Charity – Why Taxes and Welfare are bad (Part 4)

There are many reasons why welfare programs fail to actually help the way they are intended to. Programs like Medicaid and foodstamps at least make an attempt to control what the money is spent on (although my sister used to work at a grocery store, and would come home very angry after seeing people spend foodstamps on gourmet items like lobster tails. I don’t live in poverty, but it has still been a while since I’ve had lobster). When the government is sending out a check they can’t control what it is used for. A study done in 1993 (over 15 years ago) showed that 28% of adults on welfare (90% of whom are women) abuse or are addicted to drugs or alcohol21. The following statistics all come from the same study. It reports that 37% of women on welfare ages 18 to 24 abuse or are addicted to alcohol and drugs. It also says that 50% smoke cigarettes. The study also indicates that these numbers likely underestimate the actual problem, because they are all self-reported and people tend to be reluctant to admitting things like illegal drug use.

So, the government forces you to give some of your money to them, in order to support social programs like welfare. What happens to this money? A large, disproportionately large, portion of it disappears in layers of government bureaucracy. Everybody gets paid, everyone needs more money for their department. It costs a lot of money to run a program that distributes money to families all over the country. You need buildings, workspace, papers, computers, newer software, postage, informational packets, electricity, etc. All the expenses of a business, only they are providing a ’free’ service using your tax dollars. Then there are the employees; management, case workers, secretaries, receptionists, translators, as well as program managers at every level of government to ensure that things are working as inefficiently as possible. So eventually some small portion of your confiscated money makes its way into the hands of a welfare recipient. That money has a chance of going to someone who may not actually qualify because their income is very underreported. So it is just being spent on consumable products to enrich their lifestyle. Or it is very likely being spent on alcohol, cigarettes or illegal drugs. Or maybe it is going to a mother who doesn’t live with her children. I think very little of the money the government takes is going to hard-working, law abiding families who just had a little bad luck and will be back on their feet soon.

I’m going to include a few random examples.  These experiences make up the bulk of the reasons why I am so opposed to government ‘charity.’  I’ve spent a fair amount of time interacting with people in need of charity.  There is one woman in particular I give rides to on occasion.  She has no income, aside from her multiple government benefits, and I’m continually encouraging her to look for work.  She says she has a very low tolerance for stress, and so she simply can’t get a job.  She doesn’t want to work.  When I’ve offered her specific jobs before she has actually said to me that she would need to check if she could still collect certain benefits if she got a job.  She has to move, soon, and can’t afford much.  She refuses to move out of the city, where she might be able to afford something, because if she left Chicago she would lose city benefits.  In the time I’ve known her she has been in the hospital multiple times. Once she called and asked for a ride to the hospital because she was feeling nauseous. I said it would be a couple of hours before I would have the car and she said, “Well, I can just call an ambulance.”  Of course she can.  She’s not paying for it; you are.

I’ve called another man I know, who isn’t working and collects benefits.  I called with an easy, guaranteed, well paying job, and he said no thanks, he just wasn’t interested.  He said he had $6 in his pocket.  Why would he not take a job?  I have another good friend who has a husband in school.  They qualify for medicaid, subsidized housing and food stamps because they don’t really have an income. (My husband and I qualify for all that stuff too, but we’re fine without it.)  My friend uses it, though.  Her food budget used to be $200 a month, but they qualified for $500 in food stamps.  They filled out an application for subsidized housing, and got in just a week after her husband got a really well paying part time job, full time over the summer.  However, the apartments only check the income once a year, and so despite the fact that they don’t really qualify now they are living in an apartment partially paid for by the government.  I was told by a government employee that if a woman qualifies for medicaid during her pregnancy, she is covered for her entire pregnancy and her child for a year after birth, no matter what.  Her husband could get a job making $1 million a year, and she would still qualify for that period.  My husband and I have a friend who said he offered to buy a homeless man a meal, and the man said no, but asked him to buy him a pack of cigarettes instead.  The following is a picture I took of a man pushing two shopping carts full of soda out of Jewel Osco.  I was behind him in line, where he purchased the soda with his Link card (Illinois food stamps).  You tax dollars at work

Or, how do you like these news stories on how your taxes are being used?

