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January 14, 2008


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The commenter you quote is simply woefully uninformed.

As just one example, Medicare (a government run health care program) spends just 3% of its funds on administration of benefits versus 15%-25% for private providers depending on who you ask.

Lots of people providing money to lots of different little charitable organizations does nothing to capitalize on advantages of scale.

I believe that the government should have a very limited role in helping the needy. Many (if not most) who attempt to adhere to the teachings of the Bible believe that the church is charged with caring for the needy--not only caring for fellow members, but for those outside the church as well. The Bible also teaches that those who are able to work are responsible for caring for the needs of their own family members. In other words, if my mother needs groceries and I am able to provide help, it would not right for me to send her to a food pantry or a government agency for assistance.

The church has relinquished much of its role of serving the needy because of supposedly effective government programs. I'm afraid the church has lost some of its bearings and purpose as a result, and the welfare society hasn't proven to be a successful social experiment.

Now, I understand that for any of this to work in the world we currently live in would require a throw-back to before The Great Society. A huge shift in the polar opposite direction. But since you asked..... :)

I've never really understood this ideology that 'the church can do it better' than government when it comes down to helping the less fortunate. No one's saying it's an either/or situation. I know a great deal of generous people help through their church. But let's face it; we're in a secular, diverse nation and the government is the single largest institution of change we've got. Individual churches can't handle it all, despite their best intentions.

One of the best ways I know of is tax relief. If you tax a poor family $20 less, that's $20 more in their pocket. Not a bad system, eh?

If what commenter #1 says is true, it appears the government might actually be better in this situation than going private (charities). Of course, if charities had the revenue that Medicare or Social Security had, their percentage spent on administration may decline close to that 3% level.

In any case, I think as the richest nation on Earth, we have a responsibility to help those that are less fortunate. There is no reason why someone in the USA should be starving or homeless when there is so much wealth here. Frankly, to me it is embarrassing that so many (especially children) live in those conditions, when you have overpaid CEOs, athletes, government officials, etc. living the lavish lifestyles they do.

Medicare's costs are much higher than 3% if you also consider the hidden administrative costs.

KMC, of course, you are conveniently ignoring a few details. For example, the MediCaid budget doesn't factor in the overhead of tax revenue collection and many of the other things that would make up the costs of getting Medicaid it's budget.

There are no doubt some economies of scale that only a governmental entity can take advantage of. But there are also unique negatives to governmental intervention that other organizations don't have to deal with. Corrupt politicians and all that.

Also, setting aside the funding sources, actual service delivery of an enormous chunk of the social services, educational services and health care servics of this country is still being done by churches.

Finally, on a personal level, I can't help but acknowledge what I have seen from many. How payment of taxes become a substitute for charity. For some, it is their failure of doing anything charitable that motivates their support for more taxes, more entitlement programs (almost out of a guilty conscience). For others, it is the taxes they pay that becomes an excuse for doing no charity.

We tend to think about charity as being all about solving someone else's problems. Ending hunger, ending homelessness, etc. I'm not saying those aren't noble goals, but if anyone has ever done charitable work and seriously reflected upon it, they realize their incapacity, the disproportion between their means and the problem that is being faced. Charity in my mind is as much about educating ourselves to our own needs and thus, as a people, our interdependency and solidarity with one another. That doesn't come from writing just a check. And that doesn't come from the solving of the problem. That comes from just being with people. Facing problems with them. And that's what I worry is really lost when government is seen as the main or sole actor in these areas.

And that I have been given little evidence over the years that the government is all that good in dealing with these problems.

I would be fine with our government helping people get on their feet. Help them find a skill they are apt for, help provide for them and reduced fee/free daycare while they train and get started.

I do not like the entitlement dole as it lives today. It aims to put a foot on people and keep them down, keep them needing it, no incentive to move beyond receiving the money and no incentive to make it on their own.

Look up Star Parker and try and hear her story. She is a syndicated columnist now but she started out with a rough life, started receiving money when she was pregnant and found it hard to get off the system (in fact she was discouraged by many from even trying). Well she got out of the system, started working hard and ended up starting a business and is now quite successful.

I don't think our federal government was ever designed or construed to do what it does now. Sure, maybe there is really only a 3% overhead in administration fees but when you look at the oversights, the fraud, those collecting who don't need to collect, the mismanagement there is a LOT more waste than 3%, I would imagine.

