Last week, a high school friend of mine (someone that I thought was a friend), commented on Facebook that I was “heartless” for not agreeing with him that taking care of the needy can best be administered by the federal government. In his view, only the federal government has the “necessary resources” to feed the poor in America. Of course, I reminded him that every penny the federal government takes in comes from individuals that live in one of fifty states with any number of localities that also have the power to tax, so each state obviously has the necessary resources to feed and clothe the truly needy. Moreover, it is the height of naiveté to believe that a federal government can take money out of each state, run that money through its bureaucracy, and then give it back to the state without a considerable percentage going to waste that would not have happened at the local or state level. The federal government was not designed to be a charitable organization and it is not good at it either for the obvious reason that it is so far away from the point of need, it could not possibly know what the varying needs are on the ground in any given state and how to best administer help to those in need. Charity is, at best, something that is done as local as possible (city, then county, then state) and should never be a federal matter that will become invariably become wholly politicized. It only complicates things when you concentrate more and more power into the hands of the few. That is precisely why our founders had a limited role for the federal government.
In previous posts, I wrote about the book by Arthur C. Brooks, titled Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. Brooks notes that America has become essentially two nations—one charitable, and the other uncharitable. He was disturbed by many of the facts and trends that emerged from years of analysis indicating how an identifiable slice of the population does not donate to people in need, does not volunteer, and does not give in informal ways either. That identifiable slice is, namely, those who label themselves as liberals (or progressives). In a nutshell, liberals give dramatically less than conservatives, even though as a group they have 6% higher income on average than conservatives. And liberals are not privately charitable either, an argument that some liberals use to deflect what the hard numbers demonstrate. Conservatives give more because of their worldview, which centers around four forces as noted by Brooks: religion, skepticism about the government in economic life, strong families, and personal entrepreneurship. Liberals give less because they believe charity consists mainly of government redistribution. And even if the government does not do what they think it should, they still won’t give. So the next time a liberal tells you they want their taxes to go up to help the needy, you should see it for what it truly is: their desire to appear compassionate in words because they are simply not compassionate in action. Ask them to write a check out to their local charity to alleviate poverty in their own city, and see just how much pushback you will get.
The essential problem, thus, is that liberals refuse to pay their fair share in charitable contributions and they don’t do their fair share of volunteer work. The very people who are telling conservatives that they are selfish for not wanting their taxes to go up and aren’t “paying their fair share” of taxes aren’t doing so themselves, and don’t realize that if they were doing their fair share of giving and volunteering, then there would be little need for the federal government to be involved in charity because they and their fellow liberal friends would have joined conservatives in making sure poverty didn’t become a federal problem (and thus taxes would most likely not have to go up). Yet they are punting their responsibility to the federal government while walking around with a false sense of virtue that is not backed up by simple actions on their part. Virtue, mind you, would be writing a check to your favorite charities and encouraging your friends to perform charitable acts independently of what the federal government does, not carping incessantly about the government taking from someone else’s pocket so you can blithely absolve yourself of your responsibility to help those in need (and in a far more efficient and compassionate manner). So what I am calling on is for liberals to stop berating conservatives for paying only the taxes that they owe the same way liberals only pay the taxes that they owe. If everyone pays the minimum taxes owed legally, then we’re all even and it becomes a matter of what we do with what is left after we are done paying taxes. Obviously, the more we are left with, the more good we can do of our own accord.
So here is my promise, which is also a challenge to my liberal friends (and to my conservative friends who aren’t out their complaining but still need to “do the right thing” if you’re not doing so already). I have committed to giving a minimum of 3% of my gross salary each year to my local church and private charities (before you say that should be a 10% tithe, this specifically applied to the children of Israel under the law, but under the new covenant please see 1 Cor. 16:2 and 2 Cor. 9:7, where the concern is more focused on the state of the heart). 3% is a real number, only notable because liberals can never seem to offer what percentage they believe is a “fair share” to pay in taxes. I can’t recall where I read this, but it was stated that if each of us gave at least 3%, we could eliminate government charity because there would be more than an abundance to help those truly in need. So until you decide to accept your responsibility to be charitable, please do not come to my Facebook page griping about how selfish conservatives are when it has been proven already that they are far more charitable than you, and you aren’t paying your fair share in charitable giving anyway. That’s what we call hypocrisy, so I’m hoping you will turn away from this vice and just do the right thing moving forward by becoming charitable. Then we can have a real conversation instead of more fruitless debate that does nothing to help the truly needy in our communities. Now go pay your fair share and stop worrying about mine!