Charity for the Rich

Every year I get the same call, and every year I explain to the nice lady on the other end why I cannot donate. I shouldn't bother with that, since she is not interested, and I am wasting her time. I should just say “no thank-you” and hang-up. And since she is paid by how much she raises, I am cutting into not just her time, but her income. Nevertheless, I assume that someone who calls me on a topic wants to discuss that topic. What is the topic? It is a donation to the local hospital.

This hospital, once a struggling service for a small town, is now part of the Baylor Healthcare Behemoth, Inc. It does no charity work. If you show up without cash or insurance, they will ship you off to the county hospital, where your care will be on the 5-5-5 plan: a five-hour wait to see a doctor for five minutes at a charge of five dollars. The nice lady will tell me that they need a new MRI device or mammography machine, or whatever. I explain to her that as a commercial operation (despite their 501c designation) the hospital can easily finance that purchase, and whether I buy them a new machine or not, they will still charge fully commercial rates for its use. My donation will have no point, other than to subtract from the amount that I can give to other charities that are actually charities, and not commercial behemoths. You can almost hear the quizzical look on the other end of the line, a look someone might have after having a conversation with a dinosaur, which is, of course, exactly what has happened.

There was a time when the hospital ball was the town's major charity event, an occasion for the ladies of the village to display their finery and their furs, the latter being a rather silly garment for the North Texas climate, but which, nevertheless, makes the ladies feel better, and more power to them. All this made some sense when the hospital was a necessary but struggling institution in a small town. But now the town is a thriving metropolis, and the hospital a part of a well-funded, even over-funded, healthcare-industrial complex. It is, in fact, a place where relatively rich men go to make their living. I have no objection to that, but if there is a shortage in the accounts—which there isn't—they are more than capable of making up the shortfall from their own resources.

This reflection was prompted by this morning's announcement of the ticket prices for the new Dallas Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington. The $1.1 Billion stadium is being built with public money from the taxpayers of Arlington. This is justified under the rubric of “development,” a term which almost always means using the police powers of the state to uproot stable neighborhoods at bargain prices at public expense for the benefit of some rich man. Somehow, we are all supposed to feel better when the rich feel better, and they always feel better after receiving public money that they don't need. After all, we have a president whose singular accomplishment in business (aside from a string of bankruptcies) was to get a similar subsidy for the Texas Rangers, a subsidy that allowed him to make a large fortune on his small stake in a second-rate team (question: “What do Michael Jackson and the Texas Rangers have in common?” Answer: “They both wear a glove on one hand for no apparent reason.”) Anyway, it is somehow appropriate that this country's conservative-in-chief should be a welfare queen.

Going to the football game used to be a working-class entertainment, a chance for fathers and sons to bond while escaping from the women in the house. No more. Now that the game is subsidized, it is priced out of the reach of the working class. The new prices are 18% above the old prices, and they were high. A spokesman for the Cowboys called it “a small increase.” Humph! May he get such a small increase in his taxes. The cheapest seat will be $59, for a few seats so high up, you will need to carry your own oxygen; the seat will give a clear, if distant, view of the end-zone. It will be like watching ants play football. The next cheapest seat is $79, still in the end-zone, but at least below the tree-line. But you can't just buy that seat. You will need first to purchase a seat-option, and they go for anywhere from $2,000 to $150,000. So much for the working class. Let 'em watch TV.

This is a country that exhibits a lot of solicitude for its rich. The smaller and wealthier the group, the larger the subsidy. For example, as the family farm disappears, the subsidies to the corporate farmers skyrockets. They can't get along, it seems, without $300 Billion from the federal treasury. The president is right to veto this bill; one only wonders why he didn't veto all of the other farm subsidy bills that were passed by the Republican congress. That's a problem, I suppose of having a purely partisan backbone. But hey! What's $300 Billion among fellow welfare-queens?


Gravedigger Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 7:21:00 AM CDT  

For some reason I'm showing up as "gravedigger", my Green Bay Packer forum name. It's actually me, Tom Laney.

John Médaille Monday, May 19, 2008 at 3:48:00 PM CDT  

Tom, I kinda like it that you have the name "gravedigger."

Anonymous,  Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 12:35:00 PM CDT  

It is for similar reason that I no longer give money to "non-profits". Nearly all of them have officers making well into six figures. Some even have people making 7 figures. The concept of millionaires looking for handouts disgusts me.

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