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Should government subsidize social service agencies?

By Scott Tibbs, December 2, 2008

On Saturday, I sent an e-mail to the Monroe County Council urging them to reject the funding application by Planned Parenthood. I am obviously opposed to having tax dollars fund an organization that operates a "clinic" where babies are murdered, but what about the other requests?

In my e-mail, I said "if county government is going to be giving money to private charities (which is another topic) then that money should go to charities that actually need it." Ideally, county government should not be giving tax dollars to private charities at all. The choice of which charities to support should be left up to individual taxpayers, not to elected officials who distribute money forcibly confiscated from the taxpayers.

Simply put, tax dollars should go to fund essential government services. Taxes should be at a level needed to fund those basic services, and taxpayers should be allowed to keep as much of their money as possible. As a philosophical libertarian, I believe individuals are far more qualified to decide how to spend their money than government. If the County Council wants to fund social service agencies, they can spend their own money to do so. The County Council members make $12,509 annually, and the council president makes more. They could always donate their own salaries.

It is important to point out that county government is also in a budget crunch, and the County Council itself is uncertain about what the effects of the property tax reforms passed by the state legislature will be. Is it really a good idea to be giving away $85,000 to non-governmental organizations right now, when the county is going to have difficulty paying for basic services such as the court system and law enforcement?

Charities that take money from government should realize that with government money comes government strings. Some local charities found that out with the City Council passed a "living wage" ordinance a few years ago, requiring private charities that take grants from the city to pay employees a wage mandated by city government. When they expressed concern that the extra costs would hamper their ability to help the poor, the venom began to flow. Monroe County United Ministries in particular was viciously attacked by Democratic Party activists, who called MCUM everything from "greedy" to the "enemies of the poor".

Then there is the issue of which charities county government will be funding. Subsidies for Planned Parenthood, specifically, have generated controversy for the last ten years. Many people who would never otherwise donate to an abortion clinic are nonetheless forced to by city government. Does county government really want to show the same level of disrespect for taxpayers that the city does?