Man on food stamps wins lottery… and stays on food stamps.

California supreme court decides welfare can be used for cigarettes and alcohol.

I think it is wrong that the government has the power to take my money and give it to someone else. The government should not have that right. Just think it through; you worked hard, you sacrificed to get a good job, the government came in and took your money and sent it to someone else, someone who maybe could have gotten a job but elected not to, someone who may not need it anyway, or someone who used it to get drunk. That should make you mad. There are better solutions. Michael Tanner suggested a few in his address to the senate:

“In the long-term, Congress should end all federal funding of welfare. In the short-term, Congress should end the entitlement status of welfare and return control of welfare programs to the states with as few strings as possible. Congress should resist the temptation to impose conservative mandates on the states in lieu of liberal mandates.

Begin the transition from government welfare to private charity by creating a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for contributions to private charity.

Make adoption easier. This includes eliminating barriers to transracial adoption, including repeal of the Metzenbaum amendment passed last year.

Tear down tax and regulatory barriers to economic growth and entrepreneurism, particularly in high poverty areas.”

End all federal funding! But what would happen to the people who need it? In the short term, utilize private charities. In the long term, learn to be self-sufficient. America is the most generous nation in the world. In 1995 we contributed $125 billion to charity. (Not my husband and me, ’we’ refers to all Americans.) Aside from monetary donations, people also give in food drives (is there a school in the nation that doesn’t do a food drive?), they give of their time, they give clothing, blankets, toiletries; doctors volunteer time in free clinics; Lawyers work pro bono. I can’t think of a cause that doesn’t have a charity for it, and people donate.

Just a quick digression. My husband and I, though we’ve spent the first few years of our marriage in the ’low-income’ bracket, give over 10% of our total income to charities. I know this is going to sound like bragging, but I’m making an important point. In 2007 my husband and I gave just over $4,000 dollars; we donated to humanitarian funds for disasters, quite a bit to our church welfare programs, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Boy Scouts, and always participated in food drives for the local food bank. The next year happened to be the year Joe Biden was elected to be the next Vice-President. During the election several sources reported that his charitable contributions over the past ten years were $3,690 (as claimed on his tax returns). During that time period he had an income of almost $2.5 million dollars. Last year we were living under the ’low-income’ line, which is $38,000. Which means he made at least 80 times more money than we did. He may have had random additional contributions, but to match our givings, he would have had to give about $300,000. Now, I don’t say this to put anyone down, but to make the point that I don’t trust liberal politicians to be generous with my money when they aren’t generous with their own. When Joe Biden tells the rich that they are unpatriotic when they don’t want to contribute more of their income to taxes, I get angry. When Obama laughs and says Republicans are trying to call selfishness a virtue because we don’t like higher taxes, I get angry. Americans are generous. Republicans happen to be more generous than Democrats (Read, “Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks).  I do not mind giving my money to a good cause. I do mind giving my money to a hoard of unnecessary government employees and teenage moms.

So, back to why charities are better than the government. I would try to reword it, but Michael Tanner says it as well as I ever could:

“Private charities are able to individualize their approach to the circumstances of poor people in ways that governments can never do. For example, private charities may reduce or withhold benefits if a recipient does not change his or her behavior. Private charities are much more likely than government programs to offer counseling and one-on-one follow-up rather than simply providing a check. …because of the separation of church and state, government welfare programs are not able to support programs that promote religious values as away out of poverty. Yet, church and other religious charities have a history of success in dealing with the problems that often lead to poverty. And, private charity is much more likely to be targeted to short-term emergency assistance than long-term dependence. Thus, private charity provides a safety net, but not a way of life.

