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Steve Lunetta: We need charity, not entitlements

Right About Now

Posted: September 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Last weekend, I rented a Bobcat loader from my good friends at AV Rents on Railroad Street in Newhall. I had driven forklifts when I was a kid at my grandfather’s truck and trailer shop so I figured driving one of these babies would be a cinch.

I was half-right. Driving the rig wasn’t tough. It was moving the dirt around to make it look good that was the challenge.

I am not an earth-moving guy. The controls were tricky to use, and it took much practice to get the hang of it. Eventually I did, but I made many mistakes that needed to be corrected.

While I was sitting in the cab of the Bobcat, I began to think about charity (as it is called in the private sector) and entitlements (as it is called in the public sector) and how they are like moving dirt. If you know what you are doing, charity/entitlements work well. If you don’t, it can turn into a mess.

Both charity and entitlements are for a similar purpose: to help someone or something that lacks adequate resources for a basic need.

The support source for each, however, is much different. A charity operates from funds and resources given to it by a private individual, group or organization. The donation comes without strings and involves trust that the charity will spend wisely and morally.

The charity must perform correctly, otherwise future funding will disappear and the chances for obtaining new donors will decrease. In essence, the “market” for donations keeps a private charity honest and efficient.

The accomplishments of private organizations for charitable deeds are well-known. Look at the best hospitals in the San Fernando Valley — Holy Cross, Valley Presbyterian, Saint Joseph Medical Center — and you will see a pattern. Private religious groups have built these and many other hospitals across the United States.

How about schools? Notre Dame, Yale, Princeton and numerous other universities and colleges had their roots in private or religious groups. Churches often had a major role in creating opportunities for education in our nation.

Most of these without a dime of taxpayer money.

How about acts of kindness? The Salvation Army has fed and clothed the needy for more than 147 years. The American Red Cross is a private organization dedicated to emergency assistance and disaster relief. The list goes on and on.

How about entitlements? These are generally administered by a governmental agency. The “donations” made to the agency are forced because they come directly from the general public coffers amassed from taxing the public.

There is very little anyone can do to “police” an entitlement system. If fraud and waste are identified, the funding source will not dry up or go away. It will remain in place. This creates little need for honor, efficiency or discipline in entitlements.

Entitlements can be greatly abused. President Ronald Reagan coined the term “welfare queen” describing those who abuse government entitlement programs by using false names and identities, collecting benefits to which they are not entitled.

Recently, an 82-year-old woman was convicted of Social Security fraud by collecting two checks since 1992, bilking the government out of $180,000 over this period.

Entitlements also break down family structure. In the “old days” before FDR and Social Security, the family worked together to take care of elderly members and assure they lived out the remainder of their days in comfort and dignity.

Not anymore. Grandma and Grandpa are no longer the responsibility of the family but the state. The elderly are largely forgotten and ignored by our society as a result.

Additionally, let’s not forget the massive costs imposed upon our society to support entitlement programs. Look at your paycheck and you will see what I mean. Add up the Medicare and Social Security amounts and calculate your monthly expense. And that does not include the entitlement programs included in your regular withholding. Rather eye-popping, eh?

It is estimated that about 56 percent of the federal budget is spent on direct entitlement programs.

Still, private organizations receive generous donations to cover what entitlements do not. Isn’t it about time that we consider giving back some of the entitlement dollars and allowing Americans to give these monies to charitable organizations?

Am I saying we should kill Medicare and Social Security? No. But we should begin to think about how these resources can be spent more wisely and who should be doing the spending.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and has no voices in his head other than Uncle Earl’s. He can be reached at slunetta63@yahoo.com.

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