Obama’s Churchless Charity

Posted: Dec 20, 2010 12:01 AM
Obama’s Churchless Charity

President Obama is quick to visit churches, of any denomination, when he’s in search of political donations, in search of votes or in search of street creds with the Black community. Like so many others in the Democrat party, the President often seems indifferent to churches and the efforts of faith-based groups. He has skipped out on the National Day of Prayer, and after suffering through the scrutiny and criticisms from the Reverend Wright episode, Obama has avoided almost anything related to church and faith. Sadly, President Obama might be keenly aware of the political value (and risks) of churches and faith-based communities, but seems unaware of the incredible generosity of churches and faith-based organizations in the United States

What a pity. Mr. Obama clearly believes that the role of charity is best performed by the government, which alone should be responsible for helping the downtrodden and destitute. Churches and private philanthropy, which Americans support with a generosity that all other nations envy, are not seen as worthy of consideration.

In reality, churches and faith-based organizations are far more effective than government in providing and support to those in need. Government programs, orchestrated by distant bureaucrats become huge, slow, and indifferent. Rarely do government assistance programs meet the stated goals, and rarely is taxpayer money wisely allocated. Faith-based programs, using private money, by contrast, are targeted to specific, immediate, community problems.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, the brilliant, conservative historian, has written extensively, showing historically that charity that works best is charity which is targeted, local, accountable and appropriate to need—precisely the kind of support the federal government is ill-suited to administer.

Alexis de Tocqueville, almost two centuries earlier, also concluded that government assistance to the unemployed and to the poor is ineffective because, ultimately, when treated as an entitlement or “right”, the surety of support, over time, robs individuals of the incentive to work. The 800 pound gorilla in Obama’s Oval Office is the rising number of multi-generational Americans on welfare, incentivized by the federal government to continue their growing dependency on public assistance.

There used to be a time, my grandparents would tell me, during the Great Depression, when folks were ashamed of being “on the dole”. Americans, forced by tragic circumstance into poverty, viewed public assistance as a temporary solution to tide them over the rough spots. But now, that element of shame, at living solely through the largess of others, seems lost. And, sadly, the loss of shame seems to be accompanied by a loss of motivation to be self-supporting.

Now, of course, not all first-timers who are on public assistance, fit this model, but it is clearly applicable to many of the multi-generational, unwed “welfare moms” who have multiple children, often from multiple fathers, who do not, and cannot, by law, work if they wish to continue to receive welfare. Government programs are indifferent to these sorts of problems. Faith-based organizations, by contrast, are quick to focus precisely on the family dilemma.

Perhaps the saddest part is that Mr. Obama, and many of the other leading Democrats in Washington, are so very eager to chastise entrepreneurs and the wealthy in America, never missing an opportunity to complain about them for not “paying their fair share." And yet, not once, has President Obama mentioned the amazing philanthropy and generosity shown by these same, supposedly-awful, rich people in America. These “rich people” that Team Obama has vilified so frequently over the past two years are demonstrating philanthropic actions that underscore American generosity. Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have put together the “billionaire challenge," pledging half of their entire net worth to charity. Nearly 50 billionaires have pledged almost $200 billion toward a variety of charities.

Curiously, Obama never speaks about American philanthropy and its transformative effect. Instead, Team Obama presses the failed notion that the aid to worthy causes and citizens in distress is best accomplished by government action. Mr. Obama seems to want the wealthy to fork over their money to the government and allow bureaucrats and politicians to disperse the largess to favorite Democrat causes and pet projects.

Christmas is coming (the Holiday Season for those who demand political correctness). There can be no better, more appropriate time, to tap into the generous, giving spirit of all Americans—not through taxes, regulations or Obama’s verbal, public floggings--but by accessing the charitable inclinations and aptitudes of non-profits and churches across America. Of course, that will require Mr Obama to rethink his class-warfare strategy and stop vilifying rich people for political gain.

Perhaps, Mr. Obama will come to the conclusion that his dismissal of American exceptionalism was in error. Americans truly are unique in the world and are especially generous to the needy.

Mr. Obama might even reconsider his position and admit that private American citizens, with generosity and honest concern for others in need, can and do provide more and better assistance than many of the government programs which he has historically championed. At the very least, Obama could recognize the millions of Americans who demonstrate profound generosity to churches and other non-profit organizations to help those less fortunate. ‘Tis the season.