Perspectives: The curse of being ‘saved’ by the state

These screenshots are from 2014 video with the following caption: "At least four police cruisers and a half dozen uniformed cops were ready and waiting for Love Thy Neighbor when the group showed up at its spot adjacent to Stranahan Park as it does every Sunday at 1pm, in a white van armed with trays of hot food. The group's 90-year old founder, Arnold Abbot, previously had announced that Ft. Lauderdale's new ordinance would not deter him from sharing food as he's done for the past 23 years." Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, circa November 2014 | Video posted by Voice Media Group / Broward Palm Beach New Times / via Vimeo; St. George News

OPINION – In my workplace, the walls are covered with numerous photographs depicting key historical moments that pertain to the cause of liberty. They cover a wide span of American history including a re-enactment of the Boston Tea Party and angry students shouting at a young black woman during the era of segregation.

Wall of photos at Libertas Institute where columnist Bryan Hyde is employed. Lehi, Utah, March 20, 2017 | Photo by Bryan Hyde, St. George News

Most of us have seen these images in the pages of our history textbooks. However, one of the most striking photos is so recent that it likely hasn’t made it into a history book yet.

It’s the photograph of a 90-year-old volunteer named Arnold Abbot getting arrested in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, in 2014 for feeding the homeless. Abbot has been arrested and ticketed multiple times for violating his city’s ordinance that prohibits “food sharing.”

Abbot is the founder of a nonprofit organization called Love Thy Neighbor. It’s telling that, in our society, a person who lives up to one of the purest expressions of human decency could face criminal penalties.

It’s also more than a bit ironic that a heated debate is raging today about the prospect of federal budget cuts that would include programs like Meals On Wheels.

Social media is buzzing with memes and anguished posts from individuals concerned that the elderly will starve if federal spending is reduced in the least. Clearly, most of the outrage stems from a perceived opportunity to paint the Trump administration in the worst possible light.

According to Meals On Wheels America, more than 5,000 community-based programs are the recipients of funding from a variety of federal grants and agencies. Of the funding they receive, 35 percent comes from federal government with private donations, states, cities and other resources making up the difference.

Only 3 percent of their funding would be affected by proposed cuts in the Trump budget. The other programs would continue without interruption.

While this clarification from Meals On Wheels helps to put the issue into perspective, there is a larger principle at stake as well.

Why should we allow government to become the ultimate authority on how to meet these kinds of needs within our communities? Any time budget cuts or, more accurately, spending rate reductions of any kind are brought up, folks start breaking out the sackcloth and ashes.

How would our society ever have the arts, or science, or Public Broadcasting Service, or a host of other programs, without the government providing them for us?

The answer, of course, is that individuals, churches and communities who see the need for such programs have historically provided for them. What’s more, they’ve done it with far greater efficiency than our bloated federal bureaucracy that’s racked up more than $20 trillion in debt.

And let’s not forget about the disservice of creating dependency upon a system that can only thrive when those it purports to save are kept powerless. Politicians love to create classes of victims which they they then pretend to save.

Why else would politicians create laws forbidding people like Arnold Abbot from stepping forward with authentic solutions? If you think it’s really about “food safety,” think again.

It’s about creating a captive constituency and perpetuating the fiction that the state – at any level – is our savior.

Keep that in mind next time you hear about families that have been on welfare for generations and then remember that these are the people politicians claim to have “saved.”

None of this suggests that there aren’t real needs within every community. It does suggest that government-sponsored solutions are not the best way to resolve those needs.

Blogger Matt Walsh hit the nail on the head as to how these needs should be met when he wrote:

Personal charity is an act of love. Helping at a soup kitchen is an act of love. Giving a hot meal to a homeless man is an act of love. Volunteering for Meals on Wheels is an act of love. But sitting back and letting the government take care of it with other people’s money is not an act of love. It’s not an act at all. It’s nothing.

The best way is for each of us as individuals to step forward and love our neighbor in the same sense that Mr. Abbot does. Do you love your neighbor enough to be arrested and taken to jail for doing the right thing as opposed to simply what is legal?

In addition to being willing to help our neighbors, we also need to avoid becoming dependent upon government.

One of the best things we can do for ourselves and our families is to embrace the once-fashionable virtue of self-reliance.

This means having the capacity to take care of our needs as best we can without expecting others to carry us.

This allows for real, not forced, charity to operate as it should. It also keeps government operating within its proper limits.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • KarenS March 20, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Mr. Hyde read the statement from Meals on Wheels America incorrectly. He states that “Only 3 percent of their funding would be affected by proposed cuts in the Trump budget.” That is incorrect. Here is their complete statement from Meals on Wheels America from the link given by Mr. Hyde.

