What is our obligation to those who make bad decisions?

wic3One of the things I’ve tried to drill into my children is the truism that the single biggest indicator of poverty is single motherhood.  That data, incidentally, does not reflect the old-fashioned kind of single motherhood, which was the result of widowhood or abandonment.  Instead, we’re talking about modern single motherhood, the kind that sees women who are deluged with birth control choices nevertheless get pregnant with boyfriends or hook-ups who feel no emotional connection or sense of economic obligation to either mother or baby.

One of my children has a part-time job at a cafe and is, for the first time, meeting adults who have full-time jobs but who aren’t middle-class professionals living in single family homes in solidly upper middle class neighborhoods.  One of these adults is pregnant and is unhappy about the fact that the cafe, where she’s been working for only five months, will not give her maternity leave.

Inquiry revealed that the pregnant woman is not married; that she’s living with a boyfriend who may or may not be the father of her child (my kid doesn’t know), and that the boyfriend doesn’t work.  Except for getting regular nooky at night (assuming that the pregnant woman still wants that kind of attention), the mother-to-be will be, for all practical purposes, a single mother.

My child found it concerning that the boss won’t pay this single mother not to work for him.  My child was therefore stymied when I asked this question:  “Why should he pay for her foolish choices?”

I noted that, while it’s entirely possible that this woman was using enough birth control to protect six woman, and nevertheless still managed to get pregnant, the greater likelihood was that she was careless. Indeed, if she really wanted to protect against single motherhood, she could have abstained from sex until she had a ring on her finger and some economic prospects.

I threw in the fact that it’s incredibly costly to do business in California, especially in the food service industry, which have extremely low profit margins.  Employers generally are drowning in regulations, which makes businesses very expensive to run.  Add in taxes and all the other costs of business (rent, insurance, salaries, benefits, supplies, etc.), and it’s guaranteed that the employer is clearing just enough money for his personal expenses (mortgage, insurance, food, etc.).  This owner is almost certainly not living extravagantly but is, instead, living a very temperate life.

Much of the money that the federal and state government are taking away from this man, both from his business and from him personally, is going to welfare programs for single mothers, something this employer must know.  Since he’s already paying for the welfare this young woman will inevitably end up using, why should he pay twice by carrying her on the books even though she’s contributing nothing to his business?  Even if he was feeling charitable, the government has left him nothing with which to be charitable,  not to mention the fact that the government, by snatching money from his pockets, has already decided on his behalf which charities he should support — including economically foolish single motherhood.

Such a simple question:  “Why should he pay for her foolish choices, when the government is already taxing him heavily in advance to pay for all the foolish choices of intentionally single mothers across America”?


Getting nickeled and dimed to death in Europe

One of the things that’s striking about traveling in continental Europe is the way you have to pay up front for things that we, in the United States, take for granted should be free.  The most notable things in this regard is public toilets.  Everybody has to use the restroom sometime, but if you’re at a European theme park, open air museum, or shopping mall, you’d better be prepared to cough up as much as $2 for the privilege of relieving yourself at some place other than a roadside ditch.  Stores, the handy stand-by of the American with a full bladder, are also unavailable.  That’s not surprising with small boutique stores, which often don’t have public restrooms, but it is surprising with huge department or grocery stores, which either make customers pay for the privilege or that have no public bathrooms at all.

Rightly or wrongly, in my mind, the lack of free public restrooms ties in with yet another study showing that the caring European socialists are much less generous than their capitalist cousins in America:

A European either living off or managing a nanny state would say that Americans’ contempt for welfare regimes is based on greed. But if Americans are so selfish, how can they be so charitable?

In no European economy are the people more generous with their own money than the people of the U.S. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, which have been thoughtfully assembled by Cato scholar Dan Mitchell, the total of Americans’ voluntary social spending reached 10.2% of GDP in 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available.

The only country that is remotely close in its generosity is the Netherlands, where the total was 6% of the nation’s economy. Only two other nations, Canada and the United Kingdom, exceeded 5%. The U.K. totaled 5.3% of GDP, Canada 5.1%.

The rest hardly even register on the chart. The French totaled a mere 2.8%, the Germans 2%. Greece, Italy, Norway and Spain all failed to break the 2% mark.

(Read more here.)


A great way to double your charitable donation for the troops

Last year, when I was casting about for a holiday season charity, a friend recommended the Semper Fi Fund, which helps out wounded service people and their families.  I was planning on making a donation again this year, sometime around December something or other, but I’m not going to wait that long.  I’m going to donate ASAP.

My reason?  It turns out that Bob Parsons, GoDaddy’s founder and Chairman, is a former Marine.  To celebrate the Marine Corps 237th birthday, GoDaddy has made a $1,000,000 matching pledge for donations to the Semper Fi Fund.  Go here to make a donation, and enjoy this video, which includes one of my favorite songs — Madison Rising’s Star Spangled Banner.

