By Seth Richardson
Those who are eligible for public food assistance programs but refuse to participate are to be lauded and respected for refusing to succumb to the entitlement mentality that is bankrupting our nation. Gazette reporter Emily Wilkins writes in her Saturday, July 9th story that less than 43 percent of people who are eligible for food assistance choose to suck at the public teat.
One might more productively say that fifty-eight percent of those who might be eligible for food assistance have the pride and dignity, and the respect for their fellow citizens, not to go on the public dole.
One of the most egregious bits of Progressive propaganda in the article comes from Kathy Underhill, executive director of Hunger Free Colorado, who suggests that public food assistance programs are economically beneficial. “You think about the people hired and it’s job creation,” Wilkins quotes her as saying, “You’re feeding people and creating economic development.”
This of course is utter nonsense because every dollar that flows into government food programs, and from there to private retailers to supply food, is first extracted by force from the taxpayers. Such entitlement programs never produce wealth and are not the product of wealth production. They produce only the illusion of economic development by shifting and concealing the source of the money, which is moved from place to place by the state and federal government in a giant shell game.
What is given to the needy in Colorado comes directly from the pockets of other Americans. It’s not economic development, it’s pure, unadulterated redistribution of wealth by Progressive taxation. Six hundred and eighty-eight million worth of redistribution from taxpayers to the poor in Colorado alone.
This is not to say that food assistance programs are not a good thing, they are. Certainly those among us who are in need and are hungry must be fed. We are not like India or other third-world nations that we allow our citizens to starve to death in the streets. We are a compassionate and caring people whose altruistic instincts and charitable giving worldwide exceed that of any other nation. Americans are the most generous people on earth, not just to our own, but to the needy worldwide.
But do we really need, or want the government fulfilling that need, or is it better to free our charitable nature as Americans and let neighbors help neighbors? Taxation for redistribution of wealth, which includes food assistance programs, is a Progressive and Socialist notion that actually decreases the desire of people to help their fellow citizens.
When the government extracts money through taxation to serve the economic needs of others, we are naturally more reluctant to contribute to those needs on our own, since we’ve already been taxed for that purpose.
And government is never, ever more economically efficient than the free market for charity. When the government collects a “poor tax” for redistribution, it takes a large share of that tax right off the top to fund the enormous federal and state bureaucracy that administers the programs, thereby redistributing wealth not to the poor, but to the affluent bureaucrats whose primary interest is in securing their own economic future by ensuring that their programs remain in high demand.
Thus the pandering to the press by Progressive mouthpieces who insist that redistributive taxation is “economic development” and who call for for bigger, more expensive government entitlement programs.
The poor must be protected and fed, that much we all agree on. But government feeding programs are inherently wasteful and demeaning to the poor, who should look to, and be served by the members of their community, as a matter of charity and love.
Nor should the poor be encouraged to rely upon government assistance. Benjamin Franklin once said, “I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
Perhaps the only good thing about such assistance programs is the bureaucratic nightmare of paperwork that is required before such assistance is granted. It’s so burdensome, intrusive and humiliating to fill out the 26 pages of intensely personal and embarrassing inquisitorial government paperwork that many people simply refuse, preferring to find other ways to support themselves rather than be subject to such scrutiny of their private lives.
Good for them. That’s how it should be. Charity begins at home, and private charitable food assistance programs don’t require reams of paperwork and bureaucratic intrusiveness, they just require some humility and thanks from those who are in need, and the natural altruism and caring of the community.
In the end, if you are so needy, and your community cannot provide you with food using private charitable programs, the public assistance programs are there as an ultimate safety net, but they come with a serious cost by way of humiliation and shame, and that’s as it should be. Government “entitlement” programs should always be programs of last resort that are not pleasant or easy to use.
Contrary to the protestations of Kathy Underhill and Hunger Free Colorado, we need fewer people making use of government-funded public food assistance programs, not more. Ideally, no one should need to resort to government handouts, and private charitable assistance would care adequately for all our truly needy community members.
To make that happen, Underhill and her organization would make better use of their time and money by helping the many private charities in the community to get their message of need across to members of the community who might be willing to help, rather than proselytizing for ever-more Progressive government spending and power.
© 2011 Altnews