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Why Santorum is wrong even if he isn’t racist….

I listened with interest to the story of Rick Santorum’s “flub” about “mak[ing] … people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money.” He denies he intended to say “black” where my ellipsis is, so I’ll leave it to others to discuss that matter. But in my opinion, even without specifying any ethnic group, he’s wrong.

Our society is built on having a “commons” – various services and infrastructure that are paid for by all and available to all. Examples of the commons are roads, police, schools, firefighters, and many other services at the federal, state, and local level. These services take my tax money to make people’s lives better, and I happily contribute even to those from which I do not immediately benefit. For example, as a childless adult I do not have any children in public schools, but my tax money is paying for children to be educated and their lives will be better.

There are other programs where tax money goes more directly to someone in need, and I’m sure those are the programs Santorum is speaking of. These are the safety net programs – everything from food stamps to Medicare and some programs within Social Security. I’ll admit, good people can disagree about many aspects of these programs and their specific policies. I think we can also agree that the recipients of these programs need more than money if they are to become self-sufficient.

But for many folks, it is indeed money they need right now. To keep a roof over their heads, food for today and tomorrow,  the light and water bills, whatever. Yes, I pay a certain amount in taxes to support these programs, so it is taking money out of my pocket to give to these folks. While I might grumble over my tax bill, it is the cost of living in an ethical society.

The idea of living in a community where people are starving at the same time I have a full stomach and freezing to death when I am warm and cozy is anathema to me. I know it still happens, even with the programs we do have, but at least I know we are doing something about it.

There are many improvements we can make to existing programs and policies, but I am perfectly comfortable with the idea that some of my tax money goes to make someone’s life better. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a presidential candidate who issues such a blanket condemnation of an integral part of a modern society.

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