GETTING NOTHING FOR SOMETHING

Since there must be balance in nature, if someone gets something for nothing, someone else must get nothing for something. “Yes, Virginia, there’s no free lunch.” All right, I’m mixing quotations or aphorisms, or whatever. When the top 5% of taxpayers pay almost 60% of the tax burden, it’s clear they aren’t getting what they’ve paid for; somebody else is. For supporters of social justice, this is just that. Why shouldn’t those that have so much help those that have so little? I can think of several reasons.

First, someone or something must define what too much is and to whom and in what amounts this “excess” should go. When the decider is the earner, it’s called charity. When it’s the government, it’s known as taxation. When we rely on the latter, a disturbing amount of this redistribution, undertaken both by men and women of good intentions and by others with personal and less than savory agendas, translates into billions of dollars funneled into the pork bin. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about millions of our hard-won dollars funding one or another absurd program. And these “representatives” do the job with such exuberance that they have to borrow more than all the earners make.

Second, it’s almost impossible to get a large bureaucratic organization to surgically implant the funds where they need to go. I often wonder how many people are paid to do little or nothing so they can continue their slothful existence and self-centered behaviors uninterrupted, for every truly needy person who’s either disabled or fallen on hard times and needs a leg up so they can again become productive citizens. Does the government really have the ability to make this determination?

Third, and most important, when the government takes your money, they are taking away a piece of you that hardly anyone, if anyone at all, talks about: your charity. For every dollar they take and decide to give to someone they consider more needy, you lose the ability to give that dollar of your own volition, and the attendant blessings that come with it. Your soul, if you believe in it, is cheapened. “Oh,” but the preachers of social justice will say,”if the government didn’t redistribute it, what’s to guarantee that the ‘rich’ wouldn’t keep it all?” And perhaps they are right. But I don’t believe it. I’d rather give the good people a chance to step up to the plate than give ever larger sums through a program of burgeoning taxation to people who don’t need or deserve the “excess.” Who’s to say where the greater evil lies, in the uncharitable earners who aren’t giving their fair share, or the greedy receivers, who aren’t producing their fair share? At least the former aren’t taking what isn’t theirs.

And both will have their sentences decreed in a court much higher than the federal.

Next: Societal values and bringing things closer to home

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5 Responses to “GETTING NOTHING FOR SOMETHING”

  1. theseep Says:

    I don’t see how anyone with an ounce of compassion can be opposed to social justice. It’s simply immoral. That being said, I do completely agree that the government is a highly inefficient beast, with many unnecessary or overpriced programs and yes, a decent number of people scamming or misusing the safety nets that are set up to help those in need. Working on my public health practicum here in SLO, I’ve seen the incredible amount of good done by our tax dollars, by a chronically underfunded and under-appreciated part of our government. Sure, you can make the argument that such a bloated and inefficient system such as our government is not deserving of your tax dollars, but the fact is that the government is the only entity that helps those that are truly in need. Would you deny someone basic human needs just to weed out the few that are abusing the opportunity? Is it really more reasonable to let hundreds of thousands of people go without food or healthcare just to avoid a few thousand freeloaders?

    Rich people often get rich by neglecting to consider those they use and oppress to gain their wealth and/or power. Can you trust their charity outside of tax breaks? I think not. The truth is, that even though the wealthy are taxed, they still use every trick in the book to bring down their tax burden as much as possible, including charity. Plus, they always have the option to donate as well, further directing where their dollars will go. If the wealthy want to have more control over where this money goes, why not help the government develop more streamlined public health and social justice programs with accountability?

    • Davecor@aol.com Says:

      The term “social justice” is bandied about to cover an agenda that, in my opinion, is harmful to the country in general and the individual in particular. It sounds noble. After all, what individual, if he indeed is moral, doesn’t want to lend a helping hand to someone in need. Unfortunately, as history has shown and is unfolding again, trying to institutionalize charity and compassion always fails. The “tyranny of the majority” which our forefathers tried so hard to prevent takes more and more from the producers and shifts it to the nonproducers, some of whom are in need, and many of whom are not. The reason the system ultimately fails is not because hundreds of thousands go wanting because of a few thousand freeloaders, but because the system ultimately corrupts to the point the numbers invert. As to the concept that the rich get rich on the backs of the poor, this is a time-honored socialist mantra that regards the rich as evil. I don’t buy it. There are evil rich and good rich. The latter are the movers that make the jobs for the rest of us. While I’m not opposed entirely to government having a role in regulation and public assistance, it’s become far too pervasive and inefficient. I don’t have as much confidence that it can be fixed as you do, without dramatically shrinking it. You cannot legislate morality. Your view seems to be that people can’t be trusted to do the right thing without a government decree. If that’s so, then we deserve what is coming in the difficult years ahead. Charity begins at home, as the old saying goes. We need to bring it back there.

