Too much handouts, not enough public service | Featured Columnists

Lately I’ve been writing about what Guam was like in the late 60s, 70s and early 80s. Usually simpler times and the government of Guam was much more rural in nature, much less complicated and you could actually getting things done relatively easily.

The whole government was smaller, less complicated, and much easier to navigate than it is today. Also, people weren’t as dependent on government handouts as they seem to be today.

A few years ago, I remember going to the Department of Public Health and Social Services and counting the benefits that could be received by any unemployed resident with a small family.

These included housing, food stamps, public health services, etc.

We then had a Chamber of Commerce meeting and I mentioned that if you add up all these benefits, it adds up to just under $ 45,000 per year. It was $ 45,000 with no real work or productivity being offered or given in exchange for that free money.

The Director of Public Health and Social Services at the time took offense at my addition and asked how I arrived at this total. My answer was simple, I received it from his offices in Mangilao.

From my point of view, it was the beginning of the public dependency that we see too much today. A public dependency that is tearing the very fabric of our island and the entire nation as well.

It’s a set of circumstances in which you have an elite political sector of the community that has made being elected and staying in power a way of life, as opposed to short term public service.

All communities (especially smaller ones), regardless of their location on earth, have always had unique leadership challenges.

Challenges that have historically revolved around the accumulation of political power and money in the hands of a privileged few. A few who are not elected because of their desire for public service but rather because of their personalities, family ties, and a similar propensity for morning coffee, bacon frying, and eye candy. ‘a woman, the willingness to promise more than they could ever deliver.

At the national and local levels, we have seen entire families fall into this category and, with few exceptions, use the position of government to acquire or increase their individual wealth and power.

Another thing that came to my mind was why not ask all the people who get free money from the government to do some kind of community work in return for these payments.

It could be similar to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration in 1937, when 8.5 million people were building bridges, public buildings, public parks, and airports.

Only today and in Guam, it could be called the LLG PFW (pay for work) program. These people could be used to beautify and clean public buildings, clear scenic views, do road repairs, clean public parks and bathrooms, dump garbage around the island, and other tasks.

In this way, those who take advantage of public money to survive would give back to the community that provided them with that same money. And we would have a cleaner, safer, prettier Guam.


Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of media organizations in Guam and Hawaii, former director of operations for USA Today International / Asia, and a longtime business and civic leader in Guam.

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