My dad and the can lady

By Joe Schembrie
web posted October 2, 2000

My dad was a fighter pilot in World War II, flying off aircraft carriers in the Pacific Theater. After the war, he worked at a variety of jobs, eventually starting his own construction contracting business. He died about ten years ago, from a mysterious brain illness that doctors never were able to fully diagnose.

The Can Lady, of course, is Winifred Skinner, a 79-year old retiree in Des Moines, Iowa, who was recently showcased at an Al Gore campaign event, in which she described how she spends two to three hours a day picking up cans from the roadside, in order to have enough food to eat after paying over $200 a month for her prescription drugs.

What does my dad have to do with the Can Lady? In their personal lives, absolutely nothing. My dad never met the Can Lady. They lived thousands of miles apart. My dad, however, was a successful businessman -- and so was, according to Al Gore, one of The Rich.

Thus, Ms. Skinner, who supports Al Gore and has supported liberal Democrats like him all her life, must have considered my father (who fought against fascism) a 'class enemy,' to be heavily taxed and regulated.

Now, Ms. Skinner herself denies that she is a 'welfare bum.' She says that she could apply for food stamps but does not. She also insists: "I don't want the taxpayers to pay for my medicine."

On the other hand, she embraces Al Gore.

Now, Ms. Skinner, you deny being a bum, but your politics say otherwise. You can't insist that you want to be self-sufficient -- and then support politicians who advocate government hand-outs.

Maybe, Ms. Skinner, you would say, "I want hand-outs for others, less fortunate than myself." But there are no such people. The Democrats looked hard, and the worst they could find was you.

And ironically, your refusal to take food stamps has become an excuse for Al Gore to demand that the government spend $253 billion of other people's money on an unneeded prescription drug hand-out program.

And you're going along with it by publicly supporting him. I'd rather you took the food stamps.

I wish you'd done that twenty years ago. Maybe my father would still be alive.

You see, the Democrats base their political power on perceived sob stories like yours. They use sob stories about people 'forced to choose between food and drugs' as an excuse to attack the drug companies. Now, those attacks -- in the form of legislation, regulations, taxes, and just plain harassment -- inhibit drug companies from doing their jobs, which is to develop new drugs.

The Democrats win votes by attacking profits. But profits are the reason drug companies develop drugs. Without profits, there are no drugs. Politicians, after all, don't make drugs.

With a free-market incentive of higher profits, medical technology would have progressed further than it has. Maybe enough to have saved my father's life. Surely there are millions of others whose lives would be prolonged, if only the government weren't attacking the very people who are trying to cure them.

And your little sob story about 'choosing between food and drugs' is why the politicians get away with it.

Well, it just seems unfair to me. In all things but money, you are a winner of life's lottery in comparison to my father. He went to war, you stayed home. He worked harder than you, all his life. He died shortly after retirement, at age sixty-eight. Even today, he would only be seventy-eight -- a year less than you. It just seems so unfair that after all these other advantages, you also demand an income transfer from people like my father. Not for food. But as 'compassion' for destitute people who exist only as an illusion -- which the Democrats sustain by holding you up as their false example.

Ms. Skinner, I have to call you a parasite. If you want me to stop, you have two choices here. One is, you can swallow your pride and take food stamps -- and stop providing the Democrats with a poster child for their war against the drug companies. Or, you can stop voting for Democrats.

You don't like being called a parasite? Okay, then I'll call you a Democrat. Same thing.

Am I being cruel? Well, I hope you continue to live a long and healthy life. But if you die soon, it'll probably be because medical technology wasn't advanced enough to keep you healthy. Blame the liberal Democrats for that. They're the cruel ones.

Joe Schembrie is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right and can be reached at

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