Thursday, May 31, 2007

Is "public charity" an oxymoron?

The subject for Town Meeting tonight will be giving taxpayer money to local charities.

I'll vote NO, for lots of reasons:

1. We're taking money away from low-income people (their rents are higher because their landlords pay higher property taxes) just to give their money to local charities to help them. Dumb.

2. We're assuming that Town Meeting knows which local charities deserve Town support. Maybe I think that my money would be better spent feeding starving children in Venezuela rather than helping out Big Brothers/Big Sisters here in Amherst.

3. There's way too much possibility for corruption, kick-backs, and other nasty stuff whenever there's an indirect transfer of money from taxpayer's pockets, through government, and into somebody else's pockets. Get rid of the middle-man, it's simpler and more efficient.

And after I vote NO tonight, I'll give generously to local and international charities that I believe make the world a better place.

1 comment:

Richard Morse said...

If every Town Meeting member had agreed last night in advance to write the check for his/her pro rata share of Isaac Ben Ezra's requested amount,thereby satisfying the request, would the proponents have agreed to stop talking at us?

What's more important: the platform or the money?

I am convinced that there are ways to get this money from this community without going into the public treasury, but those methods wouldn't involve the self-satisfying drama of last night.

Finance Committee member Andrew Steinberg's frame of reference was the one that mattered the most to me last night: he had gone over the town's budget with a finetoothed comb, AND he knows what these nonprofit organizations are going through. Given the demagogic heat in that room, his position in support of the Finance Committee's amount, and his extraordinary willingness to be out front in stating it, was a true "profile in courage".

There's a bit of a anti-yuppie campaign going on in town with the aim being to paint certain younger people in Amherst as heartless and self-absorbed. My experience has been different: when you ask people quietly and directly for help in a charitable cause, without trying to shame them, they invariably step up.