Just heard an auditorial (that’s spoken editorial–I just made up the word) from Matt Miller on NPR’s Morning Edition, in which he was gleefully pointing out that, as a result of 911, the argument about private vs government charity should be over–government wins. His “argument,” (if one can actually dignify it with such a word) is that, since the Red Cross has played bait and switch with their donations, and been shown to be bureaucratic, that we should now prefer government for such functions.
He also “argued” that since the Red Cross only raised a billion dollars, and the goverment had already put in forty billion, clearly private charity just wasn’t up to the challenge and didn’t have the necessary resources.
Let’s take his first “point.” He seems to be arguing that because at least one private charity screwed up, that we should now put our trust in government. Of course, he neglects to mention that now that we know that that particular charity screwed up, we have a choice to not give to it any more. And if lots of them are similarly screwing up, it potentially opens up a market opportunity for charities that can advertise, “Hey, we’re a new kind of charity–we’ll actually give money to people.” Of course, part of the problem is all of the idiotic rules that apply to charities due to their non-profit tax status, rules laid down by…government. Miller mentions this, but only in passing, as though it’s not really relevant. His preferred solution is for us to just continue involuntarily giving money to a government bureaucracy that remains effectively unaccountable to, well, anyone. And we’re now supposed to find this preferable?
As to the relative resources issue, he misses a couple key points. First of all, it’s not clear how much of that forty billion was a requirement, as opposed to a desirement. My impression at the time was that it was a number pulled pretty much out of the air, bid up from the original twenty billion after a meeting in the Oval Office with Senators Schumer and Clinton (the same meeting in which Bush made his delicious comment about “not sending a ten-million-dollar missile into a ten-dollar tent and hitting a camel in the butt,” right in front of her Highness). Much of it was to actually go to upstate New York for economic recovery. And of course, even to the degree that it was legitimately related to 911, it was bailouts of industries (e.g., insurance, airlines). Regardless of your opinion on whether or not this is a legitimate role of government, to compare it with charity is, at best, disingenuous. But that’s Matt Miller. Finally, even if it were true that private charity is not capable of raising sufficient funds for the true needs, isn’t it just possible that this is because so much money goes into the bottomless maw of government that charitable donors are feeling too pinched to give as much as they want? It is, after all, only a tax deduction–not a credit. Make it the latter, and see how the fundraising goes…
Anyway, he ended up the silly little commentary by saying, “now can we finally admit that government is better, and quit talking about privatizing social security and charity”?
Sorry, Matt, not until you come up with some real arguments.