Policy Blog Post 5: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Explain the role the voluntary and private sector have in social welfare.  Describe at least 2 benefits and 2 concerns relating to the voluntary sector and/or the private sector in general.

“You cannot feed the hungry on statistics.”-David Lloyd George

I’m coming from a lively discussion in HBSE2, and I’m kind of reeling from it. We watched the documentary A Place at the Table which highlights some of the voluntary sector with regards to the increase in hunger across our country and closing the gap of hunger. I started the discussion by saying that I wanted to reduce my lip service and start actually helping out. I want to begin meeting needs instead of just talking about it. There was far more on the minds of my cohorts.

The conversation devolved into a bit of mud slinging. I think others would disagree with me, but I felt extremely uncomfortable. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but to say that people who make more money than “the rest of us” are somehow morally inferior?? Really? It’s morally inferior to make $250k a year. Really? How can someone make that kind of generalization without knowing the heart of the person they are talking about? I don’t know what that person is doing with their funds. I don’t know what kind of situation they came from. I don’t know if they are donating to charities on a regular basis. I don’t know if they have medical bills, other family issues, etc. I won’t make those kinds of comments. Even more important to the kind of work I want to do is this: I won’t make those comments because, eventually, I might ask for donations from these people, and the last thing I want to do is piss someone off because they got wind of a comment I made in a class I took in grad school about how I think that I’m morally superior because I care about social justice and make a pittance compared to them. But I digress…except this isn’t a digression!! This dovetails right into the blog post.

The voluntary sector relies on charity! Many of the grants that are applied for are funded through the trust of a rich dead person. Faith-based services are funded through the donations given by their congregants. Ideally, a person who is making a lot of money will be giving a lot to their church or charity of choice. Until the government closes the gap and gets on board with taking care of the people of this country, we need those voluntary and private sector donors to meet the needs of hurting people.

Another poignant thing that came up in conversation was this: are these charities enabling people to stay unemployed and in the system? Maybe yes. But the system is fatally flawed, is it not? The poverty line is so low and the threshold for receiving services is so low that, in order to qualify and meet the needs of yourself and your family, some folks are opting to only work part time. Full-time work is honorable, but what do you do when all your assistance is quickly cut? There is no opportunity for transition for these people who are struggling to get on their feet and then stay there.

This is where the idea of privatization might come in. Many people think that private sector charities and philanthropy are far more efficient than public welfare systems. The private sector can meet the needs of people without all the red tape of bureaucracy. However, private entities function without any government regulation (not a horrible thing), and therefore are more apt to discriminate against certain people or ethnic groups (a horrible thing).

So what’s the fix? I’m detail oriented, not big-picture. Micro. I want to go out and, one at a time, help the people that I come across. I’m not willing to get into a shouting match with my cohorts about how the system is broken but not do a damn thing about it. What are we going to do, people, besides yell at each other??

If you need me, I’ll be at Food and Shelter.

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