Monday, August 22, 2011

Entitlements? vs Community Charity

I have been arguing with some home school graduates on facebook about public assistance, commonly called "entitlement" programs by those who resent them. Without exception, the claim is being made that the community or the church will step in and take care of the disabled, children of addicts, the unemployable mentally ill, etc. Personally, I find that concept completely laughable, but for argument's sake, let's say it should happen. How would the community band together to help the poor among them?

Well, it would be totally unfair and unsustainable for the compassionate among us to be saddled with the whole burden of assisting any of these terribly needy groups. I mean, I am a compassionate person, but I do not really want to bring a mentally ill unemployable person into my home and provide shelter, food, clothing and medical care for them. It's unsustainable. I might be able to do it for a few days, but to be honest I am unwilling to do that. The personal cost to my convenience, safety and net worth are not something even a compassionate person like myself is willing to bear.

So, the only way to keep this person from starving, or robbing and possibly assaulting or murdering people for money to eat, is to offer some at least minimal assistance. Let's say they are too out there for church: who will help?

If our community decided to help, how would that happen? The fairest and cheapest way would be for each house in our neighborhood to chip in a little something. It should be either the same for every house, or tied to income so that the burden falls evenly on everyone by some definition at least. That will cut down on the resentment factor. If we were to expand the community a bit more, and say pool resources together in the entire zip code, we could do a better job of preventing starvation, homelessness and crime in the whole area.

But how to collect that money? If it's all voluntary, a lot of people won't help at all. That means a large burden for the people with the foresight to see that starving people in your community is bad for everyone. So there would have to be some way to enforce a common contribution from each household.

Then there is the problem of distribution. It would be a full-time job for someone to oversee the funds and distribute them fairly. We would need some sort of guidelines to determine who was in need and who wasn't. Coming up with those guidelines in a community wide meeting would be a disaster. Anyone who has tried to set a social calendar for a small community group for the coming year can testify to that. The only way such a meeting would work is if we had a small committee of people making the decisions.

How would we pick the people to serve on the committee? The way that first comes to mind is to get a representative from each neighborhood to come. The people in each neighborhood could choose from a pool of volunteers who could represent them. I don't see any other way to do that except by voting. If there were more than, say, a half a dozen neighborhoods in the zip code, the committee would still be too cumbersome. We would have to pool neighborhoods together into something representing districts and let them vote of which of the people volunteering to do the job the most people wanted for the position.

And then what if no one wants to volunteer after a season? That sure happened with our home owner's association. What our community wound up doing was paying a professional management company to handle our community business. Eventually we would need to pay these community representatives for their work, if we wanted people from the actual community to make the decisions.

Let's say this works, a committee is chosen, and they establish guidelines for money distribution. There needs to be someone in charge of reviewing applications to make sure the money is being allocated according to guidelines. This would no doubt take a lot of time, and the person in charge of this needs to be trustworthy. A volunteer to oversee the distribution would be highly suspect. I think it would be decided the person in charge should have credentials, and should get paid. If more people are applying than one person can process in a timely manner, we may have to hire another person.

Also, it wouldn't be long before people would want some sort of follow-up, to make sure that the children of addicts were getting fed, the mentally ill unemployable was safe and the community was safe, that the disabled were being cared for and not lying in their own waste while the checks went uncashed because they had no way to the bank, the grocery store, etc. Maybe we could get community volunteers to do this, but probably that wouldn't last long. Who wants to be burdened with overwhelming need in your fact all the time? I sure don't. Some people might be willing to do it as a job though. We could offer a salary for people who were willing to be the eyes and ears for the community charitable distributions.

So there you have it. Doesn't it look an awful lot like government? People from the community volunteer for the position, the community votes of the proposed names to select a fellow neighbor to represent them. Those doing the representing get paid something for their time. They have to have some sort of regulatory power to collect a little bit from everyone, or the system won't be sustainable. They need to have guidelines for distribution, someone in charge of distribution, and some people checking up on the recipients to ensure the money is actually helping.

I have just described the role of legislators, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the social workers they employ. For me personally, I am THRILLED to have other people take care of the distribution of funds and checking up on the recipients. I don't want to do it. And I am happy with the system where everyone contributes according to income (taxes) so I don't have to get personally involved.

The government IS the community! That is how the community already is banding together to help the needy among us. Just cut through the propoganda you've been taught by Vic Lockman and use your God-given brain to think about it for a bit.

You're welcome.


  1. "The government IS the community!" I LOVE THIS! You're brilliant! Spot on! I may just have to share this!

  2. "The gov't IS the community" yeah, that whole "of the people, by the people, for the people" thing. Remember that, all you naysayers out there? Except when it is not, except when it is the mouthpieces of a minority fringe bent on their own agenda regardless of the will of the governed. Those mouthpieces who claim that government is stealing from you through income taxes and that they would do a MUCH better job of not stealing from you but in return they will just flat out ignore the Constitution of the United States and usher in God's Law--which looks a lot like a tyranny of the people, by the few, for the religiously privileged.

  3. Libby, PLEASE do!

    Sandra, my good friend, let us hope they fail.

    Laurie M., =)

  4. But how to collect that money? If it's all voluntary, a lot of people won't help at all. That means a large burden for the people with the foresight to see that starving people in your community is bad for everyone. So there would have to be some way to enforce a common contribution from each household.

    If there's coercion, it isn't charity. I'm all for local governments organizing aid, but what you're recommending just means that the pet projects of the majority or those with the most influence and power win out.

  5. Um, Jenny, do you propose any other way other than empowering trustworthy representatives to make decisions about what/who to help, in what ways, and by what amount? Are you going to suggest a community vote on each case? Cause that's going to really take up a lot of personal time. Try attending a home owner's association meeting some time and get back to me. :)

    Why do you use the term "pet projects", insinuating that there is some sort of personal bias towards undeserving recipients? Are you cynical by nature, or have you been taught a general distaste for humanity by your family of origin/religion?