Hat tip:  Bruce Kesler

The Fallen Not Forgetten education fund — a worthy charity you can help

A military friend pointed me to Fallen Not Forgotten, a veteran-created and owned apparel business that donates a portion of its proceeds to military charities.  The guys at FNF have now set up a page that seeks straight out donations that they will put towards a scholarship fund for the sons and daughters of those who have died or been wounding fighting for this country:

The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center states that the average estimated undergraduate budget for public four-year in-state on-campus students is $21,447, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, and other expenses as of 2011-2012.  If we were able to get EVERY active/reserve member to donate $1 (the price of a Cup of Joe from McDonald’s) we could send 139 wounded or fallen service members children to college at no out-of-pocket expense to them at today’s cost.  Imagine how amazing that would be!  As an organization, we are realists and have set the goal low initially to manage expectations – we welcome our expectations being surpassed and challenge everyone that visits this site to help us in doing so!

As you can see, these guys aren’t greedy.  Their minimum donation request is just the price of one McDonald’s cup of coffee.  That’s do-able.  It gets even better if you’re a Starbucks junkie.  If you skip just one coffee fix, you can send $4 or $5 towards a very good cause.  I’m a tea drinker myself, but for purposes of calculating my donation, I imagined myself turning my back on Starbucks for a few days.

Does charity begin in the home or in the State House?

With Paul Ryan shooting across the political sky with a blazing light, the Left is getting worried.  The latest attack is to trot out Catholics who claim that, because Paul Ryan objects to wealth redistribution, he’s anti-Catholic.  After all, say these Catho-Lefto pundits, what could be more generous than allowing the government to use its overwhelming police power to rob from the rich to give to the poor?  Not everyone is buying that, with some thoughtful people pointing out that, to the extent that charity is supposed to enrich the giver as much as the beneficiary, forcible redistribution fails completely at a moral level.

Incidentally, the fear that allowing the state to step in for charity dries up the individual conscience isn’t unfounded.  The numbers prove that fewer people practice personal altruism if the state does it for them.

Acts of charity

I was thinking about all the kids who are protesting their student loans today, and how so many of them have taken their $200,000+ educations (paid for by taxpayers through the student loan program) and gone into non-profit work, virtually guaranteeing that they will never repay the money.  In other words, these students have appointed themselves as our agents for charitable purp0ses.

The end result is that we, the workers, don’t get to pick our charities.  Instead, we pay our taxes, leaving us with little to spare, and these spoiled children, indoctrinated on our dollar, pick charities for us, usually Left wing in orientation.  In other words, the new system is one of forced volunteerism.  We’re forced to pay, and they get to volunteer.

Wrongly conflating socialism with generosity

I read someone today who said that Jesus must have been a socialist, because he didn’t seek profit, which is the hallmark of capitalism.  Instead, gave away his time, energy and skills to those who could not pay.  Since he didn’t have a profit motive, he must have been a capitalist.  QED.  It was a classic case of conflating socialism with generosity.

Socialism is, in fact, the opposite of generosity because it removes human morality and decency from the equation.  There’s a reason study after study shows that liberals donate less to charity than conservatives do.  The liberals have placed themselves entirely in government’s hands:  the problem of the poor has become someone else’s problem.  The fact that we all pay taxes, which the government uses to fund the poor, isn’t charity, it’s central planning predicated on wealth redistribution.

The Victorians, who were wellsprings of one sentence wisdom, used to say “charity begins at home.”  The giving impulse of charity must start within us, as it did within Jesus.  In a totalitarian, or even semi-totalitarian (i.e., socialist) state, nothing is allowed to come from within.  All goes to and flows from the government.

In a capitalist society, people have the wherewithal to give.  And in a healthy capitalist society, they have the moral impulse to give.  Jesus wasn’t a socialist.  When he said “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s,” he fully understood the separation between our spiritual and moral impulses on the one hand, and the dictates of a state on the other hand.  Ideally, the people’s adherence to both Caesar and God is a mutually beneficially system, with a humane state allowing humans to go about their business, and a social and moral structure that encourages those with the most to reach out, without state coercion, to help those with the least.

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

The Anchoress on Haiti

I’d just like to remind you again that, if you are interested in what’s going on in Haiti — and the ways in which you can contribute to relief efforts — the Anchoress has a stellar (and tragic) series of posts on the subject.  Just toddle on over to her blog and check the whole thing out.

One word of warning:  there’s nothing like a massive tragedy to bring out the scam artists, and they have flocked on line en masse.  Please be careful with your donations, so that they go to the Haitians and not the crooks.

Helping Haiti *UPDATED*

I am distrustful of television, since it often creates a false reality.  When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco in 1989, I was out of town.  The images shown on CNN made it look as if the whole city was in ruins.  I was terrified about what had happened to my family and friends.  It was only when I carefully watched the endlessly looped images of destruction that I realized that only three areas had been hit, albeit hit horribly badly:  the Marina District, the Oakland freeway, and a one block area in downtown.  Yes, a section of the Bay Bridge had collapsed; and, yes, houses in the Sunset District had sustained some damages; and yes, people were without power and incredibly frightened and had things broken in their homes and offices, but it was not the 1906 style conflagration the media tried to present.

I resented the media hysteria, but understood it.  TV is a purely visual animal, and you need good visuals.  The buildings that didn’t fall down make for bad TV.

