What did we really expect?
Everybody is, of course, completely outraged at Monday's news that Medicaid has paid for sex offenders' Viagra, including 198 in New York state. This New York Times article has it wrong. Medicaid didn't warn the states that they could be punished for continuing to provide them. The states were still obligated until the federal order came to stop. These federal programs, and worse, "federal mandates," wield tremendous and wholly unconstitutional power over states. Putting aside the issue of redistribution of wealth, there's hardly any accountability (if at all), and states are compelled to obey Washington -- or else.
Conservatives like Michelle Malkin and Power Line made excellent points, pointing to this as the inevitable problem of big government programs. They rightfully blame fellow conservatives who have gone against their claimed principles of limited government, not just sustaining, but expanding the "nanny state" that's facilitated such abuses of "public charity." The problem, however, is more fundamental than they perceive: it's that we the people have allowed government to perform charitable functions at all.
I've written before on how people expect government to "lend a helping hand." Whether they're ignorant or just don't care, the fact still remains that the "helping hand" requires other people to pay for it. By contrast, a remarkable thing happens when people give charitably on their own, instead of paying their taxes "like good citizens" and letting government do it. To paraphrase Milton Friedman, a private individual giving his own money is very discriminating (the true definition, not this tripe that's been perverted into racism) about how much he gives and to whom he gives it. Government doesn't care about either, only that it can "tax and give" to appear successful in "eradicating poverty," "alleviating the plight of the poor," and so on.
Conservatives complained for years about welfare recipients who would keep having children, who would cheat (receiving benefits while working), or who could have worked in the first place. Private charity eliminates all these problems and even goes further: it discourages them, whereas government effectively promotes them by providing an easily accessible safety net. Private benefactors don't long tolerate an unwed mother who persists in child-bearing, an indolent person who can do honest work, or someone who begs and is discovered to be working. Government agencies, though, rarely know an applicant's true circumstances, and why should they bother to discover them? It's not their money they're giving!
Dr. Walter Williams said it best last February in "Not Yours to Give":
I get the feeling that the train of constitutional principles has left the station and the recent tsunami episode is simply another symptom of American obliviousness to constitutional government. Today's politicians can't be held fully responsible for our abandonment of constitutional government. While they can be blamed for not being statesmen, the lion's share of the blame rests with 280 million Americans. Elected officials simply mirror public misunderstanding or contempt for constitutional principles. Tragically, adherence to the constitutional values of men like James Madison and Davy Crockett would spell political suicide in today's America.The blame lies only with ourselves. We keep sending these Constitutional violators back to Washington, to compete on our behalf in The Great Race -- the race to get other states to pay more for our projects than we do for theirs. Right, Senator Byrd?