Monday, July 09, 2012


And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly before your God.
-Micah 6:8

I teach Sunday School for adults in my church, and one of the topics that comes up once in a while is the idea of charity. Some scruffy looking fellow holds out his hand on the street and mumbles something about change. What do you do?

Christians are told to help those in need, to be generous to the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the downtrodden. The example of Jesus Christ and his selfless sacrifice for people such as myself who do not deserve it moves us to try to do as He did. The Bible even goes so far as to tell Christians that if someone asks for your coat, offer your shirt too. Yet at the same time, this example and rule of love has to be tempered with wisdom.

Giving a drug addict money so they can buy more drugs isn't exactly going to help them. Its not loving to feed someone's self destructive tendencies, it isn't good for them to help them do bad. And here comes the dilemma: where is your limit and how should you help?

John Stossel helped complicate matters with a few experiments. For example, a while back he offered seventeen bums who claimed they wanted work a job. Out of the seventeen, one showed up for work. They either were so irresponsible they didn't remember to come, or they were lying and didn't really want work in the first place, just a hand out. Recently, he tried another experiment:
Fox Business Network host John Stossel appeared on Fox & Friends on Thursday to promote an upcoming segment on his program where he dresses like a homeless man and panhandles on the streets of New York. He says he was conducting an experiment in order to see how much money he could raise for a segment entitled “nation of freeloaders.”
“I had heard that some people beg for a living and make big bucks — $80,000 a year in some cases,” said Stossel. “I made at a rate of about $24,000 tax free — I just did it for a couple hours — But, with one sign that said ‘help, I really need help,’ and one sign that said ‘hey, I’ll be honest with you, I just want a beer.’ I collected the same rate.”
He pulled down $11 an hour on average for sitting with a sign and looking miserable. And in some places, you don't even have to look bummy, you can just look like a punk who wants money. Pandhandlers in places like Eugene, Oregon are shameless, they're just college kids who want some extra money to part with, and they are arrogant and sometimes even obnoxious about it.

Its one thing to help someone genuinely in need, but to help some punk kid just because he's lazy and has his hand out is entirely without justification. Helping out a charitable organization - a reputable one - that will help bums out is a good use of money. Handing a ten to the old bum so he can get more heroin or Mogen David 20/20 isn't. Its a matter of wisdom guiding love.

But John Stossel takes it further. He's not just pointing at street bums:
To be fair, it’s wealthy people who do most of the freeloading. Corporate welfare, farm subsides and I collected federal flood insurance because I had a beach house.
Farms get billions of dollars a year in subsidies in America alone, just for being farmers. Corporations get tax cuts which equal billions more just to keep them in an area and encourage them to build in a certain location. People who have full coverage health plans use them for the slightest complaint because its cheap - or even free - to get a check up. As many on the left liked to point out, the same blue haired engaged citizens calling for cuts in government spending were using medicare and medicaid, social security, and other government programs.

We're almost all bums, when it comes down to it. And while that reeking bum on the street is easy to look down your nose at, while its easy to condemn welfare queens and food stamp recipients buying Hostess Twinkies, almost every one of us is on the dole. We're all living off our fellow citizens to one degree or another, even while we condemn others.

Some of that living is reasonable and just. Paying some taxes so we have streets and police and fire and power and so on is not improper or troubling. I'm all for privatization of many things, but I don't want a private police force protecting the wealthiest of a community while the rest have to live on a gun and a prayer.

But we take it beyond that point, and that's the way the federal government likes it. The more you depend on the generosity of politicians, the more powerful they are, the more likely they are to retain power, and the more control they have over you so they can implement policy.

Getting a state to do what the federal government wants is tricky. Technically, the federal government cannot constitutionally tell a state how to run its internal affairs. The federal government gets around that by penalizing states who won't play along. Want those highway funds, Ohio? Best obey our pollution controls. Want that matching bullet train funding, California? You better run your schools a certain way. Its like a pimp controlling a hooker: you better do what I say or no more crack for you, baby.

And the states have been growing ever more dependent on those federal dollars each year. The states gleefully go along because if they can tax the entire nation for their pet projects it means less taxation on their constituents and they can claim they didn't raise any taxes. The entire 50 states have more money than any one of them, so its a huge fund that each state wants to tap into. Here's what's happened in just the last decade:

State AddictionMore and more dependency on the federal government. The bulk of the "stimulus" package was exactly that: throwing cash at states so they could maintain programs and not reform public employee union benefits just a little bit longer. In 2008, Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute wrote:
Today, there are more than 800 state and local aid programs, based on my count of programs in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. They range from the giant $225 billion Medicaid to hundreds of programs that most taxpayers have probably never heard of, such as a $15 million program for "Nursing Workforce Diversity," a $120 million program for "Boating Safety Financial Assistance," and a $150 million program for "Healthy Marriages."

Total federal grant spending in fiscal 2008 was $467 billion. Real, or inflation-adjusted, spending on nonhealth grants rose rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s, fell during the 1980s, and soared in the early 2000s. Real spending on health care grants, mainly Medicaid, has more than quadrupled since 1985.
That giant sucking sound isn't jobs going to Mexico, its states at the government teat. And its not just states. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the federal government - congress particularly - forces any business over a certain size to lobby and court them to survive. Its not good enough in the US to just be a good company that follows the rules and works hard. You have to kiss the congressional ring and throw them gifts as well, like a mob boss. They get their cut, so you can keep doing business.

And that's why we're sixteen TRILLION dollars in debt and climbing. Congressmen don't want to give up that power, don't want to cut any spending, don't want to change the system. And now, thanks to the Supreme Court, we have a grossly unconstitutional, insane health insurance system that compels people to pay for health care that its proponents claim is horrible. This product sucks, now buy it or we'll punish you. And congress will not give this up.

Sure, they'll give it a shot, then say "well we just couldn't get the votes." They'll change some bits and trim around the edges where nothing in the bill is hurt, and claim victory for repealing the bill, but they are not giving up 20% of the country's economy. Because in the end, they want everyone to be a panhandler because that gives them all the power.

This situation will not change this side of an Act of God or violent, bloody revolt. And the ones to blame for where we find ourselves is the guy in the mirror.

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