Posts Tagged ‘Government Charity’

Help the homeless—go to jail?

Posted on May 19, 2014 at 1.49 pm

This week’s column is about the spate of anti-homeless and anti-charity laws popping up in cities nationwide:

It’s a common practice of the media to declare any disagreement in politics a “War on X.” But as much as that phrase might be overused—there really is a war on the homeless.

Take last week’s story from Daytona Beach, Florida. A local couple have spent more than a year providing food to the homeless in a city park. Once a week, they set up shop, feed about 40 people, and then head home.

Each week, Debbie and Chico Jimenez, who spearhead the project, make sure to clean up after themselves when they leave the park: “When we leave, there isn’t a scrap of paper on the ground, nothing. Within an hour and a half, they’re done and gone.”

Delivering these meals is only a start for the Jimenezs. Debbie and Chico run “a ministry that helps in ways beyond meals. They’ve used donations to help pay for hotel rooms, power bills, backpacks and bicycles.” Though their operation is small, it can be life-sustaining or even life-changing for those it helps.

This is a win-win for all involved, right? People are being helped, relationships are being built and no one’s getting hurt.

And then the government has to get involved.

In its efforts to centralize government control programs designed to help the homeless, the City of Daytona has begun to fine voluntary efforts to feed or aid the needy. Yes you heard that right—good Samaritans who are trying to help the less fortunate are getting ticketed by the police for doing so.

Conveniently, these fines also happen to ensure extra funding for city social programs.

When confronted with the injustice of the situation, local Police Chief Mike Chitwood said he’s just enforcing the law: “The ordinance is there, so if we catch you, we’re going to cite you.”

He added that he’s completely fine with helping people, as long as the government coordinates the effort: “If you want to feed people, and you want to do a good, Christian act, we encourage you to coordinate with the social service agencies.”

This lunacy in Daytona is far from an isolated incident.

Read the whole thing here.

Spending Cuts and Monsters

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 1.00 pm

Q. Let’s face it: the notion that anyone can be successful in this country is absolutely false. There are millions of Americans who are on food stamps/ other entitlements, and are barely staying afloat. If you want to cut these entitlements, what do you say to these people? I know that their entitlements are being taken from someone else, but that person does not need them as much. The fact that they ‘earned’ their own money doesn’t prove that they don’t deserve to be poor, but the poor people do. – musicalvegan, from tumblr.

Q. I don’t want poor people to be poor, and cutting programs, like food stamps, for the poorest of the poor is nowhere near the top of my list of priority spending cuts.

The way I see it, the government spends a lot of other people’s money which I think it has no business spending on a lot of projects which I don’t think should exist/exist in their current state. And, yes, I want to significantly reduce that spending.

But in the grand scheme of all the spending to be cut, not all spending is equal, and not all spending should be cut with equal speed. That would be impractical, unwise, and — where poverty is concerned — inhumane.

As I’ve quoted in response to similar questions in the past, I like what Ron Paul has said on this question:

While our goal is to reduce the size of the state as quickly as possible, we should always make sure our immediate proposals minimize social disruption and human suffering. Thus, we should not seek to abolish the social safety net overnight because that would harm those who have grown dependent on government-provided welfare. Instead, we would want to give individuals who have come to rely on the state time to prepare for the day when responsibility for providing aide is returned to those organizations best able to administer compassionate and effective help —churches and private charities.

Now, this need for a transition period does not apply to all types of welfare. For example, I would have no problem defunding corporate welfare programs, such as the Export-Import Bank or the TARP bank bailouts, right away. I find it difficult to muster much sympathy for the CEO’s of Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs.

When it comes to corporate welfare, I’m all for overnight cuts. Ditto foreign military aid and war spending. Ditto…well, ditto a lot of things.

But when it comes to social programs and entitlements, I’d say that some cuts can be made very quickly, while others must go more slowly and on a clear and strict schedule.

For example, older people who are wealthy on their own do not need to get a cut of my salary in the form of Social Security payments. Those checks can stop immediately. But elderly people who have very little money and rely on a program which they paid into their whole lives on the basis of a promise that it would take care of them? I have no desire to snatch away their income.

In short, there’s a difference between wanting serious spending cuts as quickly as possible and being a monster. I don’t want a bloated government, true — but I also don’t want to throw the neediest people in our country onto the street overnight when there are plenty of other cuts we can make first.

Economy as Idealism

Posted on September 27, 2010 at 10.01 pm

Q. Sometimes, when I have conversations with socialists (we call them “New Democrats” in Canada), I have no idea how to counter arguments like: But what do we do about the poor and marginalized? Cutting government spending only ensures that the poor and marginalized in society become more poor and marginalized. Then the elites can grab power and exploit the poor and marginalized. We need a balance, we need more government programs.

This has been an ongoing problem that I’ve found being on the Libertarian side of things in a very socialist country. I may just shake your magic 8-ball again for advice at some point. — coeus, from tumblr.

A. The “we must save the poor and marginalized one” is certainly a sympathetic one, I must admit.  However, it’s also based on a completely false premise:  that government helps the poor and marginalized.

In fact, I completed my honors thesis on this very subject of public vs. private charity, and I can tell you that the academic literature on the subject of private charity and comparable public programs is generally in agreement:  Private organizations are more efficient and/or effective in their work.

Why?  Well, for a number of reasons which I’ll only briefly mention here:

  • Private charities act in a marketplace of sorts, competing for donations.  If one fails to perform, it will lose support.  Government programs, on the other hand, get more money if they fail, an incredibly perverse incentive.
  • Private charities lack the political associations that government agencies inherently have.  This is especially important in international aid, where private charities can go places a government agency can’t touch.
  • Private charities statistically spend far less on administrative costs than comparable government agencies do.  This allows them to devote more resources to actually helping those in need.
  • Finally, private charities have more freedom to innovate and choose flexible solutions to the problems they deal with.  Government agencies may not have the same option because of their obligation to higher-ups, the legislature, and taxpayers.

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