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Subsidize it or tax it?

Posted by Richard on August 23, 2005

A survey of 600 people in Denver found that 42% said they’d given money to panhandlers during the past year. The average amount was $25 a year, just under $2 at a time. Over the weekend, the Rocky Mountain News said:

Economists tell us that when society subsidizes something, society usually gets more of it. Denver residents are choosing to subsidize panhandling to the tune of $4.6 million a year, according to a survey released Thursday, which could certainly help explain why Denver has so much begging.

The editorial goes on to note what all but the completely brain-dead bleeding hearts (i.e., 42% of Denver residents) already knew, namely that giving money to panhandlers enables their dysfunctional lifestyle and makes it less likely that they’ll straighten themselves out.

Unfortunately, the Rocky thinks the mayor’s $13 million 10-year plan to end homelessness is a better idea. Wrong! The mayor’s plan is a bunch of BS about affordable housing and permanent alternatives to shelters. As if high rents are the reason Festus is bumming spare change for a bottle of Mad Dog. As if all that crap about "families with children" that the homeless advocates keep spouting were really true.

[Ever since the ’80s, homeless advocates have claimed that children and families are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless. If that had been true all these years, the homeless would be 90% mothers and kids by now. Instead, every unbiased survey shows that the people living on the street are overwhelmingly single males and overwhelmingly have substance abuse problems. The only way families register as more than a blip is if you count women and kids who are temporarily in a shelter or motel, for instance after fleeing an abuser.]

Denver’s grand plan to end homelessness amounts to another great big subsidy for helplessness and dependency (and for the developer friends of the politicians). As the Rocky noted, you get more of what you subsidize.

The Rocky failed to note the other half of the economists’ argument about subsidies: you get less of what you tax. So, if we really want to help the dysfunctional alcoholics and drug addicts living on the street, we need to put in place the appropriate incentive structure.

We should tax panhandling and charge a fee for sleeping in public places. "That’s the City of Denver’s bridge you’re living under. You owe us rent."

It might not get them all clean and sober, but at least it will encourage them to move on to more hospitable places. I hear that San Francisco is quite generous.

Meanwhile, don’t give money to panhandlers. If you’re in the Denver area, get some meal coupons from Step 13 and give those out instead. Step 13 is one of the most effective programs for street people in the country, it gets no federal, state, or city funding, and it deserves your support. It offers "real change, not spare change™":

Want to get someone off the street? Sober him up, clean him up and put him to work. Why? Because work works! It pays for food, it pays for shelter and it does something even more important: it gives a man the kind of self-esteem he needs to be a healthy, productive member of society.

You don’t even have to feel charitable to help Step 13 because they’ll be happy to sell you a service — for instance, detailing your car or providing day labor — instead of taking a handout.

If you live elsewhere, look for a similar program in your community.

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3 Responses to “Subsidize it or tax it?”

  1. Anonymous said

    I must say that I am heartily tired of seeing these professional social-retards on my street corners, trying to make motorists feel guilty about not being as worthless as they are.

    This is emblematic of a successful, idle, and unchallenged society – it’s when the self-righteous underachievers can make the normal majority feel guilt over their social and financial success.

    I call it White Liberal Guilt, and if you were educated by one of the Socialist Robot Manufacturies that were so efficiently cranking out Guilty White Liberal Youths in the 1960s to now, then you have to overcome your White Liberal Guilt by realizing that [bold] you are not to blame for your brother’s misfortune.[/bold]

  2. Anonymous said

    Did you know the ones at many intersections and interstate exits are more like independent contractors than real bums? Some entrepreneurial guy puts a bunch of them up at a fleabag motel and shuttles them to their assigned corners every day, and he splits the take with them. IIRC, it typically pays far better than minimum wage.

  3. VRB said

    Did you miss dissin the mentally ill?

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