Sunday, July 17, 2011

Role of government in society

Great Blue Heron
Given the great budget impasse we've had here in Minnesota, which also reflects a similar state of affairs in Washington, one has to ask the big question.... What is the role of government?  Should it be only for defense and some basic infrastructure and public education needs?  What is its role in serving as a safety net for the poor, young, handicapped and elderly? A MinnPost article suggests that the vulnerable may get hammered by the upcoming Minnesota budget, "Groups serving poor and disabled worry about budget deal".

When infrastructure needs aren't properly monitored and met we see poorly maintained roads, and even collapsing bridges. The sick, unemployed, and elderly people suffer when adequate care isn't accessible through publicly subsidized support (i.e. taxes).  Sometimes those that don't receive adequate care can even cause harm to society, as is noted in an article in today's StarTribune, "Did the system fail a budding killer".

Great Blue Heron with morning sun
In days of old it was the role of family to care for those in need. Those without family support people could find themselves sold into slavery or begging for a living.  The breakdown of many families and the wide spread distribution of family members makes this approach to care giving impractical in the 21st century United States.  So, we have relied on government assistance: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, AFCD (aid to families with dependent children), Unemployment Insurance, etc.

Some suggest that religious institutions might take on the role of care providers.  I know from recent communication with the CEO of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches that they are in no way capable of taking on the huge role government plays in providing services.  In fact, they receive considerable government funding to provide supportive services to those in need, and receive only a very small portion of their budget directly from congregations.  The faith-based mentoring program for which I recently worked, Kinship of Greater Minneapolis, recently lost its federal funding to mentor children of prisoners.

So, if as many Republicans are suggesting that government dramatically reduce its role of providing "entitlement funding", how will care be provided to disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals?

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