The list of reasons why socialism and government charity programs is long and profound, with the lack of constitutional authority for such programs being perhaps the most important one for Americans concerned with the rule of law.
But there are also practical reasons why government charity is a bad idea, and though they are grounded in human nature (which is addressed by Christian teaching), and they stand true independent of constitutional authority or explicit Christian doctrine.
Fox News has a fresh example from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which found that hundreds of federal employees are reaping millions in taxpayer dollars they are not entitled to:
The report came with a DVD that showed employees double dipping — by working and receiving benefits. The video showed overpayments to the TSA employee as well as Postal Service workers.
According to the report, the TSA employee started receiving disability benefits in 1995 for “mood and anxiety disorders.” But she started full-time work in 2003 and earned as much as $50,000; the income cap after which disability payments are supposed to stop was $940 per month in 2008.
“Our investigation found that the beneficiary committed fraud in obtaining SSA disability payments,” the report said. GAO said the employee told the Social Security Administration she did not want the agency to contact her employer for work information and that she would submit a report herself, though records indicate she never did. Her benefits have since been suspended.
In another case, an X-ray technician for the Department of Veterans Affairs in California was overpaid about $22,000. According to the report, the worker started receiving payments in 2002 for an infection but continued to receive the money after returning to work in 2007. In yet another case, a Postal Service worker in Michigan received an overpayment of about $45,000. That worker was approved for “mood and personality disorders” in 2004 but returned to work later that year. The payments continued through early 2007, and then picked up again in late 2008. According to the report, a repayment of about $37,000 was made in 2008.
Many of these workers received a $250 economic stimulus payment on top of the overpayments.
And although it’s easier to scam the system in a bloated government bureaucracy, human nature, of course, extends to the private sector as well. The same report found thousands of individuals in one job sector alone who seem to be receiving disability payments while working.
Unless a person has a high level of integrity, human nature is usually on the lookout for a free lunch.
If we follow Biblical teaching on charity (and our nation, which had a private system of charity until the New Deal, is founded on Biblical principles), welfare and compassion remains something that is accomplished by people for people within human relationships.
On this level, it is much easier to determine genuine need versus an attempt to scam for a free lunch. It is also much easier for private individuals who are helping another private individual to ascertain when help is no longer needed.
Also, if the material need came about as a result of immoral behavior (substance abuse, gambling problems, financial irresponsibility, poor work ethic, outright laziness, etc.) private individuals and groups are better equipped to identify such factors, assist the needy individual with the moral training to avoid such problems in the future, and even make material assistance conditional on participation in such a course on moral instruction.
Private groups such as Love INC (I’ve been a small but regular donor for years, and know some of their counselors personally) take this kind of approach, pairing needy people with financial mentors that not only teach them good financial skills but also help them avoid moral pitfalls that often put them in need in the first place.
America needs to return to her historical system of private compassion. It’s the financially responsible thing to do for the taxpayer, it’s the thing to do out of respect for the U.S. Constitution, and it’s the best way to “teach a man how to fish.”
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