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Entitlement Programs: The Unintended Consequences

Bland food thrown out by school kids as tasteless and too little.
(Photo by Peter Trulock/Fox Photos/Hulton ArchiveGetty Images)

It’s pretty hard to make an argument that American’s are not generous. We are, as a group, some of the most giving people on the planet. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, whatever the disaster American’s are usually the first to provide aid in the form of money, medical assistance and rebuilding. I guess we feel that being so blessed to live in the greatest country on earth it’s only natural to want to give back. It might be philanthropy, or guilt, but whichever it is we give.

Handouts vs. Handups

The Handups: I have been very fortunate over the years to be a member of several charitable organizations. United Way, Jr. Achievement, Kiwanis, Reach, Inc. to name just a few. I have found all these groups to do an excellent job of distributing both money and time to those in need in a very efficient manner.

These groups raise their own funds for the most part. Few get any government grants or loans. Companies partner with private individuals who give generously from their own paychecks by choice not mandate.

The Handouts: Unfortunately our federal and state governments are not quite as efficient in the distribution, accountability and end use of our hard earned tax dollars. While charities specialize in the administration of their distribution for a given cause, government makes the major mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Their other major downfall; they try to force things to happen rather than allowing them to happen. Unfortunately, when it comes to helping people, one size does not fit all when you are talking about 315 million people.

Unintended Consequences

The most recent example of a program starting out with good intentions but not working like it was designed on the government drawing board is school lunches. Michelle Obama is trying to get kids to eat healthier meals and fight childhood obesity. No question that’s a noble cause. The problem is no one checked with what the kids wanted.

The school lunch program costs taxpayers a very healthy $13 billion. But how healthy is it for the kids. It seems, like most government programs, there are some qualifications. Caloric requirements for elementary students are 650 calories, 700 for middle school and 850 for high school. This tallies out to roughly half of the recommended caloric intake for their entire day. Student athletes need even more.

So the little munchkins are on a healthy low fat, low sodium diet. What’s wrong with that? The problem is, the kid’s claim they are starving. One, it’s not enough food, and second, it’s very bland with little seasoning and small portions. The result? More tasteless, unappetizing food is being thrown out than ever before. Some of it in unopened containers put on the tray by cafeteria workers but untouched by the end users.

Some Final Thoughts

A common cry from the left side of the aisle is, “tax the rich” to pay for many important and needed programs. The argument from the right is, “why don’t the rich just pay more voluntarily?” Most wealthy people don’t pay more — not because of greed, but because they see the way their government spends the money they worked so hard for. In my opinion there is no cure for this spending affliction. Whatever Uncle Sam takes in he will find a way to spend it. Name your program and you will find rampant abuse. Food stamps, unemployment, Medicare, disability, poverty programs all made headlines recently. Not sure what affect any change in November might bring but one thing is certain. Very little will change in the day-to-day operation of our government any time soon.

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