Generous Georgians and Miserly Maineans

Neil deMause writes in Slate of “Georgia’s Hunger Games“:

“Fewer than 4,000 adults in the southern state receive welfare, even as poverty is soaring. How Georgia declared war on its poorest citizens—leaving them to fight for themselves.”

He compares Georgia unfavorably with other states, specifically California and Maine.

“In states like California and Maine, which have focused on getting their poor citizens into jobs programs, about two-thirds of those eligible still receive welfare. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Georgia, which over the past decade has set itself up as the poster child for the ongoing war on welfare. …the number receiving cash benefits has all but evaporated…”

He blames discrepancy on the red state/blue state divide, pointing to Georgia’s “all-Republican state government.” He bemoans:

“What this has created is a land that welfare forgot, where a collection of private charities struggle to fill the resulting holes. For the Atlanta Community Food Bank, that means sending out more than 3 million pounds of canned goods, bread, and other groceries each month to churches in and around Atlanta to help feed the state’s growing number of poor and near-poor.”

First of all, what is wrong with private charity stepping in to fill the gap? With the present economy as bad as it is, providing succor to the swelling ranks of the needy will inevitably be a “struggle”. What is wrong with that struggle being voluntarily borne by donors and competently administered by private charities instead of involuntarily borne by taxpayers and incompetently administered by bureaucrats?

Furthermore, it is interesting that, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s ranking of the states according to charitable giving, 9 of the top 10 are deMause’s dreaded red states, and 8 of the bottom 10 are blue.

Georgia ranks way up at #8.

Maine, deMause’s “model state”, scrapes the bottom at #49.

And in terms of the median contribution of its residents, Maine is dead last.

But then, who can blame them? Surely they think they’ve fulfilled their role by funding Maine’s copious welfare rolls with their taxes. True, state welfare harms much more than it helps. But the point is, regardless of the results, they’ve already paid their part in their minds.

With this effect in mind, plus Obama’s repeated proposals to limit tax deductions for charitable giving (echoed recently by Cato Institute Fellow Daniel Mitchell), it is more apt to speak of a “war on charity” than a “war on welfare.”


  1. The state is a welfare/warfare state which subsidises both the domestic rich and the poor, Christian and heathen, Democrat and Republican alike, although the wealthier corporate types are rewarded most fabulously.

    If they (the 1 percenters) trickle some “charity” downwards it is mainly for show and tax deductions.

    The anti market policies have been going on since before the US left the gold standard in response to its own currency debasement. The main benificieries of government deficit spending through debt monetization have been the wealth destruction industries of war and misregulation. The incentives have been so badly misaligned, that productivity is punished and malfeasance rewarded.

  2. I am reminded of the line from Richard III: “To take is not to give.”

    The difference between government programs and charity is force. The inefficiencies and lack of accountability for results, and other problems not the least of which is the political incentive to BE inefficient because all of those bureaucrats also represent a purchased Democrat vote, all stem from the fact that government programs use other people’s money taken by force.

    It always strikes me as offensive when I see people on the receiving end of social welfare programs actually protesting against cuts to – or in most cases, cuts to the growth rate of – those programs. You get something for nothing, taken by force out of what other people produced – just say “thank you” and go home to your taxpayer-subsidized life.

    The people on the taking side – those who take by force and those who receive what is taken by force, do not, can not, possibly have the moral high ground in a debate over how much forcible redistribution “should” take place. There is no moral case that it “should” take place at all. To take is not to give.

    Let’s also not forget that it was government intrusion into the market that caused the bubble-bust and that is preventing prices from falling, as they did in most pre-Fed recessions. Government-sponsored solutions represent a “hair of the dog that bit me” approach. Almost by definition they cannot work. Simply put, most of these people would not be in the straits in which they find themselves but for the government’s anti-market policies of the LAST decade.

  3. “First of all, what is wrong with private charity stepping in to fill the gap?”

    A lot of private charity is performed by Christians, whose religion is perceived to be a major opponent to the dominant ideology of those seeking to expand the welfare state. Christianity, notwithstanding strained interpretations to the contrary, emphasizes the individual’s responsibility for his fellow man; whereas the ideology in question frames virtue and vice in terms of collective state activity.

    Moreover, all private charity demonstrates the willingness and ability of free individuals to help one another in times of need. This cuts against the idea that state action is absolutely required. The more private charity there is, the more people are able to imagine the government taking a lesser role.

    As an aside, the term “private charity” is a bit redundant. Once charity becomes public, it effectively ceases to be charity.

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