Just yesterday, I was exiting the subway station at Harvard Square in my newly adopted home town of Cambridge, Mass. A helpless looking beggar was standing there holding a sign saying something like “I need your help!”
He looked so utterly pitiful that I stopped for a moment to observe him. What struck me the most, however, was that perhaps 50 or 100 people passed him by, but not one of them gave him even one penny. Well, I thought, people simply aren't that charitable.
I then recalled a Harvard undergraduate student who recently volunteered to work over the summer for a Boston area non-profit organization. The group's focus was on young mothers in the local hospital maternity wards who were illegal immigrants. Presumably, they simply showed up at the hospitals while in labor, and were tended to free of charge. This volunteer’s job was to inform those mothers of the many different government entitlements they could now claim after giving birth and how they should go about getting the money.
[sharequote align="center"]When government forcibly takes money from taxpayers & distributes entitlements, that isn't charity.[/sharequote]
The people here routinely elect politicians who always vote to fund those women in the hospitals and all other entitlement recipients. Now, significantly more money will be needed for Obamacare, which promises medical coverage for 43 million previously uninsured Americans. As if this weren’t enough, the President has already begun to propose yet another new massive government entitlement program, universal pre-school education. Without question, all of these government giveaways will continue to receive unqualified support here in Cambridge.
Standing there yesterday at the subway station, I could not help but wonder: Why do these same people who ignore the subway beggar automatically elect politicians who take away major portions of their salaries in order to fund the entitlements?
Summer interns taught illegal immigrant mothers how to apply for government benefits hours after giving birth to their children. Photo Credit: Butch Comegys/AP
It bears mention that the amount of money spent in the U.S. on entitlements is simply unbelievable. I recently heard a report that over the last five years, the federal government spent $3.7 trillion on welfare alone. Over that same period, the combined amount spent on all U.S. education, from kindergarden through graduate schools, plus the combined budget for all road and bridge building and repairs, plus the cost of all space exploration came to a total of under $800 billion.
The amount of government borrowing taking place is simply unbelievable as well. For the past several years, the U.S. government has been borrowing roughly 40 cents of every dollar it spends. For a private individual that would mean living on $100,000 a year by earning $60,000 and borrowing $40,000. This person will never be able to put aside money to repay his debt, because he doesn’t earn enough to live on - proof of which is that he must borrow $40,000 every year to make ends meet. After three years, his debt will be $120,000 or twice his yearly income; after 18 years, he will owe $720,000 or a dozen times his income. The debt will continue to grow every year, and it will be further increased by compounding interest.
The only difference between this example and that of the present federal government is that in the letter instance, there are more zeros at the end of every number.
Any semi-responsible fool understands that one who continues to borrow recklessly with no ability to prepay will soon go bankrupt. Yet, our leaders in Washington are seemingly oblivious to the fact that eventually, their wild and irresponsible borrowing and spending will precipitate a complete U.S. financial meltdown, Heaven forbid. How can the conduct of these leaders, many of whom are highly intelligent and educated, be understood?
My recently released book Uncommon Sense contains a chapter on the subject of “Something for Nothing.” It is based on the ideas of a great Rabbi who taught that in reality, there is no such thing in this world as something that can be acquired for nothing. As a rule, everything one receives one must pay for. The rabbi furthermore taught that those who believe that something can be attained for nothing are literally capable of destroying the world.
The only way I can make sense of what is going on in Washington is to say that there has been a mass infestation of what is nothing short of a “something-for-nothing mental ailment.” Overtaken by a bizarre psychic fantasy, the politicians actually believe that they can continue borrowing all of this money since it’s for free, and it will therefore never have to be repaid.
The President, many members of Congress, the Secretary of Treasury and head of the Federal Reserve are all seemingly afflicted with the “something-for-nothing mental ailment.” Distorting reality, they blindly fantasize that the money they vote to spend is “something for nothing.”
And as the rabbi taught, they are destroying our world.
This, I believe, also explains the mystery of those who ignore the subway beggar but support whatever entitlements the government proposes. A major part of the American public suffers from the same psychic disconnect that plagues the politicians. When they hear that their bankrupt government spends money irresponsibly on illegal moms, Obamacare, or whatever, their fantasy dictates that it has little connection to them. They imagine that the money being spent miraculously emerged from some existential void – it is money that was acquired “for nothing” – it is money that never did and never will come out of their pockets.
In truth, the taxpayers will be forced to eventually repay every penny of what their politicians spend and squander. Either the government will borrow more and saddle the public with yet additional debt or it will print money to pay the debt, which will devalue the currency and with it, the salaries and savings of the American People. In both scenarios, the people end up footing the bill, and that money that was irresponsibly spent ends up not being for nothing.
People in Cambridge, Mass. walked past a homeless man asking for change, but regularly vote in politicans that support entitlement benefits for illegal immigrants. Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong/AP
The public would be well advised to elect leaders who are willing to deal with this reality (or unreality) in a meaningful way.
I am not suggesting that charity is a bad thing. To the contrary, the Judeo-Christian tradition of tithing one’s income has been accepted and practiced for millennia. However, when government forcibly grabs money from unsuspecting taxpayers and distributes it in entitlements, that is not charity.
Charity takes place when a person, voluntarily and with goodness of heart, gives to a worthy cause of his or her own choosing.
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