I think the states in cohesion with charitable and religious organization (interfaith) would do a far better job of handling their local needs when it comes to welfare and they could manage the goal of getting off the system (obviously there are exceptions, total disability for example) and producing for themselves and society. If we were tougher and stricter we would see our national economy go up, our tax dollars more wisely used etc.

Finally, I love the illustration of the sparrow in the Bible. I realize this is not a biblical post and we live in a free country where secular and Christian principles can live side by side (so long as the government is not establishing faiths or denominations or uprooting others.) So with that disclaimer down this is just general sense for life even if you don't believe the Bible...

Jesus was talking about how God takes care of even the sparrow. How even the sparrow is fed and taken care of. (the illustration goes on to tie into how much more God cares for us who are made in His image but that is beyond my point here...). That does not mean that the sparrow can sit back in it's nest, relax with it's feet up on the sides. It means that the sparrow (even while raising "children") works hard. It gets up before most of us and hunts for it's food, building and amending nests, caring for her eggs, nurturing her young until they can fly, etc. If one is able to work then they should be helped to work, not helped to not work.

I'm a fan of phasing out most "traditional" government welfare programs in favor of a negative income tax:

I'm strongly of the opinion that some redistribution of wealth is good for society. The government represents society in a given country, it seems reasonable that they should play a significant role.

Walter Williams is an economics professor with many wonderful columns published about this topic.

His best point is that TRILLIONS of dollars have been spent since government welfare really took off in the mid 1960s and yet poverty levels are no better now, 40 years later...sounds like a waste of money to me.

What's worse, he points out that in regards to school test scores, illegitimacy rates, and unemployment, government welfare has done what slavery, racism and the KKK couldn't do, the welfare state has destroyed the black American family. He points out, with data to back it up, that lives were overall better for blacks in just a few decades after the civil war than they are today.

And yes, Dr. Williams is black himself.

say I see a homeless guy on the street, if I grabbed the next guy I see, empty his wallet and give it to the homeless man, I could be arrested for stealing.

but if the majority American people vote to reach into that same guy's wallet and take his money, it's okay?

something that is immoral does not become moral just because the people have voted so.

btw, that first comment about administrative overhead for medicare programs being only 3% made me laugh out loud.

I don't see it as an either or situation. For one thing, not all charities -- including religious charities -- are run efficiently. Some are even worse than state and federal government agencies. As an individual, you really need to do your homework before donating.

However, the government can always add a layer of confusion to any enterprise, so you have to keep an eye on it.


re #3: You benefit from society (i.e. you live here and get the benefit of living here) you better give back to society.

I've lived in countries where the taxes were high and care was there for all from birth to death. Amazing how little poverty one sees in those countries compared to the USA. Pathetic, really.
I work as a county employee and deliver lunches to Seniors in their homes...the ones who can't get to a grocery store regularly. They get (on the taxpayer dime)a healthy hot meal 5 days per week for free (they can donate money if they want). I can't imagine that a church could offer this type of service on a week in, week out, kind of basis. These seniors depend upon these meals. I am really not sure that giving them extra taxes at the end of the year would make as much of a difference as a full belly does every day...they are very grateful for these meals, and it makes me sick to think that some of you would rather hold tight to your pennies and let seniors go hungry. One of the gentlemen that I deliver to was in that picture of the flag raising on Iwo've all seen fact, they all contributed greatly to our country....they deserve a government that can subsidize them in their old age.

Is it ethical for the government to rob Peter to pay Paul?

I think it's incumbent upon those of us who believe that non-tax-subsidized charity is more effective in the long run (and "effective" includes the element of easing recipients off of needing assistance as soon as possible....) to realize that while the present welfare system exists, we should also support private charities we've chosen independently of government mandate. I refuse to think I've "given my share" through taxation alone, since my personal choice is not involved in that redistribution of wealth in the slightest. In a sense it costs me twice--I "give" through taxes (in which case, my money is actually being taken from me) and then I give another percentage out of a sincere desire to help others.

but if the majority American people vote to reach into that same guy's wallet and take his money, it's okay? Is it ethical for the government to rob Peter to pay Paul?

