Outrage Over Cut Funding to Meals on Wheels is Stupid

Your indignant fury over the possible elimination of the 4% contribution the government provides to budget for Meals on Wheels is both objectively overwrought and dumb.
https://cbssanfran.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/stolen-truck.jpg?w=640&h=360&crop=1
Pictured: The aftermath of Donald Trump’s previous attempt to destroy aid for retirees.
Unless you’ve deleted your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram account, you’ve probably heard about Donald and Melania Trump’s attempt to single-handedly crash Meals on Wheels into a brick wall of budget cuts and hasten the demise of the elderly, infirm, and poor… Most likely as part of their diabolical plan to finally clear those deadbeats out of their low-income housing so Trump can build more casinos.
(In the unlikely event that someone from CNN is reading this and is debating whether or not to use it as an “anonymous source,” that was sarcasm.)
 However, if your first reaction to this news was to immediately share an article or image declaring how we could fund Meals on Wheels for a thousand years if only Melania would just stop buying solid-gold flatware for about five seconds, then you’re part of the problem. It’s easy to feel angry when you see the extravagant lifestyle the first family lives while simultaneously hearing about how innocent charities are getting their shoe-string budgets slashed by Washington, but is this how we fix the it?
Don’t get me wrong: The idea of Donald Trump sucking at the teat of the American tax-payer for his own personal pleasure is a mental image that is deeply disturbing for a whole shopping basket full of reasons. The PROBLEM is that the entire argument being made by this fabricated hub-bub is grounded solely in that mental image; built exclusively on the fact that at least 1/3 of the populace and 3/3 of the media are convinced that the Trumps are stealing everyone’s gold and hoarding it in a cave beneath New York City like a family of gaudy dragons.
melaniadragon
“Tonight on Rachel Maddow…”
Unfortunately, when it’s framed in those terms, that outrage is completely misdirected, fallaciously over-exaggerated, and ultimately very silly, and I think you need to rephrase or rethink why you care. The whole affair has become a glorious exercise in misdirection, bias confirmation, and psychological projection. That’s a pretty heavy accusation, but let’s cover some things real quick:
1: This Was Never About Meals on Wheels.
This was never about Meals on Wheels for the media, it definitely was never about Meals on Wheels for the Democrats, and, in all honestly, was probably not really about Meals on Wheels for you either.
This whole thing started because the President’s proposed budget has a veritable army of belt-tightening cuts for a large swathe of agencies, organizations, and non-profits, almost each and every one of which has SOMEONE throwing apoplectic fits. It’s sparked hot debates about whether or not the federal government should be subsidizing non-profits, steering the direction of culture, or micro-managing education to begin with. The progressive left doesn’t like having these arguments, both because these arguments are hard and because the idea of Trump controlling art, charities, and schools creates a lot of cognitive dissonance. However, they can’t say they want to keep increasing federal power creep to pave the way for Hillary’s 2020 come-back, so instead they roll out what is literally one of the most sympathetic and inoffensive charities of all time: Meals on Wheels.
Suddenly, we have a completely different narrative. Innocent charity workers, busily baking healthy meals for the elderly, when an evil billionaire breaks down their door with a fire ax and tells them he’s cutting the power and repossessing all their ovens to use in his upscale steakhouse? This has gone from a debate over federal subsidies to something that’s two celebrity guest stars away from being a late 80’s television special.
But the real kicker?
2: Meals on Wheels Isn’t Even Directly Funded by the Government
No, seriously. Meals on Wheels doesn’t receive direct funding from the federal government, and their INDIRECT funding, as dispersed by local municipalities with money from the federal Older Americans Act along with any NON-federal funding provided by the state, accounts for less than THREE PERCENT of their yearly budget.
It’s the proportional equivalent of what you spend on a couple of candy bars during your weekly pilgrimage to the grocery store, and not even all of it comes from Washington.
And that’s just the national average. In some areas, it barely breaks 1% of the local chapter’s annual funding.
Some estimates place the federal government’s annual contributions to Meals on Wheels is right around a quarter of a million dollars. That’s not a lot of money by federal standards, right? So why can’t Donald just skip one of his exotic golfing trips and just give money to the poor already?
Donald Trump - Celebrity Style
Eat your heart out, starving old people. Real Men Have Curves.
3: Sorry. This Has Nothing To Do With Presidential Spending Either.
Everyone, left AND right, is desperate to paint the Trump family as this money pit of ostentatious spending… including the Donald himself, who seems to be weirdly committed to his public image as a cartoon rich person come to life.
Unfortunately, the sad fact of the matter is that lavish spending by the First Family has become the modern norm, regardless of party affiliation.
And you know what? It’s a legitimate problem. It’s a problem for the First Family, and for politicians in general.