Private charities are also much better able to target assistance to those who really need help. Because eligibility requirements for government welfare programs are arbitrary and cannot be changed to fit individual circumstances, many people in genuine need do not receive assistance, while benefits often go to people who do not really need them. More than 40 percent of all families living below the poverty level receive no government assistance. Yet, more than half of the families receiving means tested benefits are not poor. Thus, a student may receive food stamps, while a homeless man with no mailing address goes without. Private charities are not bound by such bureaucratic restrictions.”

Finally, private charity has a better record of actually delivering aid to recipients. With all the money being spent on federal and state social welfare programs, surprisingly little money actually reaches recipients. In 1994, for example, federal, state and local government welfare spending averaged $35,756 for every family of four below the poverty level. Obviously, the poor did not receive anywhere near this amount of money. In 1965, 70 cents of every dollar spent by the government to fight poverty went directly to poor people. Today, 70 cents of every dollar goes not to poor people, but to government bureaucrats and others who serve the poor. Few private charities have the bureaucratic overhead and inefficiency of government programs. There is also the fact that charities are accountable to the people donating to them. It is a choice, and there are lots of charities to choose from, so people choose the charity that uses their money to do the most good for the cause they support. Like I’ve mentioned, I’m a fan of St. Jude’s children’s cancer research hospital. They claim that $0.85 of every donated dollar is used for treatment and research. If I found out that they were being wasteful, and only $0.30 of every dollar was being used efficiently, I could choose to donate to Primary Children’s Hospital instead. Do we have the choose of not paying taxes until the government starts using them more efficiently?

Or, a more extreme example. What if I found out that one of the doctors at St. Jude’s was stealing donation money, and spending tens of thousands of dollars on prostitutes. How long do you think it would take me to stop donating money to them? It’s interesting how people are careful about how they spend donated money, knowing that if they make bad choices with it people will stop giving them money. Interestingly, the government doesn’t have that problem. They can spend our money on anything with zero accountability.

Have you ever gotten a refund after finding out your governor stole funds to buy a dream home in Caba, or (unthinkable) spend it on prostitutes. I really can’t add much more than that. Entire books have been written on government waste, government inefficiency, government corruption.  Trusting the government with our money to eliminate poverty is not the answer. They have only made it worse. Private charities do much more to help people change their lifestyles so they can escape the poverty cycle. I don’t believe poverty can ever be completely eliminated; there will always be people who choose a life of drugs or absolute laziness, I do not believe that hard-working people should be forced to support them in making those choices.

I hope so far you understand and agree with me. I hope I don’t completely lose you here in my conclusion. I believe the way I do because I think it is best for everyone. I believe that more people enjoying more wealth and more people working for what they have is better for the entire society and better for individuals. I think people are happier when they work, even though they prefer to be lazy. I know that I will sometimes spend all day on the computer, while my toddler destroys the house. At the end of the day I go to bed moody and disgusted with myself for not getting anything done. Other days I spend hours chasing him around, cleaning up after him, working and wearing myself out. When I go to bed I’m happier; I’m happier because the house is clean and because I’ve accomplished something. That sense of accomplishment is a good, satisfying feeling. It can’t be measured. People won’t get it by sitting at home collecting government checks. If there were no welfare program some would still choose not to work. It is sad that some people make so many choices that lead them to have miserable lives. However, I still think that we should do what is best for the most people. We should not tear down the successful in a failed attempt to build up a few. I have tried and tried to understand the liberal mentality on this. I think many genuinely want to help others, and think that the government should take responsibility for it. I think I have shown, first, that it is not the government’s responsibility, and second, why the government is a bad entity to trust to serve and help those who need it. I think the liberals in power know this; I think it is their goal to have the citizens dependent on the government. Think about it; if 40% of the citizens are receiving government checks, those 40% are always guaranteed to vote for the candidate who will continue giving them checks. The liberals realize that the more people they have dependent on them, the more people they will always have voting for them. They can continue to foster dependence by keeping people on welfare in a downward spiral. They can make more people dependent on the government by continuing to raise taxes until the economy is so bad that the ma jority of Americans are receiving checks. Even if they don’t need the checks, few people will vote for a candidate who says they will stop providing the benefits they are used to. People vote their self-interests, even if it is worse for the economy as a whole, and if they don’t realize that it really is worse for them personally. The liberals claim to be for the working class and poor, they label the conservatives selfish, and people believe them without thinking about the effects of their policies. The promise of easy money is too enticing to resist, and so they vote against a better future so they can have it easy today. The liberals know this, and so they continue making grand promises, knowing that they will have the power to tax the rich until they get all the money they’ve promised to hand out. Eventually the rich run out of money, the liberals control every corner of the government, and the people have nothing.


