Charitable Giving

The Case for Good Works

Washington DC - Capitol Hill: United States Ca...
Washington DC – Capitol Hill: United States Capitol (Photo credit: wallyg)

It is often said that we should not expect the Federal Government to do every thing for everyone.  It can not, and should not, be expected to be all things to all people.  They are not good at it anyway.  Programs by the government created to address a variety of social needs have never been an effective way to actually meet people’s needs.  First and foremost among the problems is the inevitable bureaucracy that springs up around any social program administered by the government.  If they are at it long enough, there will be enough whistle blowers to point out the waste the program accumulates.  Proof will arise that anything run by the feds will sooner or later seem like a bad soap opera.  We can laugh about 100 dollar hammers or 200 hundred-dollar toilet seats but the sad fact is, that sort of waste happens.

Next you will find people ready to complain at the slightest hint of program abuse.  “I saw some woman at the store using food stamps and she was wearing a fur coat and had expensive jewelry!”  Never mind that it was a fake fur given to her by the Salvation Army or other second-hand store.  And the jewelry?  It was costume jewelry given by a relative.   To some it was proof the food stamps or any other program was not well run.  OK, there is abuse, and then there is more bureaucracy to try to put a stop to abuse.  The paper mill that turns into makes it harder for people in need to get the services they should have.  The Department in Charge of Wasting Your Money  in Washington, may indeed have no clue what is going on hundreds or thousand miles away.  So should all this social service be cut?  Should we eliminate waste and pay down the debt?

I am not sure about the waste part but we are sure determined to reduce the debt.  The cut backs caused by the sequester were not so much designed to eliminate the waste as they were to slash a certain per cent of government spending.  Will they eliminate waste as a way to try to meet much of  the required cut back?  You would hope that a tough look for wasteful practices would be the first item on every department agenda.  But would you not wish that was the case in any year, sequester or fiscal cliff or whatever?  Of course, but we have decided to operate on the patient using a butcher knife instead of a scalpel and the outcome will leave more than a few scars.

Big Bird may not lose his job at PBS, like one prominent Republican vainly promised, but he will have to tighten his belt.  The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will see fewer dollars to fund its programs now that the sequestration budget has gone into effect.  OK, we will have to look at fewer educational programs and more local pledge breaks.  If the inhabitants of Sesame Street are unhappy, imagine how they will feel on Main Street when programs go away and the needs of the local community become even greater.  If we touch a million or more citizens with lay-offs or furloughs, we are certainly going to hit way beyond Sesame Street and even Main Street, USA.

So what is to be done at the clinic, the food pantry, the outreach programs and everything from Head Start to Medicare?  What will happen to the neighborhood programs that enrich the communities but no longer share in the nation’s wealth?  You may recall a former governor and president who tried to funnel taxpayer dollars to community organizations through “faith-based initiatives.”  What will happen when this idea of dubious merit is retired from the public practice?  There is only one answer, I think you will know.  There is only one way we can help the elderly, the sick, the poor, the uneducated, the under trained or under employed, the homeless, the hungry, the disenfranchised citizens who find their outstretched hands slapped by the government guard dog.  If the cold white marble of the Federal heart does not have compassion in these sad economic times, your heart knows the answer.  I would like to believe that the hearts of some of your powerless representatives know too.

You are the answer, or at least part of it.  I am too.  It is the only answer because we are all in this together.  As there are cut backs at all levels of government and a general reduction in charitable giving, the only answer is for Americans who can, to step up and help their own communities.  We have a great tradition of stepping up in times of need and helping one another.  When we see something like Hurricane Katrina, we give.  When we see devastation through hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, we give.  When storms ravage areas of the northeast where such storms never hit, we give.  We are a giving people, and since we do not trust a bureaucracy to spend wisely, let us put our support directly into the hands of our neighbors and friends.  Let us reach out to the man, woman or child who needs a coat, a meal, some medical care.  Find the organization in your town or community and lend a hand.  If you do not have a few extra dollars to spare, how about a few extra hours?  When we heard the call in the past “Uncle Sam wants you” we rallied to his side.  We even went to war to insure his freedom and the freedom of everyone who lives on main street.  Now it is “Uncle Sam needs you.”  If you look up you will see that he is not pointing down at you this time as if to select you out of a crowd.  This time he is holding our his hand to you as are many other Americans.  Will you take lend him a helping hand?

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