Yes. Money isn't created out of thin air or solely through personal efforts whatever you may think. It is government that creates and gives value to that money. Anyone thinking differently should move to a deserted island.

There are no easy answers though. Government or charities can be efficient or inefficient, well suited or poorly suited for a particular problem, and more important than how, it is whether it is effective that works. Government can be bureaucratic, but it can also provide uniformity. It can provide a safety net and a hand up, or squander aimlessly. Government has an interest in seeing everyone as productive as they can be. Charities certainly haven't rid us of poverty either, but are probably more effective at intense interactive help.

I also believe that wealth should be re-distributed, but it should be done through free will, not government theft.

I think people who support socialist government programs are largely motivated by guilt or greed -- guilt at their own success, or greed in coveting another's possessions. That, or laziness.

Ultimately any good thing that is done is done by individuals. Those people usually need institutions to provide organization and scale to maximize their efforts. A private religious or philanthropic group is almost always going to be more effective at mobilizing individuals to meet individual needs. When it is done in the Lord's way, all parties involved benefit.

Lord sounds like a damn communist to me.

Welfare wasn't largely a government function until the Great Depression (at least in the USA anyhow). The problem was that after the US climbed out of the depression and following the war time economics, the church didn't re-stake it's claim to caring for the needy and poor. Since then it has been a slow erosion of the church's role in this service to the poor of our country. I pray that someday changes, and in pockets it certainly has been.

Big Chris

I'd like to address each comment directed at me/mine.

@Ryan - Really? What administrative costs would those be?

@pharmboy - Pharmboy. I'm going to guess and say you have a vested interest in the government not using its considerable power to buy drugs in bulk to lower prices.

@JACK - Corrupt politicians? Are you serious? Like there aren't obscenely overpaid and corrupt health care company executives?

To everyone who doesn't think Medicare does it cheaper, consider two things. One, the government had to prop up with subsidies the 'private' version of Medicare because it couldn't compete. Two, just think about it logically. Medicare doesn't have to pay for marketing. That alone will reduce the cost of delivering said health care. And that's just the beginning.

I'm of the opinion that the best thing we could do to reduce poverty is to quit supporting it with welfare programs.

"Twenty dollars to the government would probably provide $10 in welfare benefits."

That's a pretty provocative statement to make without any sort of support. Probably? Based on what? While it might be true, the entire argument hinges on totally unsubstantiated conjecture.


For one thing, Medicare is sited by many economists as being the #1 reason why health care costs have increased in this country. When the government pays for something, they pay more. Secondly, the collection of money for Medicare has heavy costs, between your payroll office at work to the IRS and government collection. Third, do a quick google on Medicare's hidden costs to reveal more.


i work for the a very large pharmacy chain...only about 3% of my salary is based on sales, and actually, I get compensated better for the more generics we dispense...but since you're asking, yes all of America (myself included) has a vested interest in the government not driving down drug prices. Prices drop, then profits drop, then incentives to enter the market drop. R&D will drop significantly and advances in healthcare will slow to a trickle if the government intervenes on capitalism...that's exactly what happened with vaccines in the '90s when Hillary led the charge to have Uncle Sam negotiate prices on vaccines.

that being said, all the money being spent on direct to consumer advertising is a joke...but hey, capitalism (warts and all) is still better than any other option.

Give me a break pharmboy. R&D will not drop if prices go down. Maybe your company will slow down R&D to cut costs to placate their shareholders, but in the long run, some little guy or university will fill the gap in research. There is still a profit motive there.

I especially like Jeremy's comment:

"I think people who support socialist government programs are largely motivated by guilt or greed -- guilt at their own success, or greed in coveting another's possessions. That, or laziness."

I support government programs to help people when they are unable to help themselves. Call it socialist if you wish, but I call it being a human being. Am I guilty because I am successful - no, I just don't think in a wealthy country such as ours that people (kids especially) should be hungry or homeless. There is plenty to go around.

Let us assume the data the commenter provides is true. Therefore 50% of all contributions to the federal government for welfare is directly used for welfare purposes. If these services were to be privatized, he claims 75% would be used.

With Medicare and Medicaid coming in at the hundreds of billions of dollars mark, 50% of that would still make it hundreds of billions. I have a very hard time believing that individual citizen donations would equal that amount. Even if we were to take 100% of the donations and apply it.

