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Saturday essay: Badge unworthy

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

The email came from a local Boy Scout, 16, part of the process to earn his communications merit badge. He wrote in response to my column of Sunday last about how unemployment benefits and food stamps are not an “economic stimulus.” It's fundamental economics, despite what “progressives” claim.

But the young man exposed his poor reading comprehension when he contended that I wrote “how food stamps are detrimental to the economy and should be eliminated.” Nowhere in the column was that point of view expressed.

Far more disturbing, however, was this statement: “(Y)ou fail to take into account the extremely wealthy who have more than enough money to spare.”

Continued the young man, in a subsequent email exchange: “I know they have enough money because of their extravagant spending, buying such items as yachts and luxury cars. If they have enough money to purchase these items, then surely they have enough to contribute toward the less fortunate,” he wrote.

But they already do, I wrote back: The top 1 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all taxes. The top 40 percent paid 106 percent of all taxes. The bottom 40 percent “pay” a negative 9 percent. Never mind, too, that yacht- and luxury car-building are economic stimuli, employing many people the world over.

The young correspondent fell silent. One should hope he is not representative of all Scouts seeking their communications merit badge.

— Colin McNickle

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