Are Democrats to Charities what Walmart is to Small Business?

My fellow Democrats (or I should say, former fellows, as I’ve left the party), our good intentions have paved the smooth road ahead of us.  We can practically coast on in from this point.  Although we meant well when we voted to let the government take care of the poor and disadvantaged, they haven’t really benefited from this arrangement. Most of us (or rather, most of you) will say that it’s the Republicans’ fault and the system just needs to be fixed, not abolished.   Sure, those Republicans are all selfish greedy fat white bastards, we all know that, but even if we had had everything our way, the plan was inherently flawed from the start.

I believe that a society, as a society, shares risks and rewards. Physical anthropologists have uncovered evidence that Neanderthals were the first animals to take care of their elderly and handicapped. We can be proud to share this charitable impulse with our distant relatives, and though the impulse is not likely innate, it is at least pretty widespread. And that’s nice. We should encourage it. Too bad taxing the rich (or rather the middle 49%) and giving it to the poor (if not the 1%) doesn’t really produce the warm fuzzy feeling you sort of want it to. You know.

Instead of saying that everyone has a human right to education, healthcare, job security and etc, which we would pay for through tax dollars, why not say that everyone has a human obligation to give to charity?  Democrats have been approaching the problem from the wrong angle. The government should not usurp the role of charity (that’s very bad, for several reasons, see below), but find the best way to encourage it.

What if, instead making out your check to the IRS, you gave that amount to your favorite charity instead? Let’s say you were required by law to give that amount, but you could pick the cause. How much better would you feel about it? How much more confident would you be that the money would be well spent? As it stands, your federal tax dollars go to paying interest to that counter-fitting operation, the Federal Reserve, or to sending care packages to Halliburton.  Were you aware that the U.S. spends more on war than all other countries combined? The biggest increases have come under Obama, the president who was supposed to bring our troops home “first thing.” I think the average tax-payer would make better decisions about what kinds of causes are worth supporting.

Charities can be corrupt, just like the government, but at least charities get checked by the government. Who checks on the government? the government.  Hm, doesn’t sound like a good idea. I won’t reiterate all the criticisms that are routinely made of bureaucratic mismanagement, but the few brushes I’ve had with my Democratic do-good agencies are worth recounting, I think. As a director of an arts foundation, I experienced first-hand the god-awful power that federal funding has promoting art clichés.  Last year,  I fought for healthier food in public schools and learned that Department of Child Nutrition actually requires every kid to take a HFCS bread and HFCS milk item or the school doesn’t get reimbursed. I learned that my friend, who has a PhD in microbiology and is the designer of an extremely effective waste water treatment system, was prevented from working on a city project because he didn’t have a civil engineering degree as required by EPA regulations. I used to think that everyone would benefit from equal access to college: I didn’t realize they all would want college degrees only for higher-paying marketing and communication jobs and don’t give a codpiece for Shakespeare. These government programs and agencies that I thought were doing all these great and charitable things are actually lame or worse, dangerous. All that, and Obama’s warmongering and NDAA signing, did the trick. I really don’t like Democrats anymore.

Ron Paul has been ridiculed for saying that the U.S. should go back to the time when charities took care of people in need. Like that would ever happen, people derisively added. His idea of charity was scoffed at, booed, hated. Wow. That’s not very nice. Have we devolved so far from our Neanderthal cousins?

Let’s look at Health Care.  Imagine, first of all, that the private insurance companies are gone. Poof. All the profits that the insurance companies enjoyed are now in the coffers of doctors and hospitals. All of a sudden the price of medical care drops. Most people can now afford to pay out-of-pocket for routine care. Some people start living healthier life styles to avoid having to pay out-of-pocket more than they really must.

But there’s a problem. Catastrophic illnesses and accidents can still wipe out a family’s wealth.  So, just as they did in Europe in the 1600s, communities start forming insurance cooperatives.  Individuals each pay a certain amount  into a big pool, and only those in serious need of medical help collect benefits.  There are no stock-holders to pay and the administrators of the cooperative earn salaries agreed upon by the members. Such non-profit organizations existed in the U.S. right up until the time the government decided to start subsidizing HMOs, which put member-owned insurance cooperatives out of business by offering lower rates and more benefits, initially. Once co-ops were history, the rates went up and the benefits went down. There’s no reason (except current government restrictions) that we can’t go back to co-ops now. Or let the hospitals themselves run the co-operative, in the sense of selling health memberships. Hospitals might be in the best position to play the role of insuring their members as well as promoting health by providing free/mandatory wellness care.