@ Ryan - "Medicare is sited [sic] by many economists as being the #1 reason why health care costs have increased in this country." Name three. The government doesn't automatically pay more when it pays for something. The VA has been able to negotiate for lower drug prices and guess what, they get lower drug prices. How in the world would government providing health care for all raise prices? Would the number of people in the country suddenly jump?

To your other point, the collection of Medicare premiums adds no increment cost. The IRS would be receiving money from your paycheck whether Medicare existed or not. Your payroll office (and its costs) would still exist without Medicare.

@ pharmboy - Classic pharmaceutical talking points. The pharmaceutical industry spends far more on marketing than R&D. Throwing the 'people will stop innovating' argument in is a red herring. Do companies not produce generics now, even though profit margins are low? Of course they do, they compete on efficiency.

Actually it's obvious that when the government gets involved and pledges to pay for something--be it health care or college tuition--prices tend to skyrocket. This isn't because the government willingly overpays (though that may be true); it's because health care companies and drug companies (and colleges) raise prices in order to gobble up as much of that federal $$ as possible. It's supply and demand.

Obviously the government is wasteful. There are countless evidences of this, and it's unavoidable when you're dealing with SO much money going SO many places managed by people who have NO incentive to keep prices down--rather they have huge incentive to find reasons to increase the budget and grow their particular departments.

The argument on whether the govn or charities pay less toward overhead is pointless. Results are what matters. Charities work locally for the most part. They are much more involved on a personal level with the people they help. They have better tailored programs for specific problems. It's not usually a handout; you have to want help and seek it out and often apply for it before recieving aid. Welfare, Medicaid, and medicare simply are not very efficient--I don't care if they only pay 3% to overhead; the money they hand out is largely wasted.

Did you see the documentary about a homeless man who is given $100K--along with a drivers license, therapy, financial planning sessions, and job offers--and a few months later he was homeless again without a penny to his name. You can't just give people money; you have to find solutions to the problems that make them need it. The govn may have more money, but charities have a much track record for actually helping.

Another thing - poverty is simply NOT that big of a problem in our country, especially as it's defined by our government. The average "poor" person in this country has cable TV, air conditioning, a microwave, a cell phone, and has never gone hungry. Oh, and the average poor HOUSEHOLD works a combined 20 hours a week or less--meaning if one person in the house simply worked 40 hours a week, or if two people worked 20 hours a week, they'd no longer be defined as "poor" even by our government.

Despite the fact that the standard of living of the "American poor" (an oxymoron if you ask me) has increased steadily for our entire history, we still have exactly the same amount of poor people as we did 50 years ago, as pointed out by a previous commenter. Something tells me all the TRILLIONS of dollars spent on fighting poverty could have never been spent, and we'd still be exactly where we are today...

I certainly trust that all of you fulminating against the evils of government assistance do your own part and do not, for instance, accept the responsibility-destroying, pandering handouts of tax deductions for your student loans and mortgages. Those are programs of government assistance to individuals, just as much as any welfare or Medicaid program is.

Oh, wait, it's different because you are responsible members of society whose success is built entirely on your individual efforts, not like those lazy bums around the corner, right?

One of the most important areas for government help is to try to provide as equal an opportunity to all, especially children who have little say over their situation. We can all become wealthier if all are provided as much opportunity as they can take advantage of.

Charities haven't eliminated poverty. Does that mean we should stop giving?

Is it possible to have a blance of both gov't & charities to make the system work? Not likely. We've been trying for about 40 years and it's not getting better but rather worse.

The welfare system needs a fix! Except in the case of a severe disability, If we limit the amount of years a person can collect welfare (say 5 years - enough to get an education) and encourage a person to stand on his/her own two feet, then maybe there wouldn't be such an abuse of the system - like having another kid to stay on welfare and collect more money! It's ridiculous!

We also need to beef up the Social Security system to better provide for our aging society, since people are living longer. The meager stipends from social security are not enough for seniors to survive in most parts of this country. We have to remember that there was not always such a huge push to save for retirement, as there is today.

Yes, I understand that we're phasing into a more self reliant system, and personally I'm not against it (I like to control my own destiny), but I feel for the older folks who were not preached to, to save for retirement and those who lost their retirements in corrupt, poorly managed company retirement systems. It's frightening.