About whyimconservative

I'm a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom with a Biochemistry degree living in Austin. I love my kids, my husband and my country. I want to explain why I'm conservative.

Posted on June 6, 2011, in Why Taxes and Welfare are Bad and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Could you link to that 15 year old CBO study from which you’d culled those statistics? I’m not taking issue with the argument— only that the source should be as easy to provide as the specific data you’ve pulled.

    “My husband and I, though we’ve spent the first few years of our marriage in the ’low-income’ bracket, give over 10% of our total income to charities. I know this is going to sound like bragging, but I’m making an important point”

    Let not the left hand know what the right is doing, Pamela. You can’t say, “I don’t want to sound holier than thou, buuuuuut…” without actually forging your argument based on ‘holier than thou’.

    • Califano, Joseph et al. Substance Abuse and Women on Welfare. The national Center on Addication and Substance Abuse. Columbia University. June 1994.

      This blog is about why I’m conservative. One of the major reasons I’m conservative is because Liberals seem to think they should choose how my money is appropriated, always in the name of ‘helping the poor’ and ‘equality’. However, these same Liberals do not give their own money to the causes they claim to support, which gives me the impression that they do not actually advocate helping the poor, but instead taking money from those that work and centralizing it in the government. I think it is a powerful point that one random conservative family living below the appointed ‘low income’ line gave 80 times (by percentage of income) what the second most powerful Liberal in the nation gave, a man who calls Conservatives ‘unpatriotic’ for opposing policies to confiscate more of their money for people like him, who don’t choose to give themselves, to choose how to redistribute. I can not think of a way to make this point as strongly without using the numbers I have. It is your prerogative to think I’m bragging.

  2. You can prove that these (being all of them) do not give to the causes they support? Have you done a census of every liberal and their spending habits?

    • Read “Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks. Did I say anywhere that Liberals do not give to causes they support? I said that they give less of their own money, and more of mine through confiscation and force of law.

  3. 🙂 Good job – lots of good points whyimconservative! I agree with you and have seen similar things.

    Yes, the bible does say you should not let the right hand know what the left is doing ie. charity, etc. should be anonymous, not something you are blowing your own horn about or then you already receive your reward here, from the people who hear you and praise you for it … do it in secret and your reward is in heaven …

    HOWEVER whyimconservative makes a very important point that is really brought home by the numbers quoted. I have done the same thing – hearing what one of our oh so compassionate and caring leaders gave to charity one year and realizing that they made 10 or 20 times or even more in income than our family did and yet we gave more than double, or even triple or quadruple to charity than they did on our much smaller salaries. I have also seen the “who really cares” whyiamconservative mentions – eye opening as well.

    Those labeled as conservative on whole do much more charitable giving by percentage of income than those labeled liberal. That’s not to say that there are not stingy conservatives or extremely generous liberals … but on average it holds true that conservatives are more generous with their charitable giving as a group than liberals.

    • Thank you 🙂 It’s great to have support, and know that some people (hopefully most) understand the point I’m making. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and hope I can keep you coming back for more!

  4. I wish there were some realistic way to change the way things are. I was reading the biography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin decided that they needed street lights. Back then, the only way to get things done was to canvas the town for donations. If the citizens agreed with you that there was a need, they donated and the project got done. If they didn’t think it was worth it, then too bad. He knocked on doors until he had the money he needed. They did this for everything from city projects to charity events. What a logical way to do things!

    • I love this! What I wouldn’t give for such a system. We pay for the things we want. Not the things some lobbyist has convinced some congressman to dump millions of our dollars into. What a crock.

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