September 21, 2005

We Can't Afford Their Charity

I have always had a problem with Bush's apparent desire to replace public social services with private charity, even apart from the question raised by the entanglement of church and state when religious charities are involved. Private charity is good, of course. The problem with it lies not in its virtue but in its adequacy.

For example, rebuilding the Gulf after hurricane Katrina is expected to cost upwards of $200 billion. Not only is any total at this early date virtually guaranteed to low, but it's bound to be increased if some miracle doesn't avert hurricane Rita, which as I type this has just been declared a category 4 storm. To date, in an unprecedented onslaught of generosity, Americans have donated a little over $1 billion to hurricane relief for those affected. A billion dollars is barely going to cover half a percent of the needed costs, necessary as it has been to get fast and direct aid to the victims.

Then there's health care. The yearly cost of health care for a family of four is now higher than a year's worth of minimum wage income. Minimum wage households whose jobs virtually never provide health care end up missing work due to chronic, untreated illnesses and taking their children to the emergency room as a last resort. Name me one avenue of private charity that can fix this problem on a grand scale. I won't hold my breath. This crisis of care isn't just hurtful to families, it drains the US economy and has recently been cited as a main factor for losing manufacturing jobs to Canada.

It's deeply dishonest to suggest in any way that private charity can deal with either of these issues, or a host of others. It isn't a question of Republicans wanting to deal with them differently from Democrats. The scope of the problem tells the story that saying you want to rely on charity to fix these things means that they don't want these things fixed.

After Bush's speech the other night, it sounds like he finally gets that there are problems other than wars that are so big that you need a government to fix them. But ultimately, he still doesn't want to pay for it, only to say that he does. Which is sad, that even a tragedy like this can't penetrate his consciousness enough to make him get it. The big IT.

Katrina was a huge disaster, but ultimately a piker compared to the chronic, lingering illnesses of the body public. We have seniors that need more care than their time-crunched, cash-strapped families can usually provide. We have children who go through school with undiagnosed chronic ear infections, uncorrected vision and poor nutrition eating away at their performance and self confidence. We have people who would desperately like to go to college and make something more of their careers though they could never afford it. We have parents who have to work two jobs and barely get to see their families just to keep the basic necessities coming, kept apart from the simple pleasure of lounging around with the people they care about. We have families torn apart because of poverty, poor health and tempers frayed by exhaustion.

Charity can't fix these things. The drive of the relentless marketplace can't fix these things. They're too big and I say again that private solutions have proven to be no solution at all. They create at best tiny pockets of sanity and comfort that only serve to highlight the inhumane madness of the machine in which we're all trapped together.

Humoring people who believe in mythical solutions to deadly serious problems does no favors to anyone.

Posted by natasha at September 21, 2005 03:34 AM | Community | Technorati links |

its sad to read the news in regards to the amount of money that was gathered. how is that possible? how is it that we can gather 250,000,000 for a lotto winner but where it counts we fall short? after all, its only money! how is it possible that in other borders, the human life is valued more? is the blood of my brother any different then mine? health care in most european countries is free to the people who live there... who is to benefit from this? the people who live there... is it not the happy emploee that produces the most? how is it that with all the possibilities our country has to offer, we have folks that simply refuse to contribute and be a part of this great nation we once were. katrina is new and it is what the media is talking about right now it is something that people want to hear about. will it be soon forgotten? to those of us who have no family in the golf... this could happen to you. one earthquake and Los Angles could be next in need. will you remember? who remembers 9/11??? has it been forgotten?. what of the million of people who suffer and die each and everyday from hunger, from gun fire, from desease. who will remember them? not i nor you... the takeout waits. the starbucks coffee is calling my name... that 5$ i just spent on this coffee would have fed a hungry child in need for a week... no matter... its only money!


Posted by: V at September 22, 2005 07:32 AM

That wasn't really my point, though. People have been very generous in giving, I think, but as disparate individuals we can't really plan for this sort of thing or reliably estimate what our contribution should be. You need a large organization, a government, to coordinate and resolve the aftereffects of something so enormous.

Posted by: natasha at September 22, 2005 02:32 PM