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On Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, Alexandra Pelosi presented a counter-point video showing people in New York visiting a welfare office. Her goal was to present the "other side" of her previous video about racist and hypocritical folks in Mississippi by showing people taking welfare money in New York that are are apparently fully capable of working, yet insist on taking "free checks" instead. She used terms like "entitlement culture" and "freeloading welfare queens", and implied that she's shining some light on the argument by exposing that there are people out there cheating the system.

Putting aside her arrogance and confrontational attitude ("See, they didn't laugh as much!" "The left will be exploding on Monday!"), she's absolutely right. There ARE people out there cheating the system, and probably a lot of them. There ARE many people out there taking advantage of the "handouts" by the government to get free money and benefits that they're probably fully capable of earning on their own.

Where she's wrong is thinking that any of that actually MATTERS.

As I go about my day, just as we all do, I occasionally run into people asking me if I can spare something for them, for one reason or another. And every time, if I have a few dollars in my pocket I give them something, regardless of what reason they give. If I'm with someone else, I occasionally get asked something like "Why do you give them money, aren't you worried that they'll just use it on booze/drugs?" And my answer to that is always, "No, I'm not." Not because I necessarily believe whatever story about needing gas or bus fare or whatever that they give, or that they won't actually use it on booze or drugs. It doesn't concern me at all because there are two risks in this situation - I end up giving them money that they actually don't need or will abuse, or I end up NOT giving them money that they actually need to survive or get by. And to me, the second risk FAR outweighs the first one.

So no, I don't give a second thought about what the person asking for the money is going to do with it, because to me it doesn't matter. What's important to me, and to a society at large, is that we're doing what we can to help the lesser fortunate of us, regardless of whether there are those out there that will try to take advantage. Charity shouldn't be measured by the chances of someone cheating to take advantage - that's a cynical and suspicious mindset that directly conflicts with the concept of charity itself. Charity must be measured by the amount of people it helps, and it's goal should be to help as many as possible. And taking extreme measures to prevent the cheaters just makes it more likely that more people who actually need the help will fall through the cracks. And as above, that risk FAR outweighs the first.

So when someone tries to "expose" the system, as Pelosi did, showing that there are in fact "freeloading welfare queens" that are getting "free checks" that they probably don't deserve, I shrug my shoulders. A true charitable heart isn't afraid of being taken advantage of. There may be 5%, 10%, or even 20% of those getting benefits that are cheating the system. It doesn't matter, because most of the efforts to try to stop them would risk those who need it not being able to get it, and the chance of even one family who needs help being prevented from getting it just to try to stop cheaters is an unacceptable risk in a civilized society.

There will always be people out there who try to cheat, Alexandra. Their ability to succeed or fail is not what matters. Doing everything we can to make sure ALL those who need it are able to get it - THAT's what MATTERS.

Originally posted to ThinkerT on Sat Mar 17, 2012 at 01:59 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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