You know what happens if you don’t get government money? Sudden attacks of efficiency. *UPDATED*

For months now, local charitable organizations have been sounding the drum:  if taxpayer money goes away, we vanish.  In other words, if evil Republicans get their hands on the budget, poor people will suffer.

I’m already wise to this propaganda, having lived through 1994’s welfare reform.  We were told then that the poor would be cannibalizing each other in the street if we limited (not ended, but limited) “welfare as we know it.” That doomsday scenario didn’t happen. (And really, when have Progressive doomsday scenarios ever come to pass?  Surprisingly — at least, surprisingly to liberals — the poor adjusted to new marketplace realities.  That the Democrats want to use the current downturn to reinstate welfare as we knew it is a completely different story.  Certainly, if they do, the poor will readily readjust to government dependency.

But I digress….

I was talking about those charities that assured us that the diminution in taxpayer support would destroy them.  It turns out that, when push comes to shove, not all are willing to score political points by yielding gracefully to the government scalpel.  Some, confronted with free market realities, are engaging in free market solutions.  Here in Marin, the ones that want to continue providing their valuable services are becoming more efficient:

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, 37-year-old Veronica Brady helped whip up lunch for a room full of seniors, people with disabilities and other patrons at Whistlestop’s Jackson Cafe in San Rafael.

Brady, who in 2003 lost her law office job and has struggled with homelessness and low-paying employment since, is learning culinary skills and earning hourly wages as part of Homeward Bound of Marin’s Fresh Starts Culinary Academy.

In what some see as a growing trend among nonprofits struggling to make ends meet in the down economy, Whistlestop and Homeward Bound have teamed up to run the cafe and boost the quality of food there.


“What’s happening is that particularly in this environment that’s a very challenging environment for nonprofit organizations and for schools, our experience is that groups really are looking for ways to coordinate and collaborate on their work,” Peters said. He noted that in addition to economic efficiencies, the partnership “almost always results in a better and more coordinated level of service for clients or students or anyone using the service.”

Homeward Bound and Whistlestop aren’t the only nonprofits to team up that the community foundation works with, Peters said. For example, more than a dozen groups have partnered to form the Thriving Families Network, which seeks to strengthen families and help individuals achieve self-sufficiency, among other goals, he noted.

“Over time I definitely am seeing more openness (to collaboration), and it’s clearly the cuts in resources,” said Linda Davis, CEO of the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership of Marin. “What a lot of nonprofits did when the economy collapsed is we reduced our staffing. In order to get our missions accomplished, we are looking at partnerships and collaborations in a whole different way.”

Government money encourages inefficiency and a lack of imagination.  Once the spigot is opened, it flows regardless of market realities and management decisions.  Just as muscles need resistance to retain their strength, so too do humans and businesses need some external pressures to keep their edge.  Take away that pressure and you end up with useless flab.

UPDATE:  Because coincidence is a wonderful thing, just today The Anchoress did a post showing precisely how mentally flabby those dependent on government funds become.