Or, if for-profit hospitals aren’t your thing, say you’d rather have the charitable hospitals back. There used to be a lot more church-run hospitals and we need them. There will always be those who, through fault of their own or no fault of their own, have no money or who have  prior illness and so are not be able to afford even low-cost care or insurance. Although I’m not religious, I think we need churches if only for the charity work they do. While we all tend to open our hearts to the hard-working poor who fall upon bad times, who but the church will help the undeserving poor and feel good about it?  They are in the business of bringing souls into their fold and are motivated to be charitable? I’d listen to a sermon or two from someone who saved my life. But fewer charities and community-based solutions exist today because the government moved in, Wallmart-like, and put the Mom and Pops out of business.

I used to think that when Republican criticized “big government” they were just saying they wanted to keep their money for themselves and screw the poor and disadvantaged. Now I realize that “big” monopolies are bad and the concentration of power is the beginning of tyranny. I don’t like businesses that are too big to fail or a government that is too powerful to criticize. But now it’s too late. The Republocrats are in power and it’s all big.

p.s. These “political” posts are exercises to prepare me to write my next novel Locus Amœnus.

2 thoughts on “Are Democrats to Charities what Walmart is to Small Business?

  1. greg metz

    whatever the case might be, Republocrats or not, if there is not campaign finance reform the people stand little chance to organize into such co-ops or to advocate in a truly democratic way. Read Lessigs book ‘Republic Lost’ in your search exercise… there is not true representation until the people can vote to pool there resources in the most efficient, common good, beneficial way to solve our major headwinds (which are gusting). insular groups can stave off and provide some benefits but unless we can produce a model of effectiveness that the rest of the world can follow we are not going to see change and those groups will not be able to sustain themselves. Somehow i believe Obama would change things for the better, the things he promised (as i think he get it), but he can not outbid the Super Pacs that control whoever is in legislative power nor could R.Paul or whoever. he realizes that he can change nothing if he is not in power. If he is in one more term and does not worry about being re-elected he will not have to be so moderate. As for charities, giving your money to the charity of your choice instead of the government, in replacement of taxes- we already do that- its called deductions. taxes pay little to hardship charity compared to such sink holes as military, haliburton contracts, subsidies to agribusiness and the like -pork… 45 +million living below the poverty line and you think that the friends and neighbors are going to bail them out, buy them an education and paid their medical bills out of their goodness. i would like to think in village terms but just like car insurance, if you do not mandate it dont expect everyone to carry it including the ones who slam into you. your have to trust the electorate to be responsive to the greater good.
    i started this too late so shooting from the hip. it is all about power of the purse until you reform the system of representation.

  2. Tori Alexander Post author

    Obama’s betrayal is particularly painful because it surprised us all. Our first reaction is to behave as abused spouses do, making excuses for him. “He’s under pressure. He’s not acting like himself,” etc. Super PACs are fairly new and things will soon get much worse, but it was already awful without them. They aren’t the cause; they are symptoms of a dysfunctional government that is well on its way to fascist capitalism. It’s impossible for me to have any faith in Obama because of his support of the “Long War.” I’ve read the NIST reports and Bazant very carefully, as well as the research of Harrit, Jones, and Szamboti and etc. I’m sure Obama has too. To support war after reading those papers is simply treason. His follow up actions with increasing military spending, extending the Patriot Act and signing the NDAA confirm it.

    But even if we hadn’t lost our souls to war profiteers, the federal control (Big Box government control) of social welfare will always be kind of crappy. There will never be a best solution for the common good, especially in a heterogeneous population such as we have in the U.S. Diversity is the best solution, community-based solutions. Only with decentralized power can we have a true democracy. What American would/could write his donation check out to Monsanto? Only with centralized government is corporate welfare possible. Remember the federal government is not a democracy. Only the states have democratic governments. Why do we keep shifting more power and money to the federal level?

    Re: deductions, if you are in a 35% tax bracket and you donate $100 to a charity that means that at best you pay about $17 less in taxes. The very wealthy only pay 10% in capital gains taxes, so their $100 donation is only worth about $5 in tax savings to them. Most Americans take the standard deduction and so are not encouraged to donate to charity at all. And yes I do think Americans would bail each other out if we were “mandated” to donate a certain percentage of our incomes to charities and non-profits, in lieu of taxes. I think non-profits do a much better job than our centralized system does.


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