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Paul Hayden

Forced Charity

June 28, 2010

This past Sunday morning, I was perusing my local newspaper when I ran across a story about a local food bank requesting volunteers to help pack boxes. I thought, “That’s nice. A local charity has so much food they need help getting it out.” But then I made the mistake of actually reading the story and I felt the back of my neck take on the temperature of my coffee. The reason the food bank had 60 tractor-trailer loads of food and household items was that they had proudly received a $2 million Federal grant.

My objection is not the giving of funds to a food bank to help the needy, it who’s doing the “giving.” I encourage people to give to the charitable organizations of their choice. But here we have the Federal government using taxpayer money (or worse, money borrowed from the Chinese) to fund a charity.

This is not an isolated incident. According to a paper prepared by the Cato Institute during the Bush administration, overall charities receive nearly one third of their funding from Federal grants. Charities even employ persons skilled in writing grant applications in order to better their chance at receiving the government funding. They then become dependent on this source of funding.

So why would the Federal government provide funds to charities instead of relying on the famous generosity of the American people? For the same reason it owns car companies, banks, mortgage providers, student loan providers, etc. In this way the Federal government, and not the individual giver, will decide which charities receive funding and which will not. In order to receive the Federal money, the organization must abide by the regulations set forth by the Federal government. This can turn charities into quasi-governmental agencies.

Many times the Federal government uses its control of these funds to force organizations to take certain actions. A few years ago the Federal government threatened to withhold Federal Highway Funds to States that did not raise their legal drinking age to 21. Whatever you or I may think the legal drinking age should be, can we agree that this is something a State is capable of determining without the supervision of Big Brother? It may be my latent Libertarianism surfacing but I think if someone is old enough to join the military and be sent to a foreign land and possibly lose their life, they’re old enough to have a beer.

A city applies to the Federal government for funding for some project. Think about the route the money takes to get there. A person in a city is taxed by the Federal government so that the Federal government can send that money back to that city to fund the project. Even worse, the same person is taxed by the Federal government who then sends the money to another city halfway across the country.

A spokesperson for the food bank was quoted as saying, “We’re grateful for the money we received to purchase food this summer, a time when food donations are typically down and the need increases because children don’t have access to their free or reduced-price school meals.”

Is this why we have these government indoctrination centers, to provide free meals to children? Don’t these children have parents? Where are they and what about their parental responsibility? Sorry, but I digress.

Maybe it’s not a digression because it’s all related to the same thing. Once again, it’s the Federal government encouraging individuals and organizations to give up their responsibility, whether that is parents feeding their kids, states building their roads, cities paying their cops or charitable organizations raising their own money, to become dependent on the benevolence of the Federal government. As dependence on the Federal government grows it becomes more indispensable. As it becomes more indispensable, it becomes more powerful.

Does it really matter? Isn’t the most important thing helping the poor? That’s the thing about big government people; they have a soft spot for the poor. That is as long as they can handle the money in transit.

Americans are the most generous people on the planet. Charity need not be forcibly extracted from the people by the IRS. When it is it cannot truly be called charity. Also, it gives people a reason not to be charitable. If a taxpayer feels they are funding these organizations through their taxes, they have less incentive to give.

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Copyright ©2010 Humphrey Stevenson

Humphrey Stevenson has BS degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics and an MBA and makes his home in Tulsa, OK. He is a chemist by trade, has been published in trade journals, and is a recent "tea party" participant and political writer. His inspiration, as with many conservatives, is Ronald Reagan.