Thursday, May 26, 2011

More on replacing the government safety net with private charity

In April I wrote a post arguing that the belief held by some conservatives that private charity could replace government safety net programs was simply wrong. A recent Ethics Daily post by Robert Parham says much the same thing (via Fred Clark). He quotes Franklin Graham, who said:
A hundred years ago, the safety net, the social safety net, in the country, was provided by the church. If you didn't have a job, you'd go to your local church and ask the pastor if he knew somebody that could hire him. If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, 'I can't feed my family.' And the church would help you. That's not being done. The government took that. And took it away from the church.
In arguing against this, Parham uses WIC as an example:
WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children that feeds almost 9 million people each month. House Republicans proposed cuts of $747.2 million for the current fiscal year. It is simply dishonest to suggest that American charity can replace such a cut.
He ends the post by citing Wayne Flint:
When Flynt started making speeches about a just tax system in Alabama, he was accused of wanting government to solve all the problems.

"When people insisted that I was a socialist, that I wanted government to solve all the problems, I would offer this alternative," said Flynt. "OK, I accept your argument. There are 10,000 communities of faith – Muslim, Jewish, Baptist, Baha'i, Buddhist, Shintoist – in Alabama... Let's divide 10,000 communities of faith into the 740,000 [poor] people."

He asked, "How many does your church get?"

The retired Auburn history professor pointed out that most of those faith communities had about 100 members. That meant that each faith community would get between 50 and 100 poor people to look after.

"Your private charity is going to be responsible for them. Do it. We won't have to have Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, taxes of any kind... We can abolish taxes. We can abolish the IRS," said Flynt.

"And all you have to do is for your congregation to adopt 50 to 100 poor people, and mentor them, and love them, and educate them and nurture them," he said.

"And I'll guarantee you that if you do that, it will be closer to what Christ intended than Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. And they will never do it," said Flynt. "They will never do it...[T]he churches will not do it."

He's right.

It's time for some honesty in the pulpit and public square about the dishonest national discourse that churches and charities can take care of the poor, those in ill health and the ones suffering from natural disasters.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think that it is dishonest to say that churches and charities could take care of the poor, those in ill health, those suffering from natural disasters, etc. If you did away with all the government programs you mentioned, taxes could be cut dramatically. This would allow people to contribute more to charities and churches than they currently do. Moreover, its likely that people would come to depend more on their families without these government programs. I'd wager that we'd see a drop in things such as out of wedlock birth and divorce as the economic consequences of family breakdown, which are already bad (and the left's attitude towards the traditional family has greatly contributed to poverty), would be more dire.

    Also, as I've pointed out before, 40% of federal spending is financed through debt, which makes the government appear much stronger than churches and charities than is actually the case. Of course, this level of spending is untenable in the long run. If anything is dishonest, it is the idea that the federal government can continue to spend as it does now.

    Despite what I've said above, I don't see the privatization or dismantling of the welfare state anytime soon. People are simply too depend on government and the system is too entrenched. Moreover, we may be too far gone in terms of the breakdown of the family. Unless debt becomes so overwhelming that it forces the government to dismantle the welfare state, which is quite possible, but wouldn't be pretty, I doubt we'll return to churches and charities doing all the work. Could they do it? Sure, but not under the current circumstances.



About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.