A lot of people read my blog - I know, because I look at the numbers, but I don't have a lot of followers or commentators. But interestingly, I had two fairly strong-minded commentators for my recent post It's Really Easy To Cop Out. Both came from backgrounds with an absence of abundance, and both decried the government as the way forward to social and financial well being for all.
It's a common refrain, especially these days.
A particularly interesting point in the lengthy and well-written comments was the idea that instead of supporting taxation for social programs, I should 'write a check to a charity'.
What's interesting is that we do support a lot of not for profit programs. We sponsor a child and give regularly in addition to World Vision. We support our church, which has a huge number of social programs it supports - in fact, I recently (gulp) became a co-chair of their capital campaign committee, which is working to create more resources to help more people. In addition to the dollars we tithe, I give up my time, missing bedtimes with my daughter, something I hate to miss, to ensure that their mission continues. Add to that our regular donations to a local food pantry, Beverly Bootstraps, the Salvation Army (bless them, really - they help the people most of us would cross the street to avoid, and that alone makes them worthy of our money), and our ongoing support of a Massachusetts living history museum that we love, Old Sturbridge Village, and I'd say that our giving is pretty well rounded.
I don't tell you this to toot my own horn. I tell you this so that you know that yes, we give - substantially in some cases, continue to give through a period of diminished income, and think that giving is important.
But there are limitations to charities. For one, they can pick and choose their audiences. I really don't believe in Catholic Charities social policies that demean women to lesser roles, and effectively rule out helping gays and other individuals that meet their perspective. I don't like it, but they are well within their rights to refuse to aid - it is, after all, their charity.
I'm not saying that the government does it all well or right. Obviously, they do not. But they have to help everyone - regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age or any other potential limitor in the private charity space. And because of their size and scope, they can literally force the requirement to help people down the throats of those who would rather not. Personally, I think that's good. If the free market system was working, we wouldn't be in the economic place we are. Remember, government oversight didn't create this mess. Lack of it did. If you think Lloyd Blankfein is working for the greater good, you need to put down your crack pipe. If you think that the richest 5% controlling 85% of the wealth is good - and if you think they all earned it honestly, I can't tell you enough how wrong you are. You probably won't believe me, but you are.
I'm not a fan of ever-expanding government, but I've yet to see a proffered better way. The markets don't take care of those who cannot, or will not, care for themselves- and really, on some level does it matter if the fact of the matter is that someone will not step up and take care of themselves vs. those that cannot? Sure, it's easier to want to support the cannots, but ultimately, the will nots are the cannots for whatever reason. I'm not saying it's right that some people game the system. But I am saying it is our responsibility as a society to ensure that everyone has a place to stay, food in their stomachs and basic health care.
The measure of us as a people is how we treat our fellow human beings -especially those that need the most. I for one don't think I should get to decide who is deserving of help and who is not, rarely do we ever have all the facts about our fellow man.
Your mileage may vary with what I have to say. But screaming about the failure of the government is screaming about the failure of yourself to come up with a better option.