Selfish Republicans

Just for fun, I Googled the words "Selfish Republicans."  The query returned 4,240,000 hits.  They weren't pretty.  Evidently, a major GOP goal is to impose selfishness on the American people.  I learned that we favor the rich and the powerful.  Worse, we are trying to starve everyone. We are soulless, vicious, and degraded.  I had no idea we were this bad.

I know we like to keep our money away from the IRS.  I got that.  We don't like to be taxed.  We are fanatics about that.  We all know the mantra -- government bad, private sector good.  But why does that make us selfish?  Why does that make us soulless?  Why does it make us want to starve little children?  In fact, a similar simple Google search would show that red states give more to charities than blue ones.

Then, the other day, I am listening to Rush, and he says, "Liberals think taxes are charity!" -- and suddenly it all makes sense.  Liberals think that by attacking taxes, we are attacking charitable giving.  When we try to cut taxes, they see us trying to cut charity payments.  When we say, "Read my lips: no new taxes!," liberals hear "read my lips, no new charities!"  They think we are sticking it to the kids by not paying the IRS!

Pretend it's been a tough year (as if pretense was necessary).  Pretend the economy is not that great.  Imagine you are struggling to pay your mortgage and pay for the kids and make the car payments.  But you are generous and caring.  You take the suffering of others seriously.  So at the end of the year, you squirrel away a thousand dollars to give to the needy.  Good for you.  You're not soulless after all.  Now how should you give it?

How about to the IRS?  For the moment, let us pretend that giving to government is indeed akin to charitable giving.  In that case, it seems like a great choice.  Consider that the government is responsible for the social welfare net that protects many of our vulnerable citizens.  So you trudge through the end-of-year snow to the IRS and write them a check for $1,000.  They are a bit surprised by your generosity.  Was it a good move?

One way in which a charity can be evaluated is based on how much of the money given to it actually reaches the recipients.  A charity never gives all of its money to the needy.  It has to keep some for its administrative bureaucracy.  That is the case for all charities.  Not surprisingly, this is particularly true of the government.  They are good, it turns out, at funding themselves -- not so good at funding the needy.  It is estimated that for every dollar the government allocates for social welfare, it passes on about 30 cents to the needy.  For private charities, these numbers are reversed.  Many private charities actually redistribute 70 cents on every dollar.  So if you give your $1,000 to the IRS instead of to a private charity you have cheated the kids out of a pile of money.  Nice going!

But it gets worse.  Much worse!  Only 10% or so of the federal budget goes to pay for the social safety net.  The rest goes to a wide variety of unrelated projects -- stimulus, Amtrak, debt payments, Cash for Clunkers, etc.  So most of the money you gave to the IRS went for bridges to nowhere and old broken cars.  Just what poor kids want most for the holidays!  If the government is a charity, then it's a really bad one.

Let us summarize: out of $1,000 given to the IRS, only about $100 goes to social welfare programs.  Out of that, about $70 goes to overhead bureaucracy.  What's left?  Here, kids -- $30 for you!  By contrast, if you had given the money to a private charity, then you would have actually put $700 in the hands of the needy, you selfish, soulless ingrate!

Should we pay more in taxes?  Are taxes a charity?  Yes, if you are lazy.  Yes, if you are not really so interested in the needy.  One payment to the IRS, and you are off the hook.  You're a generous fellow.  But would you ever buy something for yourself -- something worth $1,000 - with so little interest in where the money is going and what you are buying?  When you really care about something, you focus on it.  You don't buy yourself a stone on a bridge to nowhere if food is what you were trying to buy.  Why not pay attention when giving "charity"?

So are conservatives selfish?  We want less taxes and more control over our own money.  So that when we buy something, we know what we are getting.  That way, when we stow away some money to help someone, we are actually doing what we intended to.