stop snitchin

Courtesy: Pony Apprehension via flickr (CC-BY-SA-ND-2.0)

Dear Crabby,

Is there any “good” time to tattle on someone who is playing the system?

I would never do it — although I know plenty of people that do — but maybe that’s mostly because I wouldn’t know how. But recently, some very long-term acquaintances — who were pretty freely putting out there that their accountant was making their tax returns make them look like low-income — got caught scamming welfare and have been kicked out of the honey pot.

It couldn’t have been too much worse, as there’s like, three generations involved. Maybe four. And I have known about it for years.

So, to find out that someone else tattled on this seamy situation kind of makes me think that I should have been a little more forceful in talking to them.

I guess what I am wondering is: Where is the line drawn? As I said, I know many situations where this is true, but I’ve never researched how to go about letting the government know about it. And in the meantime, this has cost welfare tens of thousands of dollars in benefits paid out. But on the other hand, being a snitch seems so Orwellian, and I really don’t think I want to go there.

How do you ask yourself the question, should I or shouldn’t I?

Sincerely,

A Snitch in Time Saves Fines

Dear Snitch,

I can’t tell you where to draw the line. Everyone has to decide that for themselves.

For instance, I’d call the cops if I heard domestic violence next door. But I wouldn’t call them on a loud, late-night party. I’d blow the whistle on government or corporate corruption, but probably not on individuals “gaming the system” as you say. That’s just me.

Do not forget, though, I absolutely will citizen’s-arrest you if you’re in front of me at the supermarket and don’t put one of those dividers behind your groceries on the conveyor belt. (Or I’ll at least make a noticeably annoyed noise as I reach past you to grab one myself.) I mean, you see me holding these milk jugs and 12-packs of beer. This stuff isn’t light. I want to put it down.

Uh. Sorry. Got a little off track there. The thing is: There are crimes being committed all around us all the time, but nobody likes a hall monitor. So basically its a question of what offends your particular morals enough to go from, “I can’t believe Jimmy and Joanne stole from the government; anyway what time is the new ‘Westworld’ on?” to, “I can’t believe Jimmy and Joanne stole from the government; I’m going to watch them burn. Mark my words! They WILL BURN.” (Note: I pulled those names out of the ether. I am not referring to an actual couple, though Jimmy and Joanne know full well what they did.)

I realize this is sort of a non-answer, and I apologize for that. Advice columnists aren’t supposed to be all, “Well, whatever YOU think is right is what you should do.” That sort of defeats the purpose of the whole endeavor, but it’s all I’ve got for you.

That being the case, I’ll use my last couple of allotted column-inches this week to tell you that welfare fraud isn’t nearly as commonplace as politicians and conspiracy theorists would have you believe. “Welfare queens” (which is an inherently offensive term) don’t really exist, or they do in such small numbers as to be statistically insignificant compared to government corruption or error. So your acquaintances weren’t only stealing from all of us, they were doing their part to perpetuate a harmful myth. Hmmm. You know what: Maybe you should’ve turned them in.

Hope that helps.

Sincerely, Crabby

Please send your questions, complaints and irritations to pmuir@yakimaherald.com with the subject “Dear Crabby.”