Call Me Uncharitable, But…

… I have little sympathy for people who complain that they are suffering hardship because government isn’t giving them enough aid.

I was reading this story about the possibility that the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program might run out of money due to the federal government shutdown.  In it, Cierra Schoeneberger laments that should this happen, it will be tough for her to buy formula for her son Jacob.

“What’s going to happen to my baby?” asked Jacob’s mother, Cierra Schoeneberger, as she fed him a bottle of formula bought with her WIC voucher. “Am I going to have to feed him regular milk, or am I going to have to scrounge up the little bit of change I do have for formula or even baby food?”

I have three children, who I’ve fed by spending my own income, and it appears that Ms. Schoeneberger thinks that not only should I pay to feed my children, I should also pay (with my tax dollars) to feed hers.  My view is that people should have children only if they have the means to take care of them.

I know nothing about Ms. Schoeneberger but what I’ve read in this article, and my reaction may be completely unfair.  In fact, I think of myself as charitable, and if people unexpectedly fall on hard times, maybe because they’ve lost their jobs in a tough economy, or lost their jobs because of unforeseen health problems, we ought to help them get back on their feet.  (I am not sure doing so through government is the best way, though.)

Maybe something like that has happened to Ms. Schoeneberger, but the article does not present her case that way.  Rather, it presents the benefits she receives from WIC as an entitlement that is at risk of being suspended.  It’s the idea that some people are entitled to receive income transfers and that others are forced to pay for them that makes me quite unsympathetic to individuals in stories like this.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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