Alms for the Poor, a painting by Robert Kemm
Photo Credit: wikigallery.org
The debt debate is basically about two conflicting ideas: Obama believes wealth is evil and we need to take it away from the rich to help the poor while I believe taking from the rich is evil and in addition giving it to the poor does not really help the poor.
Some of my religious readers may object that it is their Jewish/Christian/Muslim duty to give to the poor. That is to say, without beggers there can be no blessing from alms-giving. But I see alms-giving as a selfish act that benefits the giver more than the receiver: for the religious, it is a method of accumulating wealth in the world to come - what the poor person gets out of the deal is of little consequence (1).
For governments or corporations, it is also a selfish act, aid is just another way of generating revenues. For example, in many countries, including the US, foreign aid is tied to buying their goods. Tons of American farm products are sold in Africa that in some cases compete with the crops of struggling local farmers. A careless reader of newspapers seeing headlines announcing France or Japan or the US sending tens of millions in food aid would think that Africans are getting some benefit; not so - French, Japanese and American farmers make money at the expense of African farmers who are driven out of business and subsequently become in need of even more foreign "food aid."
But isn't it immoral not to give charity?
Well, let's consider the matter: For thousands of years human beings have been giving alms to the poor.
Jews have been doing it since the Exodus: one of the 613 Mizvot (or commandments) of Mosaic Law is to give charity (2), yet we still have the poor and miserable with us.
Christians have been doing it for more than two thousand years yet we still have the poor and miserable with us.
Zakāt, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, requires Muslims who are able to annually give a portion of one's wealth to the poor and needy, yet we still have the poor and miserable with us.
Modern governments, corporations, and private charities have been giving "aid" to the world's poor for dozens of decades, yet we still have the poor and miserable with us.
If charity worked, the poor would not still be with us. And yet in almost every country in the world there are more poor than ever before. For almost two centuries in the US the percentage of the poor decreased with every passing decade except when we started the so-called Great Society. After almost 5 decades of dedicated helping of the poor, there are even more poor and hungry children today than in 1965.
For God's sake, for the sake of the poor and hungry, stop this futile charity. There is one country where the poor have more TVs, refrigerators, cars, homes, living quarters, food, money, clothes, and other things than the poor anywhere else: America. The reason is simple: we give less to our poor than any other country. If we can just get it down to zero, our poor would not be poor at all.
If we eliminated corporate taxes there would be more people employed and with greater remuneration and less need for welfare, food stamps, unemployment benefits, etc. Instead of the government taking one-third of corporate profits and paying a bloated bureaucracy most of that money to redistribute to the poor, corporations would use that money to better purpose, hiring more people, marketing more products, and paying higher salaries all which would find their way into our economy without going to worthless, wasteful bureaucrats.
Nothing makes someone poor like a handout.
As for aid to other countries, all charities require the poor and miserable to exist and although that does not mean charities purposely create the poor and miserable, I do believe it is against their best interest to find a solution that completely solves the problem of poverty and misery.
The truth is that the less-developed countries with the most poverty, disease, and misery today are precisely those countries to which we gave the most in foreign aid over the past half-century. This is especially true for Africa - the more we give aid to Africa the poorer it becomes.
After five thousand years of charity we still have the poor. It is time we stopped this futile nonsense. It simply doesn't work.
N.B. In the above discussion I mentioned beggers; actually the poor in America today find it too demeaning to beg and so demand that our government steal money from the rich and hand it over to them without the effort of going into the street and asking for alms.
apocalipsis.org, Giving Alms: a neglected Christian duty.
Mat 6:1-21 mentions three duties of the Christian: giving alms, prayer and fasting.
In giving alms we are laying treasure for ourselves in heaven... We can choose to be rich in this life, which only lasts a short time, and to be poor in the next life, which lasts for eternity.
Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 15
7 If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother;
8 but thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth.