Credit Where It Isn’t Due
By Ashley Landess
I was recently reminded by a South Carolina college student that her school required her to thank legislators for funding her scholarship. Sometimes, it’s the little things that wake people up to how absurd our state government machine has become. Quick reminder on this ridiculous story: In an interview with the Republican Liberty Caucus in February, one student in the Upstate said he was required to attend a meeting in which students were told exactly how to write their notes. In response to questioning, a school official denied that the meeting was mandatory (though the notices posted on the campus did, in fact, refer to the meeting as “mandatory”) and said it was a “statewide effort that followed a grassroots approach to advocacy.”
The positive part of this story is that a few vocal students understand that they don’t owe a thank-you note to legislators in Columbia for their scholarship money. At least there are young people who “get” that the source of the funds is taxpayers, not politicians. The “grassroots” effort was nothing more than mandatory lobbying.
The larger outrage here is the idea that legislators should be in a position to be thanked for anything other than protecting our fundamental rights and liberties – their only job. Thanking politicians for redistributing other people’s money is a little like thanking the mailman for delivering grandma’s birthday check but not thanking grandma.
Lawmakers are increasingly doling out dollars to private sector entities, not just to corporations but to private charities. Several SC charities pay lobbyists get a piece of the public pie.
The impact of lawmakers choosing which charities receive our money goes far beyond just the dollar amount. This distortion of the charitable process ruins the transformation that human kindness can have on those in need. When one gives to another, the giver has a sense of purpose that motivates further acts of giving. And the recipient feels not only grateful, but also personally valued because someone – a real person, not some impersonal government entity – cared enough to help. Think about it: Do you feel a sense of self-esteem from all the dollars you give to politicians to dole out to “help” people? You can safely assume that those who receive that money aren’t grateful to you for it. And in the case of social welfare programs, there is likely no one to whom the recipient is grateful.
Charity is replaced with resentment and gratitude is replaced with entitlement. Politicians take credit for feeding the poor, caring for the sick, and even, now, creating our jobs. Of course, they aren’t doing any of those things. We’re becoming poorer, less healthy, and under-employed while politicians and lobbyists and administrators and “experts” profit from our forced giving.
Someone told me a story about a politician who was outraged that a new school didn’t list his name on a plaque thanking those who contributed to the building. After all, he’d “worked so hard to get them all that state money.” I believe that story.
When I was much, much younger I suggested to my father that perhaps government ought to step in to care for the poor. After all, I said, Jesus wanted us to care for less fortunate. To which my father replied: “Jesus didn’t tell Caesar to feed the poor. He told his disciples to do it.”
No one should thank politicians for anything other than voting to protect our Constitutional rights. Charity doesn’t begin at the State House.