those words either.
Nothing against homeless people but if day in and day out of you chose to stay on the street and panhandle you've made it clear that you have no intention of going back to the proverbial rat race. So why should I support you with any more than the $350 or so a month in general assistance you can get from the county?
Is it hard to get back on your own two feet? Yes. But people struggle to do it every day that are taxed for services that assist those who have no desire or moxie to pull themselves up by the bootstraps.
Keep that in mind the next time a panhandler serenades you with his tale of woe.
He might just be making more per hour by playing people's heartstrings than his targets make doing honest work.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.