Monday, January 4, 2010

I Really Cared About You -- Last Week

The holidays are over, and now it's back to business as usual. It's time once again for segments of our population to regard economic assistance to the poor as a socialistic welfare scheme that reduces self-esteem on the part of the recipients, teaches them to be indolent and dependent on hand-outs, and confiscates the discretionary income of people who are already taxed nearly to death.

Now, last week was different. There was a spirit of generosity in the air. Toy and food collections were omnipresent. Bell-ringers graced the sidewalks of a thousand grocery stores. One local businessman and his partners brought more than 100 families together in a shopping center parking lot, handed out turkey dinners and gift cards to local merchants, and even brought in Santa Claus via helicopter.

I was there (no, not as a recipient, but as a representative of a participating non-profit agency that helped identify deserving families). Nobody I talked to expressed any concern that such giveaways would have a negative impact on the beneficiaries' self-esteem. What I observed was quite the contrary -- people seemed exceptionally appreciative of being considered "special," if only for a few hours. Some of them returned, immediately after the event, to their jobs paying little more than minimum wage. One such person, a grandmother whose son was incarcerated and who had taken in her grandchildren to care for them, looked forward to cooking them a nice meal and putting a present or two (probably clothes) under the Christmas tree.

I have mixed feelings about all this holiday cheer. On the one hand, I feel it's somewhat hypocritical to claim to really care about people but oppose funding for a well-designed welfare program that keeps the unemployed out of abject poverty until they get back on their feet. On the other hand, maybe caring about less fortunate people about 2% of the time (1 week out of 52) is better than nothing. Sometimes, feeling special for a few hours gives you hope that life will eventually get a little easier.

Happy New Year, everyone! And please don't wait for Christmas 2010 to exhibit your generous spirit.

P.S. I do not intend by any means to imply that the particular people associated with the event I describe above oppose government assistance programs. I do not know them well enough to make such a statement, and I have evidence that they do in fact engage in philanthropic activities throughout the year. I do believe, however, that many people behave in the manner suggested above. Otherwise, how do we explain the outpouring of goods and services during the holidays and the reluctance at all other times of year to spend government resources to establish a high quality safety net?


  1. My mother, who is now 91, recalls back to the early 50's when our family was given a Christmas basket by some organization. She says that she never felt poor until that was delivered to our home. She says she cried!
    In retrospect, we were no better or worse than most neighbors - just a larger family (eight children) and there was prosperity rising in our community, so largess was possible.

  2. "Otherwise, how do we explain the outpouring of goods and services during the holidays and the reluctance at all other times of year to spend government resources to establish a high quality safety net?"

    The first thought that comes to my mind is that it's the difference between you spending your money, and someone else spending your money for you. Deciding to be charitable is one thing, being forced to be charitable is another.

  3. "State-mandated compassion produces, not love for one's fellow man, but hatred and resentment."
    Of course such a dictum like that is anathema to those on the "enlightened" left, while we on the benighted "right", or as you like to put it, "segments of our population" wallow in our mean-spirited ignorance, too weak-minded to see the glory of government programs and we're just so pathetically old-fashioned and outdated to embrace things like self-help and personal responsibiliy (not really politically correct values I know). Yes, we conservatives are just so stupid, if only we had half the brains of you self-righteous, humorless, bureaucratic snobs on the left. It's people like you who embody the exact reasons why liberals are so annoying. You preach your gospel of government-run everything and central planning like it's just a self-evident truth. But of course the premise of your arguments rests on the effectiveness of government programs of which you are probably not aware because you probably get all your information from leftwing media outlets. One example of MANY: Has the war on poverty stopped or even substantially alleviated poverty since the '60s? According to statistics- no. The numbers have stayed consistent while the percentage has gone done simply due to growth in population. So I guess government programs creating a utopia either doesn't happen or just takes a REALLY long time... I don't know I'm just a myopic simpleton, maybe I'm missing the big picture of your ideas which just so far have never worked in reality. I know it's really weird to hear a dumb conservative use facts. I know we're all supposed to be just so simple. How much has the government saved your life? On your death-bed will you be thanking the government for all the blessings it bestowed on you? Government assistance should be temporary, not a lifestyle, you liberals don't understand this. You renounce personal responsibility in favor of forced equal results which means quality gets reduced (ie public education) while the government redistributes the wealth and decides how the market is managed. Socialism has never worked, government has never perfected society-- no amount of brainwashing could ever distort my mind enough to forget that. Those are plain facts. Maybe you should get a dose of reality and climb out of your ivory tower of liberal psychobabble hanging out with all your ivy league buddies intoxicated by the world of convoluted theories, sipping martinis and discussing the evils of capitalism while all your pockets get funneled by public funds. I'll keep my $ and liberty. No thanks to your empty worldview.