Editorial:Identifying noble causes: government aid programs

By Jessie Holeva
April 2, 2009

We’re constantly being urged to care more about others and help those in need. Give this, give that. Give your time, support and give your signature on a fat check.

Organizations like Relay for Life, Walk for the Cure, Alex’s Lemonade Stand and countless others are always seeking support. When we hear of these worthy groups, typically we’d think of ways to help. What we tend to lose focus on is why. Why does this cause need money?

This isn’t to say that these issues like cancer research or hunger aren’t important. They are extremely worth caring about, but what this question really is asking is why is it left to the private citizens to make a difference and fix a particular crisis.

It’s not like there are bake sales to fund military weapons. The point to think about is why does X amount of government dollars go towards something like nuclear submarines and less towards finding a cure for cancer.

Why does the government leave funding worthy causes up to private charities rather than shifting funding to this important causes in order to make the change a reality? After all, the government has the power to make an impact on a more monumental scale than the people can produce.

This isn’t to say that the government doesn’t fund important causes. The National Cancer Institute is funded by tax dollars, $4.8 billion a year. Sounds like a pretty nice sum. On the other hand, taxpayers pick up the bill, for example, for nuclear submarines. There are 78 owned by the U.S. and each ring in at $2.6 billion. That $4.8 billion sounds measly when you look at it that way.

It’s not so cut and dry. Sure, the government has the power to pass a bill worth a large sum. It can put a sufficient amount of money toward the recent expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program so that poor uninsured children are covered. That is the kind of change that we mean can’t be addressed by charity. But other essential causes need to be debated as well.

There are so many charities and nonprofits that have a noble cause worthy of support, but only so much to go around. It’s just not possible for the government to help everyone.

Different organizations host runs, walks, food drives and other charitable events. These aren’t just about raising funds. Sure, financial support is vital for these groups to function, but it’s about raising awareness and drumming up support.

Relay for Life is coming up in the area and is hosted in numerous locations around this time of year. Supporters walk, raise money and even grieve with a candle-light vigil. There’s an emotional connection to causes. It brings people together and helps them overcome tragedy. Not only do these people support a cause, but support each other. It’s a positive outlet for a not so positive situation.

These nonprofits may not have the means to raise finances for their cause as quickly as the government can, but they do make an impact. The top 10 participating colleges in Relay for Life together raised just under $37 million in 2008. The government can, however, intervene and lend more financial support. Especially in tough economic times, advocates may not have the means to donate money. A balance between government and private individuals lending a hand is the balance needed to make a substantial change.

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Jessie Holeva

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