Friday, January 29, 2010

Charity Begins At Home

Part of our current problem in addressing the healthcare legislation is that Americans are a generous people. We like to help each other. We all recognize that sometimes unexpected circumstances can hit the best of us with a mountain of debt and no obvious way out. We want to live by the golden rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – because, by and large, we believe that if we help someone else today, someone else will be better able to help us tomorrow. That is an admirable thing. Many times it is the truth as well.(That whole pay it forward deal plays very well into the American ethos.) The problem comes when we try to apply that ethos through the government rather than as individuals and private organizations. Individuals and some private organizations have a Christian mandate to help people and provide charity. Governments have a mandate to govern.
When the government gives charity, it creates no reciprocal obligation in the heart of those who receive that charity. It fosters an attitude that, not only is one a total failure at life who must be grudgingly rescued by his or her betters, but that one is entitled, by the inability to succeed at life, to that charity and need not pay it forward by word or deed. However, if your neighbor or church steps up and pays your mortgage for a hard month, or buys groceries or Christmas presents for a family that can’t afford them, that creates a thankful heart(usually) and a reciprocal obligation to give back to that neighbor or community group in some way.
Perhaps the fact that there is no way to give back to the government is the culprit. Instead of a feeling of thankfulness, the recipient is left with a sense of frustration and failure. With a neighbor or a neighborhood church, there are opportunities to help and return the favor. Taking on supervision of the Sunday school classes, shoveling the helpful neighbor’s walk in the winter or even sharing some fresh baking or inviting them to dinner. This creates a feeling of fulfillment and self sufficiency. It gives the recipient of that charity the opportunity to demonstrate to that church or neighbor that they are someone who was worthy of such charity. That they understand the obligations of a community to care for each other.
This is one of the reasons that government entitlements and charity are a failure and degrading to the overall character of the nation. How does government charity provide a picture of community support, self respect, cheerful giving and true charity when our children see their parents grumbling over the taxes that are taken from us to provide such charity? What message does it send when they see the recipients of government charity grumbling at how it should be better or how it didn’t really meet their needs? What message does it send to the children who are supported by such largesse? How does that encourage our children to continue our tradition of generosity? When our children see that those who are providing this charity (the taxpayers) are made the poorer by it and involuntarily at that.
Voluntary charity is a blessing for both the provider and the recipient. Involuntary charity is not charity, it is wealth redistribution. We the People need to recognize that, while government may be a fine vessel for the governing of a people, it is not a fit vessel for works of charity.
Belanne Pibal is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

How Both Parties Lost The People

The founders of this country were possessed of the revolutionary notion that the supreme power of our government resides in the people. The Declaration of Independence stated “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. Our Constitution, the very document that outlines the principles by which this nation is to be governed begins:”We the People”, indicating that the Constitution itself is a statement made by the”consent of the governed”.

The recent race for New York’s 23rd district as well as the recent Rasmussen poll showing that TEA Party candidates would be more likely to win than republican candidates, are demonstrations that the people are beginning to reclaim that power from the political party establishments, by whom it has been usurped. That’s right, usurped, by the established political parties. Here’s a short explanation of how we have come to the current state of the GOP and the Democratic party:

A group of Americans have similar values. They decide to pool their resources to find and financially support the candidacy of legislators who share those values and, as time goes by, the group expands and gets more and more resources donated to them by other like minded Americans for the purpose of supporting candidates who share their core values. This support does not come with strings attached (other than maybe attendance and speeches at a few group functions for the sake of courtesy and information sharing). It doesn’t need to attach strings, because the basic premise is that the candidate will be a person of strong moral fiber who shares the core values of the group and will vote according to those values, regardless of how the group thinks the legislator should vote.

Eventually, someone who doesn’t care a bit about the core values decides that the power of that organization is attractive and the group now has a problem.

At some point these “privateers” get control (because such people like power, they will take positions of responsibility within the group to obtain that power). And then they begin to suggest that it is inefficient to support candidates who “cannot” win and that the resources of the group are best spent on candidates who can win. They then also argue that the financial and personal resources of the group can, or should, be used as a goad to coerce the candidate to vote as the group desires once he/she has been elected.

Here’s the tricky bit.

At some point, “candidates who can win” turns into “candidates who can win, regardless of whether their core values align with those of the group.” There is a concurrent rise in the belief that the candidate’s values do not have to match those of the group, because the group wields the re-election resources as a whip to ensure that the candidate votes the way they are told.

This is the point at which the organization has usurped the power of “We the People”. For whatever reason, the political parties and their supporters have not viewed this as an ethical breach, although, it is nothing more or less than the purchase of legislative votes-votes that belong to We the People, not to either party. Candidates who accept such aid are, by definition, people lacking in strength of character, because they have agreed, outright or by implication, to sell their votes in exchange for the support of a political party. This is where we find ourselves now.

The GOP and the Democratic Party have turned that corner and are no longer representing the Americans who started them or their core values. Core values are completely irrelevant to these groups and that’s why they no longer have or deserve the support of the folks who want candidates with those core values. If these parties do not change, so that they once again represent the core values of their base, so that they are not in the position of purchasing the legislative votes of those candidates who have been elected with their “support”, they will cease to exist as Americans step up to their individual responsibility to elect people of character who share their core values. If candidates do not show the strength of character demanded by the duties of governing a free people, they will find themselves unemployed.

May the American people make our founders proud by reclaiming our supreme authority over our government.

Belanne Pibal is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer.