by Dennis Linthicum
The Klamath County Budget Committee is getting plenty of feedback with regard to Meals on Wheels and the Senior Center. The committee is not struggling with the validity or need for the Meals on Wheels program. The issue, given the local stagnant economy and declining county revenue, is whether it would be fiscally prudent to fund these programs at current levels.
Public commentary is mixed but there is a sense that as long as the program passes the “compassion” threshold, then it should be funded.
One perspective supposedly has “compassion” and the other doesn’t. Long-term fiscal responsibility appears to show a cold-hearted mathematical meanness rather than a real heart-felt compassion for the public good.
Government Doesn’t Represent Compassion
Government expenditures are not compassionate. Within welfare service programs the government only engages in financial transactions. Their function entails gathering resources then providing a mix of services or resources back to certain segments of the population. There is no heart in this effort, per se, it’s a job that gets accomplished.
If the money happens to be used by a public service organization then those service employees may have compassion. However. those individuals are not compassionate because they received government money. Those individuals show compassion because they are morally capable human beings.
Your dog, or the neighbor’s cat, is not morally capable of compassion. Neither is government. Remember, government represents nothing more than the shear legal authority and self-justified power to collect tax-payer funds for its own partisan advantage.
George Washington made the claim, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” This phrase might well be apocryphal according to Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, but its meaning is clear.
Where Does “Compassion” Come From?
Real compassion stems from individuals. It is the result of individual action not collective action. Certainly, as a group joins in a common effort they can exhibit better results – better prices, quantity discounts, more people served, etc. But, again, this is because the caring individuals have voluntarily joined in a community to positively impact their neighborhoods. This is real community. This is real compassion. Accept no substitutes.
In Klamath County, here is a simple illustration of what is required to collect any amount of taxes:
- The County’s Assessor office assesses the value of property within the county’s boundary, along with any and all improvements, annually.
Question: When the Assessor’s staff assigns value to land or improvements are they being “compassionate” or are they adhering to Oregon’s Revised Statues (ORS’s)?
- The County Tax Collector’s office sends Tax Statements to property owners based upon assessed value, collects taxes paid and pursues the collection of delinquent accounts, fines, and penalties, annually.
Question: When the Tax Collector’s office pursues these interests are they exhibiting “compassion” or compliance with any and all appropriate ORS chapters?
- Property owners pay taxes for county services – the administration of justice, public safety, public health, zoning, planning, public works, animal control, schools, et. al., annually.
Question: When the property owner pays these taxes is he exhibiting “compassion” or compliance with the law?
- Everyday during the year, County employees process all of this paperwork (according to rule and statute) and then outside Auditors verify that everything was accomplished according to the appropriate set of formalized procedures.
Question: When these actions were being performed was anyone exhibiting “compassion” or were they only displaying a keen fondness for following the rules that govern their employment?
At this point, we have added more costs and overhead 1 to the equation than “compassion” or “benevolence”. Where would a committee’s “compassion” come from? Here are two choices:
- If the Committee were to encourage productive and sincere involvement from individuals, neighbors, churches and friends, would the committee be exhibiting “compassion”, or not?
- If the Committee were to provide short-term funding at the expense of long-term fiscal responsibility, would the Committee be praised for their “compassion”? If the Committee were to allocate scarce financial resources away from mandated county services, would the committee be more “compassionate”, or not?
“True compassion is a bulwark of strong families and communities, of liberty and self-reliance, while the false compassion of the second usage is fraught with great danger and dubious results.
True compassion is people helping people out of a genuine sense of caring and brotherhood. It is not asking your legislator or congressman to do it for you. True compassion comes from your heart, not from the state or federal treasury. True compassion is a deeply personal thing…” 2
Dennis Linthicum is a member of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners
1 The myriad of functions listed here, along with the wage and benefit packages for these employees, represent only part of a county’s overhead. Other costs come in the form of electric and heat utilities, information technology – software and hardware, furniture, tools, machinery, equipment, and buildings combined with required services like legal, administrative, human resources and others. This is why only a small portion of any taxes paid results in actual county services. 2 Reed, Lawrence, What is Real Compassion, (FEE.org, Apr 2013) accessed 4/16/2013; via http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/what-is-real-compassion#ixzz2SSF2ysar