Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor, New Republic:
Jacob S. Hacker finds that expanding
the role of religious organizations in the delivery of social welfare
services is an idea that shouldn't be taken seriously ("Faith
Healers," June 28). His critique is misguided at best
Like most defenders of the status
quo, Hacker misses the critical failure of top-down approaches.
He overlooks the fact that, for more than 35 years, government has
failed to combat generational poverty effectively. Government has
been good at writing checks but bad at fostering community life.
Employing faith-based organizations is an alternative worth pursuing,
and, in time, the research methodology that Hacker desires will
Hacker wrongly believes that
nonprofits will be the only provider of services, as if this were
a mere conservative scheme to shrink government. In fact, no serious
proposals aim to eliminate the role of government. The most thought-out
idea, proposed several years ago by former Senator Dan Coats, does
diminish government's role, but it empowers taxpayers to direct
their dollars to the charities that work locally. Increased
giving could replace some funding, and government would still have
a role in shaping the underlying policy and providing quality control.
True, the lack of financial resources is
a major problem, and it is no surprise that established nonprofit
organizations now contracting with the government are wary.
However, studies have shown that tax credits for charitable giving
increase the amount of donations, the number of donors, and the
number of volunteer hours. Taxpayers, however, need an incentive.
A poll last year commissioned by the Beacon Hill Institute showed
that 59 percent of the respondents in Massachusetts would increase
their giving if government were to cut welfare spending. Sixty-eight
percent said they would be inclined to give if government provided
Competition between nonprofits benefits the
consumers of such services. A welfare recipient could choose the
nonprofit that best suits his or her day care, job training, and
cash assistance needs. These options aren't available in the current
Private religious and secular charities are
untapped resources that can help ensure that welfare reform is a
success. A charitable tax credit is the way to make the financing
of those resources possible.
Beacon Hill Institute
This letter was published in the August 9,
1999 edition of the New Republic
Format revised on 18 August, 2004