Tax Dollars, and the Strings they Attach to God and Man

Most people have no idea what President Bush’s “Faith Based Initiative” buzzwords mean, as most people aren’t running church oriented social service organizations. That’s fine. I’d argue that those forceful advocates of making sure government money goes to church run organizations and programs have no idea what it means either.
That may sound like it makes no sense, but it’s the “faith based” organizations, (who tend to be more conservative), who are the ones with no idea what they’re getting into as they advocate for their cut of federal tax dollars for their work.
It’s nice to think that there are all these great organizations out there, doing the Lord’s work in the Devil’s cities, who could use a few more bucks from Uncle Sugar to help further their mission of helping the downtrodden.
There’s no denying that many wonderful organizations, run by evangelical Christians, Jews, and any one of a number of the seemingly innumerable religions out there do some good and need all the help they can get.
As someone who once seriously considered going to seminary to become a Protestant minister, I’d say that I probably appreciate this work more than the average political foot-solider of the right. At least I know what a faith based homeless shelter does.
That said, the determination to ensure that religious groups get their “cut” of federal dollars is a disaster in the making, one that will ensure the destruction of the autonomy of religious social service organizations and one that will seriously undermine the cause of the conservative movement in ways they can’t even begin to see. Which ultimately is bad – if we have one side die off from self-inflicted hara-kiri, we’re ensuring the other side gets a pass on being called on their bad ideas, and that’s not good for anyone.
How? Simple. By making religious organizations yet another draw on the dollars out of Uncle Sugar’s pockets, we introduce a whole spectrum of new problems. Lobbyists will be hired at great expense to ensure that each religious group gets their piece of the taxpayer sponsored pie.
Religious organizations will have to get more political (and in the process endanger their tax exempt status) in order to get the money they need. They’ll be subject to the whims of the party in power, and if “their guys” get pushed out (and they can!) they’ll be looking at a huge hole in their budget where government dollars used to be. Not fun.
But more to the point – by making these organizations first the happy recipients of a bonus from Uncle Sugar, then addicting them to tax dollars, we are ensuring that the government maintain its complex and high taxes as they are now – and will continue to be maintained and increased, regardless if the people in power have an “R” or a “D” next to their names.
These same new recipients of Uncle Sugar’s wallet will have to fight to defend that tax collection system – regardless of how oppressive or bureaucratic it may be. Yet another whole group of people will work to ensure that the state can continue to use its ultimate authority to jail and penalize taxpayers with a mandatory collection system to get them their piece of Uncle’s pie.
We’ll have yet another class of well organized folks who will never say “no” to more money – they’ll want more. If you think this won’t happen, check to see which of the many social service agencies we already pay for actually said “No, take some of that money back, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer.” If you find one, I’ll buy you a pint.
Worse, as we all know, government money comes with strings. Don’t believe it can happen? Just ask the fine folks who run Hillsdale College. This private school takes no federally funded student aid, instead opting to find private sources for student aid to pay tuition. It’s one of the few schools in the nation to do so. Yet it maintains a solid academic reputation, and manages to provide aid to those who need it.
Why do this? Because if they took federal student aid, they’d take the many mandates and strings that come with it. Doing so would compromise their academic mission they envision for their students, and they’d rather stick to their beliefs than compromise for a few federal tax dollars.
It’d be nice to think that somehow we could pass some laws that would make it possible for private organizations to take federal money with no strings attached, but there’s just too many reasons why that pipe dream isn’t going to happen. And if it can happen to colleges, it can happen to social programs too.
The concept of a Catholic-run health care facility being compelled to provide abortion services may defy logic to most folks – but if they’re taking Uncle Sugar’s dollars then someone can make them do it regardless of their religious beliefs. Already Catholic health care systems are being required to cover contraceptive services in employee health plans – several lawsuits have ensured this already.
Yes, that sucks, given that they’re being forced to go against their own very important beliefs, and yes, it defies common sense. But it also sucks for the millions of taxpayers who aren’t Catholic that they have to pay for it because of their very important beliefs. And on down the rabbit hole we go, in a spiral of “you can’t make me pay for that” and “you have to pay me for that.” And this is better how?
It’s the ultimate irony that people who call themselves “conservative” and for “less government” would endorse any plan that would ensure that the state maintains a massive bureaucracy with complex and confiscatory tax laws that are as much as about controlling personal spending as they are about collecting the government’s money.
Think about it. Sure you get a “deduction” for all sorts of goodies – but you’re still missing the cash out of your pocket. Wouldn’t it make more sense if you just paid less in taxes, and then could do more of what you wanted instead? Isn’t that “conservative?”
In other words, it’s yet another example of how American “conservatives” aren’t really for less taxes and less government – they want more government to pay for the things they want. This latest plan is yet another prop to support an all-powerful central government and ensure that a redistribution of money to ensure dependence on federal government whims is extended to yet another group.
It’s really too bad we don’t have some real conservatives who advocate things like a low flat tax and and letting people keep more of their own money to do what they want with it. It’s something even many liberals would support – and would ultimately free up more money for those faith based initiatives some claim they support.
Ah, it’s just as well we let President Bush pursue this latest scam. At least we won’t be listening to pastors laugh about how they screwed over folks like those guys at Enron did. Right?
© 2003-2006 Greg Dewar | All Rights Reserved | Originally Published at

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