Living free and easy in America

Published 7:19 pm Saturday, January 5, 2013

By Steven S. Kirkpatrick

A few weeks ago, I formally launched my new business; it’s called “Squeegee Squad,” and we specialize in window cleaning and exterior home cleaning.

So far, so good. I’m having a great time, and my customers love the service. We also offer a “free gift” with every cleaning estimate, a marketing strategy developed by my wife (and business partner) Susan, whom I consider a true marketing genius.

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In response to an advertisement, a lady called recently and asked me to come to her home and give her a cleaning estimate. Great! The marketing is working!

I scheduled the appointment, and then asked if she had any questions. She thought for just a moment, and then asked: “Am I going to get my free gift?” I assured her she would, even if she decided not to hire me to clean her windows — no strings attached.

About an hour later, she called me back and asked (you can’t make this up): “Do I have to pay you to clean my windows?” I politely explained to her that we do charge for our services, and added that this enables me to pay my employees, who will work very hard to make her a happy customer.

She immediately replied: “Well, I don’t want you to clean my windows if I have to pay for it! I want to cancel my appointment.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I firmly believe that this was not a unique, isolated episode, but rather a sign of the times; it’s a symptom of the erosion of our society. But what else can we expect when the word “entitlement” has become the most common four-syllable word in the English language?

Consider that over half of all Americans receive some sort of financial benefits from the federal government.

It’s one thing for a business — especially one that sells to consumers — to offer special deals of one sort or another where it offers something for “free.” A classic example is “buy one get one free.” We all know that you’re not getting anything for free – you’re simply paying half price for two. Such are the ways of the marketplace and the laws of supply and demand.

Sure, I offer a “free gift” with every cleaning estimate, but the cost comes out of my marketing budget. I fund this budget with revenue from paying customers that I deduct from my profits. So that gift might be free for you, but somebody is paying for it: me.

Please don’t take this as a complaint; I do it voluntarily, without coercion, and with great pleasure. Still, it seems that every year more and more of our fellow citizens truly have expectations of getting something for nothing.

Alas, there is no such thing. If you receive something of value without paying for it, then someone else has paid for it, or will pay for it.

And there’s the rub: The government can’t raise enough money through taxation and other revenue sources to pay for all of its promised entitlements, so to get the money it needs, it issues debt – lots of debt. Our nation is borrowing vast sums of money in order to give it away.

Your share of this debt – and the share of every man, woman and child in this country – is now more than $52,000; this figure increased by nearly $16,000 per person during Mr. Obama’s first term in office.

But don’t worry; you’ll never have to pay it back. After all, it’s not your debt – it’s the government’s!


Steven S. Kirkpatrick lives in Chuckatuck. He is a consultant and advisor to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Email him at