    Why do you assume that influence and power will give some people in the community a greater say in the distribution of charitable funds? Isn't that the point of guidelines, to promote an unbiased, objective way of determining how funds will be distributed? Do you have a better suggestion for keeping things equal?

    "If there's "coercion", it isn't charity"? Why do you call shared fiscal responsibility for the community "coercion"? Is it because you are selfish and greedy and heartless? Let the others suffer, you have yours and no one can take it from you?

    Do you not believe that you have any shared responsibility for the suffering in your community? Along with Cain, do you want to shrug off your responsibility to your fellow man with a hearty "Am I my brother's keeper?"

    What do you make the parable of the goats and sheep? The Lord intimately identifies with 'the least of these' in that parable. Would you deny your Lord food, shelter, clothing and medicine? (Apparently, yes.)

    What do you make of Isaiah 58:6-11? What do you make of Ezekiel 18, where God many times equates helping the poor with righteousness and oppressing/ignoring the poor with wickedness?

    Charity is contributing to the needs of the suffering/poor. Yes, if one contributes agianst their will, it is coercion.* Pity the Christian who must be coerced into caring for the poor.

    * On a side note, pastors and preachers have been coercing their people into giving since this country began. It is all still considered charitable giving when you sit down to file your tax return.

  6. Excuse me, I guess I was mistaken that this blog was open to honest discussion rather than attacks on commenter's religions and backgrounds. Biblical instructions about caring for others is not the issue here. You're advocating other people being forced to pay to contribute to programs that they may not like and being told how much they have to pay. The Bible doesn't support such a system, and it most certainly doesn't advocate government-controlled programs, regardless of how efficient they might be.

  7. "The Bible doesn't support such a system, and it most certainly doesn't advocate government-controlled programs...."

    Then you are certainly not reading the same Bible I've read. Pretty much the whole book of Leviticus was about the establishment of a government system that required taxation (tithing and sacrifice, which supported the governing bodies--the priestly families) and mandated social programs through the laws of hospitality, inheritance, and family planning. In the new Testament there are several commands to support local governments AND go beyond government efforts to care for the disenfranchised in the community--Jesus in the Gospels, the Pastoral Epistles, Paul's authentic letters all come immediately to mind.

    Shadowspring is very open to discussion and disagreement... as long as dissenters actually know what they are talking about and aren't merely regurgitating religious talking points.

  8. In the New Testament, we are told to respect governments and pay taxes. But there's nothing saying we should advocate other Christians being forced to support government programs. And going beyond local programs isn't advocating them.

    As for Old Testament tithes, contributions to the church have replaced those, not government programs.

  9. What IS paying taxes if it is not acceptable to "advocate other Christians being forced to support government programs"? You mean as a Christian you believe you are obligated to pay taxes but that other Christians are not?

    "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" is plain enough. Your money, which bears the great seal of the United States, belongs to this temporal world and its government. Your spirit belongs to God. Apparently Jesus has no problem at all with paying taxes. It is conservative right wing politics that is against taxes, not Jesus.

    Sadly enough, the anti-tax crowd (mostly poor and middle class whites) are the ones being screwed over by big business right now, business which is exporting more jobs every day. These businesses are paying the lowest corporate and capital gains taxes in thirty years, and yes it is boosting investment- in China and India.

    Contributions to churches have no relations to the Old Testament system of tithes, which did indeed support not only the religion, but the judicial system AND the poor! Wealthy landowners were commanded by the law to leave some of the harvest behind for the poor to glean; they were commanded to return clothing given in pledge every evening; forbidden from charging interest; and commanded to set their bond-servants free and returned purchased land to its original owner every fifty years, in addition to the very high taxes they paid to the temple (and later to the king as well).

    New Testament giving has no relation to the Old Testament system of tithing (which added up altogether to more like 40% when you add in all the demanded offerings) except the use of the word "tithe". None of that money goes to support the judicial system, and very little goes to support the poor in the community. Your tithe is solely for the support of the clergy and the maintaining of facilities for meeting, with any left over available in very meager amounts for charity to the community. Bear in mind charitable giving does not mean food and shelter for the blind, homes for the homeless or meals for the hungry. Most often it means exporting fundamentalist religion to other countries. Which is fine for religions, as far as that goes, but it does nothing to meet the needs of your suffering neighbors.

    Did you read Ezekiel 18 or Isaiah 58? Please do, prayerfully, and then get back to me.


  11. I've read both of those books numerous times. Those passages are telling us to be charitable; they don't tell us to get the government to force others to be charitable. There's a big difference that apparently you refuse to see. I support a number of programs myself; that's my attempt to follow God's instructions. But I'll never tell you what to support and how because I believe that's between you and God.

    Since I can anticipate your reply, and since you seem to prefer the affirmative echos of your regular readers, I'm going to unsubscribe to your replies. I prefer having a nice discussion, but your inferences about my background, religion, and politics (of which you have proven you know nothing about) are rather insulting. So, bye.

  12. Young lady, you are very sadly mistaken to think that God does not expect communities to band together, in the form of governments, to provide for the poor. Governments are put in place by God, according to Romans 14, and we are commanded to obey them or face "damnation"

    Romans 13:1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

    2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

    3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

    You may feel sorry for yourself, take your marbles and go home. But I hope you will do better- I hope you will humbly pray, and ask Jesus to show you the truth, since you are discovering that your hatred of government is not supported Biblically. You seem to both look to the Bible for support and ignore the verses that refute your position.

    I believe you can choose the higher road, and for your sake and the sake of our country, I hope that you will. Peace and good will, SS