All of which gets me to Haiti.  I’ve been sitting a little bit on the sidelines with this one.  Yesterday’s print stories were rather vague in terms of casualties and, as always, I doubted the visuals.  It’s becoming clear, though, that the earthquake was one of devastating proportions.  In a city with expensive building codes, it might have been bad; in a city built in as haphazard a manner as 17th Century Lisbon, it’s proving to be every bit as disastrous as that fabled quake.

If you would like to help out the Haitians, the Anchoress has complied a long list of charitable organizations.  Also, a friend whom I greatly respect has been urging contributions to a Haitian based organization called Beyond Borders.  Given Haiti’s long-standing structural problems, I have no doubt that vast amounts of the relief money will simply vanish, never to be seen again.  Nevertheless, in a country that poor and damaged, anything that gets through to the people is going to be a good thing.

UPDATE:  It turns out that this quake wasn’t unexpected, at least if one was paying attention.

UPDATE IIPictures from the scene.  And, rickety special effects not withstanding, this scene from the 1936 movie San Francisco is as good an imagining of a big earthquake as any I’ve seen (starting about 1 minute in):

It’s very obvious to those familiar with pictures taken immediately after the earthquake that the film’s special effects people relied upon them closely as a guide.

Here’s original footage of San Francisco after some of the clean-up had already begun:

As Christmas approaches, help soldiers get calling cards

Chase is giving $5 million dollars to charity.  The deal is that facebook users get to vote for the charity of their choice, and then Chase will use those votes to determine how to allocate the funds.  If you have a facebook account, think about donating to Cell Phones for Soldiers, an organization two youngsters started in 2003 to help overseas troops get calling cards and cell phones.

To vote for the organization, click on this link, which should take you directly to the Chase voting page for Cell Phones for Soldiers.  Then, just follow the instructions (which start with requiring you to become a Chase fan.)

If the link doesn’t take you directly to the Cell Phones for Soldiers voting page, click on the “Search Charities” button, near the top of the window, and search for “Cell Phones for Soldiers.”  When that name appears in the search screen, click on it.  Then just follow the instructions.

Support the Valour-IT project — Go Navy!

I somehow managed to miss it when it started, but the annual Valour-IT fundraiser is still going on (until November 11).  This fundraiser raises the monies that help to “provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries.” It is, as Martha Stewart would say, a GOOD THING.

As a proud member of the Navy League, I am, of course, supporting the Navy.  (I could also support the Marines, but they seem to be doing fine without me in the Valour-IT fundraising race.)  So, if you would like to donate money, I urge you to use the link below, so that the Navy can make a good showing this year and, of course, so that all injured troops can benefit from the wonders of modern technology.

Literary shorthand

Some time ago, I wrote an article about romance novels in which I pointed out that many authors, to telegraph that their lead male character is reliable, strong, honorable and handy in a tense situation, give that character a military background.  In the same way, I’ve noticed when reading romance novels written by those on the New York Times side of the political block that the way to telegraph that a character is rotten is to make him or her politically right wing.  (And I really mean it about the New York Times thing, since these same authors will always announce their characters’ intellectual chops by alluding to them reading the Times on Sunday morning — especially in post-sex romance mode.)

For example, I’m reading Toby Devens’ My Favorite Midlife Crisis (Yet), which is a pretty decent book about menopausal woman navigating their way through divorce (or widowhood) and dating.  It is most definitely not a political book.  Nevertheless, by the first third of the book, Devens twice resorts to politics to make character points.  The first time comes when she describes one of the partners in her narrator’s medical practice, a man who points out that the practice’s bottom line is not going to support too many pro bono surgeries:

“The times they are a-changing,” Neil said.  “We cannot afford liberal largesse.  We are not a welfare provider.”  I’d heard this too many times before.  Neil is way to the right politically.  (p. 47.)

Given that the book came out in 2005, maybe we can forgive the author for being unaware of post-2005 studies establishing that it’s those who are way to the right who are more charitable, not those to the left, who sit around and wait for the government to provide.

That wasn’t Devens’ only attack on conservatives though.  Her most loathsome character is a hate-filled, manipulative daughter who forces her widowed mother to choose between a new love and her grandchild.  You get the picture, right?  In case you don’t, though, Devens drives it home by reminding us that the daughter is practically Hitler-esque in her horribleness:

Summer was a stiff-necked little prickette who supported the most outrageously right-wing political cause with the money she and her equally tight-assed husband had reaped from the sale of their dot-com.

Quick, fellow readers!  Get out the garlic.

I’m still reading the book, despite its political mean-spiritedness because it is, otherwise, a decent novel about “women of a certain age.”  I’ve decided that, just as I ignore Dorothy Sayer’s periodic forays into antisemitism, excusing them on the ground that she was an upper class person in Britain in the 1930s, and (a) those attitudes came with the territory and (b) she is often sympathetic to, as opposed to genocidally inclined towards, Jews, so too will I ignore Devens’ outbursts.  She’s obviously a woman of her class and time (New York, early 21st Century) and has to be forgiven her foibles.  But I wouldn’t let my daughter read the book, and that’s entirely aside from the R rating I’d give it on account of the sex scenes.