Pop quiz: what is the difference between a) giving directly to the poor, b) donating to a charity, and c) surrendering taxes that go to help the needy?
While you ponder that, here’s another one.
Question: if you could receive, free of charge, a) generic drugs or b) name-brand drugs, which would you choose?
Well, if that one seems obvious, let’s try a third one.
Essay: Describe the differences and similarities of the following situations. A) A man comes at you with the intent to kill you, and the only way to stop him is to kill him. B) A man has no intention of harming you, but he will end up killing you, unintentionally, and the only way to stop him is to kill him.
Extra credit: Amend the second scenario of the previous question to say: B’) A man has no intention of harming you, but all the information you have suggests that he will kill you unless you kill him first. How does this change the scenario?
Maybe that’s a little too philosophical. Let’s try economics.
Analysis: What is the best way to know where we’re at on the Laffer curve? A) Increase taxes and see if revenue increases or decreases. B) Decrease taxes and see if revenue increases or decreases. C) Hire a team to analyze the economy and reach a consensus on where we’re at and then describe a reasonable tax plan that will minimize taxes while maximizing revenue. D) Decrease taxes no matter what. E) Increase taxes no matter what.
Or how about one on subsidiarity?
In times of need, a man needs to seek recourse from someone. Rank the following in terms of which he should attempt first: church, city government, county government, family, federal government, self, state government.
All right, by now I’ve probably frustrated everyone. What is the point of all these questions? Well, as we draw near election day, they are some of the basic questions we should all consider before casting our votes.
The first question deals with the dignity of the human being in terms of charity towards his neighbor. It would be best if we could all directly help the poor without going through intermediaries. We know exactly how our money is spent, and to a large degree, if we’re right there, we also know exactly what the poor need from us. Perhaps it isn’t a huge check, for sake of pride, but help getting around town because gas prices are so high. Or maybe it is free service looking after the kids as a single mom struggles to make ends meet. Or maybe it is good, home-cooked food.
However, it may be the case in the course of meeting our obligations to our families, that we do not come in direct contact with the poor and needy, and thus have no idea how best to help them. There are agencies out there that specialize in helping the downtrodden, and so it is more effective—though much less personal, with much less compassion—to donate to these charities. We are still voluntarily giving of ourselves, and we may indirectly aid those who we never knew existed.
Our taxes going to the needy, however beneficial it might prove, is an abrogation of the human will towards charity. It not only bereaves us of the choice of where our money goes, but it also stunts the growth of charity in our souls. When the government does all the work for us, why even bother worrying about our fellow man? Why should I do anything for the poor man on the street? Aren’t my taxes going towards helping him out? While governmental taxes aiding the unfortunate is not something we can really avoid—there are always those who slip through the cracks of any system—and thus is a necessity, it nevertheless is the worst of all options, in terms of human dignity and gift of charity, for helping the poor. This is one reason why overtly redistributionist policies are a social evil, for the blight on human charity. (Don’t worry—there are many other reasons why those policies are wrong, but I won’t worry about them now. They’re not my focus, and I’m still working my way through Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, and Centesimus Annus.)
As a note, Senator Obama—like many on the left—seems to have little to no faith in human charity. Thus his answer is to tax and redistribute.
The second question deals with the concerns of hidden costs. The biggest problem with universal health care is that it buries the cost of health care. When your insurance covers all your medication, why shouldn’t you simply purchase the name-brand drugs? Aren’t they more effective or more convenient, after all? Certainly, if you had to pay for them yourself, you’d buy generic, but when someone else is covering the costs, it is only the best for you. And if your insurance covers all doctor visits, why wait until symptoms become devastating? Why not simply run to the doctor when symptoms first appear? And if your insurance even covers emergency room visits, why not simply make use of the ER instead of booking appointments with busy doctors?
I know the problem of health care is a big one. But having universal health care will only make the problem worse. The inflation of prices due to hidden costs only makes health care less accessible in the long run. And prices will inflate: hidden costs are an assault on the virtue of prudence.
Keep in mind, Obama’s message is about change and hope, not prudence.
The third question reflects back on many life issues, particularly abortion in those most difficult of cases. The Catholic church states the following: in the first case, you’re justified in killing your assailant. In the second case, you’re not justified in killing the other man, even if the cost is your own life. In the extra credit case, the belief that the other man intends to kill you and no other option but killing him will stop him lends justification to killing him. However, anytime there is a cause to kill someone, we at least need to be certain—even if it is after the fact—that we were correct in acting with such finality. And it is fortunate that the extra credit situation occurs very rarely in real life.
Need I say anything about Obama’s position, that we can kill innocent lives simply because they’re too inconvenient? At least McCain has the excuse that we’re at war, and we’re killing people we believe are intending to kill us.
As for the Laffer curve, we know from Bush’s tax cuts that at the very least increasing taxes is a bad idea. Bush’s tax cuts brought in unprecedented revenue to the federal government. It was only a shame that Bush and his administration sent spending through the roof, as well. Obama’s answer is E. Raise taxes no matter what, not because it will hurt or help the economy, but because “it is fair”. Even so, my answer is B. Decreasing taxes might end up hurting federal revenue, but the federal government is better equipped than the average middle class American to deal with a tighter budget. And by that, I mean the government has plenty of money to work with, anyway, not that the government has fiscally responsible employees concerned with keeping spending under control.
And for the last question, we know Obama’s answer. Federal government is first. A needy person should never have to provide for himself, for that’s just cruel, and obviously his community is a poor choice to go to, for the rich there are uncaring, selfish fiends that would never part with a dollar no matter how badly the poor need it. A college student shouldn’t have to first try to pay his way, then see if his family can support him, and then seek state grants and scholarships before finally turning to the federal government for loans. A college student should have the right to go to college at the tax-payer’s expense.
You know, there was a time when a high-school diploma meant something. It helped you get a respectable job. Now it is so watered down—in terms of the education it represents—that it barely counts for anything. A person seeking a trade might have to present a diploma or G.E.D. test results. Now, a college degree is the base standard, and the degrees themselves are starting to become watered down. Maybe if we made our high school education worth something, we wouldn’t need to worry about subsidizing the college education of millions of students who never use their degrees anyway.
One final question. Obama runs contrary to the Catholic Church in terms of life—he’s a supporter of abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, contraception, and so on. He runs contrary to the Catholic Church in terms of economics—as I mentioned above, his redistributionist policies are contrary to Catholic teaching, and he works in violation of subsidiarity. He supports policy that works against the virtues of charity and prudence. So under what conditions can a Catholic in good conscience vote for Obama?