    “Meals on Wheels services are provided directly to seniors by a nationwide network of 5,000 local community-run programs that, in the aggregate, receive 35% of their funding from the federal government.

    Some media outlets have incorrectly reported this number to be 3%, confusing it with the federal funding received by Meals on Wheels America, the national membership organization that does not provide direct services (e.g., meals). This miscommunication dramatically understates the significant impact of any federal budget cuts that may affect Meals on Wheels.

    What we know about the budget so far:

    The 35% federal funding that goes directly to local Meals on Wheels programs comes from the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program that falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The impact on these funds has not yet been announced but, given the proposed 17.9% cut prescribed for HHS, could be at risk.”

    Mr. Hyde should change his article to correctly represent the statement from Meals on Wheels America.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde March 20, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Karen, I appreciate that you are always there to hold my feet to the fire. Although Meals On Wheels mentions that the majority of their funding comes from the Older Americans Act, they don’t point out that it’s completely separate from proposed cuts, and will continue unchanged. Even in their clarification, they admit that they are dealing with unknowns as to the actual percentages.

      Whatever disagreement you and I may still have over the hard numbers, the fact remains that this program is far from being gutted. I’d love to get your take on my main point that institutionalized dependency is a bad idea in the first place.

      • comments March 20, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        Mr. Hyde won’t admit to a mistake gracefully at all. I’m not gonna delve into details of this at all; tbh the details are not interesting to me at this time. But if you’re wrong you’re wrong, Bry. Best to admit a mistake, issue a retraction and an apology, and we can all move on. Cheers

      • KarenS March 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm

        The clarification from Meals on Wheels states that they just don’t know how much will be cut but notes that HHS will have a 15% across the board cut. Mick Mulvaney’s ridiculous assertion that the program “just does not work” is belied by scientific studies.

        But, back to you point, I agree with the comment from “comments” below about your assertions. Generally speaking, your articles, tend to paint groups of people with a very broad brush. You lump all politicians with a lust for power and poor people with an absolute reliance on government programs. Neither is true. I have worked with both groups. Most politicians work for the good of society. They hardly “love to create classes of victims”. Most people who need services are trying mightily to advance their own capabilities to the point where they can help others and not be dependent on government.

        I’m all for self-reliance but I really doubt that my community can create the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the wonderful programs that many people (especially those without cable tv) have relied on for years that open their minds to the wonders of the world. (As an aside, I think it has been obvious over the years that the Republican dislike with the CPB is just because some Republicans are offended by the inclusion of characters in Sesame Street that include lifestyles that show tolerance and acceptance of less than “perfect” families. Just my opinion.)

  • comments March 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Would be interesting to see if private charities would step up and fill in the role of provider/savior if the socialist parts of our gov’t were cut out, and there many many socialistic parts of the us gov’t (for example mesaman’s income comes from a fully socialist state run pension). I think if the demand were too great private charities would fail completely. In a dream world, I’d like to see volunteer teachers create volunteer schools so I don’t have to pay property taxes any longer, but no one is that generous. This is why we have gov’t in the first place is because everyone’s generosity has it’s limits. Churches and charities are just not gonna be that reliable. For those that fantasize over some kind of “pure libertarian” dream world, I’m not even sure what that would look like. I’ve read the official liberatian party’s platform, and even it has socialistic aspects. And they still believe in forcefully taxing the citizenry to pay for massive military etc etc. That is not at all “pure libertarianism”. So keep fantasizing I guess.

    • comments March 20, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      And the republicans will take any and all opportunities to cut social programs to free up cash for more military (mis)adventures and tax breaks and giveaways for wall street hedgefunders and the super wealthy elitists. Because poor wallstreet and hedgefund managers are struggling so hard right now, right? –they can hardly put food on the table I’m sure, life is just so hard when you’re a wallstreet billionaire…

  • utahdiablo March 20, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Learn to live within your means, if you cannot afford a new car? don’t buy one, if you cannot afford to go on a grand vacation? stay home and pay your bills, can’t afford to have a $100 dinner, cook one at home, learn to save your money, don’t go to vegas and blow your social security check ….the free ride as you all knew it is now over, America’s 20 Trillion in debt will be repaid one way or the other ( does the Great Depression ring a bell? )…. so let’s secure the borders, and put all Americans back to work and cut most welfare…. You can do it!! ( you don’t have a choice )

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