HOWEVER, we’re lying to ourselves if we’re pretending that this is an issue that we’re only just noticing now.
If you’re having an aneurysm because Melania Trump doesn’t want to move into the White House (or whatever costly activity that Vox and Salon’s Facebook pages say she needs to give up), but had absolutely nothing to say when Michelle Obama took a government jet to go dress shopping, then your sincerity is in question. Conversely, if you spent eight years ripping Obama for golfing on weekends, and are now rabidly defending the Donald for doing the same thing, your sincerity is in question.
For or against, or somewhere in between, we need to treat presidential spending equally. And we need to stop pretending that limiting some random aspect of the First Family’s leisure expense is a realistic solution to whatever line-item we support in the budget.
4: Governments Shouldn’t Subsidize Charities.
It’s the job of the general public.
I fundamentally dislike the idea of the government sponsoring, financially supporting, or subsidizing charities and non-profits; especially ones that were never explicitly tied to government programs. I believe that people need to be intentional and proactive in their efforts to support their communities, rather than lazily waving their hand at the IRS saying “You take care of it.”
It’s the fundamental difference between liberalism and conservatism in the United States: The State handling all matters of charity vs. the people handling it.
First of all, I am a lot more comfortable and confident in personally deciding which non-profit causes I want to support with my finances than I am in Uncle Sam’s ability to do so. Second, there is something deeply unsettling about giving the government carte blanche permission to pick winners and losers among a WIDE field of charities, some of which I may support and some of which I may oppose, and then raise all of our taxes to force us to pay for them regardless of personal opinion.
This isn’t a crazed, libertarian screed against social policies writ large. It’s a concern over an unnecessary government mandate regarding an area of life that does perfectly fine on its own. Frankly, in an age of interminable national debt, it’s a discussion economists think we should be having about a lot of things. Over 90% of funding for Meals on Wheels America comes from corporations, trust funds, and private citizens. So why is Washington’s lowered involvement even a concern?
https://i2.wp.com/everyinvestor.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Uncle-Sam-800x500_c.jpg
“Here. Let me ‘Donate’ that for you.”
5: Meals on Wheels is a Charity. Which Means It Can Be Supported by People Like You.
Now, statistics say the odds are pretty low that you have ever personally interacted with the official Meals on Wheels America organization. Frankly, the odds are still kind of low that you’re actively involved with whatever your local equivalent organization is.
My generation, the Millennial Generation, is supposedly the most “civic minded” and “socially aware” generation born in the twentieth century. And we are frothing at the mouth because the federal government is refusing to cut back on luxuries in order to do our charity work for us.
Maybe it’s time we actually stepped into the shoes that all those overly-smug sociologists keep handing to us. Instead of just running our mouths about wanting the Trumps to just commit seppuku while signing a “Fund all charities 4ever plz” bill, we could actually do something about it.
Do you know how much money we could raise? Go look at the last Facebook post ranting about how Trump is personally gunning down the last survivors of his Meals on Wheels massacre, and look at the number of likes and shares.
If every one of those people gave up their daily Starbucks and donated it to Meals on Wheels America, we would outstrip the government’s yearly contribution in a MONTH.
Seriously. Just this post from The Week. Around 3,500 people. $4 a day. 30 days.
That’s over four-hundred grand.
No matter how many vapid “#CoffeeAddict” tags you add to your Instagram picture of your morning pick-me-up, it’s still a luxury. You don’t need it any more than Donald needs to golf.
trumpsandpit
“Take THAT, China!”
And guess what?
People are already doing it.
Reports say that Meals on Wheels has been receiving up to FIFTY TIMES its usual amount of donations since this debacle began.
So WHY doe we need to government to raise taxes, filter money through layers of bureaucracy, and lose an astonishing amount along the way, when we can LITERALLY GET THE JOB DONE FROM OUR PHONES? You don’t even have to leave your couch.
THIS is why the outrage is stupid: It was fabricated out of nothing, to cover a funding issue the government doesn’t even need to be involved in, because most of the people sharing the Facebook memes are too lazy to fix the problem themselves.
If you’re a progressive, and you hate the Trump’s lavish luxury spending when you think they should be helping vets and disabled people get hot food, then put your money where your mouth is, and donate your coffee cash to Meals on Wheels. If you’re a conservative, and you hate government spending and think the private sector can handle it, then put your money where your mouth is, and donate your coffee cash to Meals on Wheels.
This isn’t Trump’s problem. This isn’t the government’s problem. It’s our problem.
Still angry about Meals on Wheels? Skip Starbucks. Use a K-Cup. Donate to charity.
 *   *   *   *
 ~ Louis Petolicchio lives and writes in Central Pennsylvania. He has been actively organizing a company of adventurers to steal back his gold from Trump Mountain, but is still seeking a good burglar. Follow him on Twitter!
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