The government is supposed to protect our freedoms: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as the Declaration of Independence says. But it seems more and more of our politicians are confusing the “pursuit of happiness” with happiness. Whether it’s aid for the poor in the form of food stamps, welfare or even things for everybody like Social Security, the politicians seem to want to be there to “help.” Ron Paul refers to this as the “welfare” state, where the government tries to help with a seemingly endless amount of things: food, shelter, education, housing and even cars. But do we need this help? A better question might be to ask if it’s actually helping. I contend it’s not. I’d much rather we didn’t have these programs. I think we should do things like help out the poor and help people save for their retirement; I just don’t think the government should be doing that.
I know the American people are charitable and kind. We don’t need welfare to take care of our poor. There are thousands upon thousands of local charities that provide for the needs of the poor and they do things better than the government does. Why is that? Well, if you’re a private charity you have to make ends meet. If you’re not providing a decent service then people won’t donate their time and money into the charity and it won’t continue to exist. Welfare, on the other hand, takes money from taxpayers and appropriates it as the government sees fit.
I realize that welfare currently provides a valuable service and it would probably be devastating to abolish it overnight. So what if we were to phase out welfare over the next 10 years? I am confident that private charities would step up to the plate to help people currently on welfare. I know that if welfare was to end and my money that currently goes to help the poor wasn’t going to anymore, I’d personally be willing to donate that money to charity.
Let’s compare a government program and a non-governmental agency of somewhat similar functions. Imagine if a major natural disaster hit your town and you had the choice of either the American Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help. Which would you choose? My choice would be the Red Cross. I don’t know about you, but the majority of what I’ve heard about FEMA hasn’t been good news, while the Red Cross is usually held in high regard.
I’ve personally had some experience with the Red Cross in the past two years, as my family and I have had to evacuate our house twice because of wildfires. I never heard about FEMA doing anything in our community, but the Red Cross was on top of things from the start.
American Red Cross’ total expenditures for the 2008 fiscal year were $3.684 billion. I can’t seem to locate an official number for FEMA for the same time period, but Wikipedia lists it as $5.8 billion. Might you say that the Red Cross does more than FEMA? And can it do more for $2 billion less? Oh and this might come as a surprise, but contributions for the 2008 fiscal year were only 24 percent of the Red Cross’ revenue. The majority of their revenue came from products and services, unlike FEMA’s budget, which comes straight from you, whether you or not you like it. Wouldn’t you rather see your money that currently goes to FEMA go to the Red Cross? Or here’s an idea: Maybe you wish that money went to a different organization. Shouldn’t that be up to you?
When the government sets up a program like FEMA, to “help” people in times of emergencies, it sounds like a noble and worthwhile cause, but should the government be there to help us with our personal needs? In areas where local charities can help people, the government seems to step in and try to provide those services. The government programs usually entail bureaucracy galore and cost way more than a charity that could provide the same service (if not better).
We should ease the public off our government “welfare state” programs and let the free market decide which charities and programs are worthwhile. Things would be much more efficient that way and we would still be taking care of the needy.