More Important To Help People Or Eliminate Waste?

Posted: January 5, 2014 in Miscellaneous
Tags: , ,
Get a job you hippie!

Get a job you hippie!

When I sometimes read the comments sections (and I do realize reading those is my first mistake) of articles regarding government assistance programs (or sometimes even private charitable assistance programs), it occurs to me that there are a lot of people who fear nothing more than assisting someone who is “undeserving”.  And just a general disdain for the poor.   Sure, they might allow that a few people might come into hard times honestly, but for the most part  they think the poor are just lazy leeches on society who manipulate the system and are just not deserving of our attention.  And in fact if we would just eliminate the government safety net, private charity would pick up the slack to serve those TRULY in need and it will be all good.

Now certainly there are some lousy no-good poor people in the world (but I would also point out that there are lousy no-good rich people in the world too).  And some of those people commit fraud (just like some rich people do).  But I just can’t help but to have a few other thoughts:

  • I know I keep harping on this statistic, but 25% of children in this country are food insecure.  What the heck did kids do to not deserve to know where their next meal is coming from?
  • Charities are awesome!  Still, even with the existence of charity, 25% of children in this country are food insecure.  So they are not making up the gap in need even now.  Why would we expect charities to be able to make up even a larger gap if you start reducing or especially eliminating government assistance?  Put another way, charities provide roughly $5 billion in food assistance each year.  That’s a lot for sure.  But it doesn’t seem as much when you compare it the roughly $100 billion in food assistance that the federal government provides.  So even if government food assistance is just cut by 5%, private charity food assistance would have to double to make up the difference.  Seems unrealistic to me.
  • Should we be so judgmental toward those who are in need?  The Bible seems to have a few things to say about that.  Such as:  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.   For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  I don’t think we should be so quick to judge.  We aren’t very good judges anyway.
  • Speaking of judgment, I think we probably tend to way overestimate the amount of fraud/waste in these programs.  When I look for actual statistics instead of anecdotal information, it appears that the fraud/waste is somewhere between 3%-5% in most programs.  (It might be a bit higher for Medicare/Medicaid, but I would submit a lot of that fraud is being perpetrated by doctors & hospitals, not the poor.)  Sure, we all here stories of people committing fraud, but with the reach of media these days, we are all hearing about the same people.
  • You can’t run a programs like this and have 0% fraud/waste.  It’s just not possible.  So if eliminating waste/fraud is our top priority, we pretty much need to just eliminate these programs.

I don’t know.  To me, if given the choice of providing 20 people with help even if only 15 truly need it or providing 10 people with help who all truly need it but leaving 5 truly needy people out in the cold, I’m going to go with the option that helps 20 people even with the waste.  I would rather make sure everyone who needs help gets help, and I believe the best way to do that is to provide more than enough and accept that there will be a level of waste.  I’m also not big in deciding who and who is not deserving.  I don’t have the time and ability, and would rather just help people who need help.

  1. List of X says:

    I agree with all your points, and I would add another: assuming that the charities are even able to step in and provide the assistance instead of the state, a multitudes of unrelated charities is a much more fertile ground for waste and fraud than state or federal aid. if you can imagine someone scamming one state where one record is kept, imagine what happens if the same scammer is trying to get money from 20 different charities.

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