Unfortunately, corruption and misuse of funds is rampant among government and privately funded charity organizations.

Are more taxes the answer? Not unless the gov't can control spending and eliminate corruption and special interests. Again, not likely.

The amount of time on welfare is already limited - to 2 years. Are you proposing we liberalize that?

"poverty is simply NOT that big of a problem in our country"

What an absurd statement to make.

This article is worth reading in light of your article and some of the comments posted here:

How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the "Plague" of Poverty in America

I think Lord said that the government has an interest in not keeping people on the dole....but that simply isn't true.

The true aim of socialits (aka Democrats as well as some Republicans) is to keep people dependent on the government because they know they will get the vote from those people to keep the welfare state going.

Politicans of all stripes don't give a hoot about sound economics. They care a great deal more about "looking good" and making people feel good rather than BEING good.

KMC: After visiting a truly poor country, Peru, I now know what real poverty looks like--and America's is nothing compared with most countryes. To say poverty isn't a big problem in the US is an exaggeration. However, in America, a BIG part of the problem comes from having kids out of wedlock....That is, it's a behavior problem. Those who have kids out of wedlock DO have options. They can give their children up for adoption. They can choose not to have sex in the first place. They can use birth control. They can get abortions.

In Peru, poor people cooperated as families and as communities and WORKED VERY HARD to support their families--yet many are still often poor.

If the average poor American worked half as hard as the average poor Peruian, they would not likely be poor.

If the out of wedlock birth rate were the same today as it was in 1970, the poverty rate would be much lower.

Charity is when one person freely gives of themselves to another. Extortion is when a group of people gang up and threaten to send men with guns to your house and haul you away to be locked in a room with violent criminals who will gang-rape you every day if you don't pony up as much as they say you have to. When the men with guns also have badges, they are called "the police" instead of "the mafia", but it's still extortion, and anybody who thinks it has anything to do with charity, regardless of how the money eventually gets spent, needs to reexamine their premises.

If one lacks the option of choosing to give less than prescribed, not at all, or to different recipients, then it's not charity, it's robbery.

I believe most, if not all, the people who have commented here in favor of government providing welfare services clearly have never worked for the government.

In the 1930's, the government implemented welfare programs to help lift Americans out of the poverty caused by the Great Depression, which the government was argubly the cause of the GD in the first place. Over 70 years have passed, and our poverty levels have never fluctuated more than a couple of points. To boot, the government welfare initiative was supposed to be temporary. Yet, we as still have it in full effect and at a phenomenal cost. Clearly, this multi-billion dollar investment of our tax dollars has not paid off.

Can private charities fail at their stated missions? Absolutely, and many fail miserably. Here's the difference: as a supporter of a chairty, I can assure my dollars are being spent wisely. If the charity fails at their directives, I can simply stop supporting them and take my dollars/time elsewhere. What are my options when the government fails?

Anyone who has taken the time to read our founding documents, as well as the thoughts of our founding fathers, one would come to the unavoidable, unequivocal realization that it was never the intention of a nation of free people to provide for its people. Our government's purpose was to protect the individual, natural rights of all humans, thus only ensuring the opportunity to be free to try to succeed--it did not and can not garauntee the success.

Government mandated chairty is nothing short of socialism, which by every definition opposes the ideas of freedom and individualism that made this country America.

What are your thoughts about welfare? (Welfare, disability-stealing our money!!)

Date: 2009-08-29, 1:43PM PDT

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Looking at the Provincial Govt. why is Campbell giving so much of our hard earned money to welfare bums? Do people know that when they come in claiming disability and shed a few tears, and receive $900.00 to $1,000.00 per month. I was amazed when I learned this and they pay for there dog and cat, that is probably abused, but used to get more money.

The mentally disturbed can be put back in Riverview and given there meds. The NDP should not have shut down Riverview and sent these people downtown to the slum hotel rooms. They live on the streets with no help from the system and a system that doesn't know what to do with them. In that time period welfare only got about $300.00 per month and rents were 2/3 less. Things were hard but now the government holds these people with mental health problems who have no life, at the expense of our hard earned tax dollars. People with money can hold people back and control others. Those on disability receiving this free money and health care, etc. could easily stand outside the skytrain, Canada Line and give out papers for $10.00 per hour that is deducted from there welfare cheque. They could pick up rubbish in the streets, parks or lose there free ride, and drug money. Welfare is for those that need it and going through hardship for a short time period, but the majority live on it for decades.

