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Private Charity is Not Enough

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Matt Osborne on poverty in his home state of Alabama:

This is a dose of cold, wet reality. The Help Center has seen the number of food requests double, but not the supply. There are plenty of clothes and shoes — yard sale leftovers from folks who are themselves struggling — but $50 for utility bills, however welcome, is not enough. The best efforts of private charity are not enough.

I've always been struck by the extreme generosity of Americans when it comes to charity. There are millions of organizations that do incredibly good work, from food aid to medical research. They really put other countries (and I'm talking about the UK in particular) to shame.

But while Americans show amazing generosity in their private lives, their government on a federal and state level has utterly failed to provide basic support for its poorest citizens. And while private charity is great, it is imperfectly distributed, providing a weak band aid where government has failed.

And no, the answer is not to reduce government's interference in the 'market', but to significantly increase it so it works for its citizens, and not against them.

I find it incredible that the country is still having the same debate over government's role in the economy and in people's lives. The laissez faire economic system heralded by both political parties for the past 30 years has seen the biggest financial catastrophe in history, left millions of people without health insurance, millions without a decent education, and staggeringly, millions without food. Yet the fervent belief in markets and their ability to 'correct' imperfections persists when the evidence shows conclusively that it doesn't.