  2. theseep Says:

    I absolutely agree that our system has become overly pervasive in parts and inefficient, and if this bloated construct is to avoid collapse, we need to minimize the freeloaders and hold people accountable for their use of the system, or “institutionalized charity.” The problem is, despite the waste, we have lost sight of the good that these programs can do. As an example, today I was reviewing a report on Family Planning efforts in the U.S. since the 60’s, which is now a hybrid of NGOs, Medicare, and Title X of the Public Health Act, which saves $3 in healthcare costs for every $1 in family planning, as well as significantly decreasing poverty by decreasing unwanted births. There is no possible way for individuals or non-governmental organizations to fill in the roles of many government programs like this, and our society would likely not have had the same prosperity over the last half-century without them. That being said, I agree that these programs need to be made as efficient as possible, hold the users to a reasonable level of responsibility, and build in better ways to transition users off of the system through job training and education.

    Also, I’d submit that a rational liberal does not think that the rich are evil at all, it simply depends on how you gain your wealth. If you oppress and abuse, pollute, and degrade, then yes, you are evil in your quest for wealth. Unfortunately much of corporate America is guilty of some evil and social injustice, be it through underhanded trading on Wall Street, Banana Republic/Gap outsourcing to sweatshops, oil and chemical companies leaving billions of dollars in cleanup to taxpayers or permanently degrading the environment, or cigarette companies marketing to children and concentrating nicotine. Our pseudo-free market (and, yes, political market as well) is rampant with corruption and abuse, with managerial salaries now hundreds of times higher than workers, a gap widened over the last half century. If people and companies would simply “do the right thing”, we wouldn’t need to have this discussion, and all of the oppressive regulation would not be needed. Unfortunately, as is demonstrated by history over and over again, human nature it seems leads inevitably to amassing power and wealth amongst a small elite at the expense of the health and happiness of the masses. Check out the famous historian Will Durant’s Lessons of History (I cheated and listened to the audiobook), which describes this same cycle over and over, always leading to political or violent revolt from the oppressed when the tipping point occurs. Fortunately, we have our government as a structure to help maintain balance these forces. Unfortunately, it is only partially effective and has become morbidly obese in its attempt at a structured balance system, and people, corporations, and the government are still not “doing the right things.”

    So where does that leave us? We cannot simply take the carpet out of the system that we have built, it must be deconstructed slowly and reconstructed into an efficient and effective system of checks and balances for modern times.

    • Davecor@aol.com Says:

      Rational liberal? That’s an oxymoron! (Just kidding.) If the government is not corrupted by wealthy private interests (which would require more turn-over in our representatives than we’ve had to date) it could concentrate on the jobs it should, such as providing for the common defense and protecting the free market from scammers and abusers. As it stands now, laws are still not in place to prevent a repeat of the events that caused the economy to tank in 2008. There is no perfect system as their are no perfect people; but we could do a lot better. I don’t object to government programs that are efficient and that work. The problem is that they are often not vetted and disposed of when appropriate–our government agencies being a case in point. An email made the rounds recently asking if anyone remembered why the Department of Energy was created in 1977–purportedly it was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It goes on to say the budget for the department is $24 billion with 16,000 employees and 100,000 contract employees. In the interim our foreign oil imports have rocketed from 30% to 70%. Now, I haven’t vetted this yet but I suspect it isn’t far from the mark. I also wonder what we’re spending on that other useless appendage, the Department of Education. In principal, you and I have common ground. We differ in the assessment of where the greatest defects lie and the best steps to reverse it.

  3. theseep Says:

    Agreed. There is much more common ground between rational liberals and rational conservatives than the media pundits want to let on. I mean, if we could actually set the stage for a reasonable debate and find effective solutions, where would Fox’s ratings be? 😉

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