Canadians should start voicing there opinions and make these people report there efforts to find work or seek mental health advise through the Health system they are getting for free at my expense. Some get pregnant to get a free welfare check. I would rather put the money to child care so single mothers can go back to work, provided it is a safe environment.

But, having said all that we can be grateful we can provide for ourselves in what is a recession that will get worse in short order. We need leadership in the NDP government if you want to remove the Liberals, or he will again be relected when things calm down. Campbell did however help small business and create more jobs. He is trying to keep the poor back and it is easy for him to control. People in Canada are rather weak and should protest the people sucking from your system in the welfare system. Imagine if we didn't have this social network. These people would become resourceful and get off there lazy ass and find a job.

We have minimum wage at $8.00 per hour, yet Campbell is paying out $900.00 - $1,000.00 per month, for the mentally disturbed on disability. $8.00 x 40 hours/week = $320.00 x 4 = $1,280.00 x 12 = $15,360.00. Taking the gross at $1,280 x 4% (vacation) = $51.20. ($1,280.00 + $51.20 = $1,331.20.) If taxes were deducted, inclusive with CPP, EI, and the highest deductions taken from $1,331.20/month @ perhaps 16% based on income, which still is to much at $212.99 (way to much) = $1,118.21 net. Now the difference is $118.21 compared to the $1,000.00 for a single person on welfare. Assuming transit fees at maybe $100.00, this then leaves the welfare bum 8.21 up over the $1,000.00 per month we are paying to keep them with our hard earned tax dollars.

Annually over 12 months (above) this is $15,360.00 less the $10,000.00 deducted before people start paying taxes leaves $5,360.00 which is less with provincial deductable, etc. The welfare bum loses CPP benefits and EI and would get a tax refund. But, thinks in there infinite stupidity that they are screwing the system when they in fact are screwing themselves.

I think families responsible for the welfare bums childhood (alot of divorces, separations), should be taxed more to carry these taxes we have to pay to support the mentally disturbed and drug addicts. Take back what they created and either house them or pay extra in taxes. You watch the welfare bums decrease more and more over a short time. We have more tax dollars and raise the minimum wage to provide better quality of life for those that contribute to society and there families. If the families cannot take responsiblity and not working then take away whatever government benefits they now have and there CPP and Social Security upon retirement.

You watch the economy pick up when these people paying the same expensive rent we pay start working for a living instead of stealing from those that take responsibility for themselves. The laws need to be changed as well to change legislation to allow the system to press charges against people who think they can do anything they want because of ancient laws. Perhaps people should start taking things in there own hands and deal with these people themselves. The system after all doesn't work. I will put my money into RRSP's, TFSA before I will spend money on a legal system that does nothing but look after the poor bleeding hearts who take advantage and abuse the system on a criminal level, in many different ways.

Voice your opinion, and don't badmouth people so you can get the attention of the media perhaps to voice your own concerns with the present government. I think some people cannot be changed and we need to change them outside the legal system. But, then again the California guy who got away with 18 years of abuse should be put in with the general population, along with his wife.

People on this website know what needs to be charged by the public, since the criminal system does not work when legislation needs changing. Then do it yourselfs. Stop the offensive offenders, who need jail time.

•Location: Welfare, disability-stealing our money!!
•it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

PostingID: 1348958532


It's very simple. Charity is voluntary. Welfare is coercive. All the statistics and all the anecdotes in the world are irrelevant. Only one question is important... If I examine the evidence and I come to believe the government welfare system is inefficient, or worse harmful to the poor, and I decide to give my money to the private charity instead of to the government, do you support state violence against me?

There are probably things that the government can do better than charities (like regulation) and things that charities can do better than the government (like mentoring) but there's something about personally giving of one's time and money to a specific person that we're forgetting. Namely it helps the giver as well as the receiver. If I take the responsibility to help one fatherless child learn how to get a job then the child gets some skills but I learn about what it means to be fatherless and we both form a better sense of community. If instead I just write a check once a year to the IRS then the parts of society drift apart.

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