March 20 2012
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is many things: wealthy, powerful, annoying, hypocritical, smug, and of course, liberal.
Now, we can add cruel to the list of descriptors.
This week, New York writer Jeff Stier broke a somewhat hard-to-believe story in the New York Post revealing that Mayor Bloomberg has ordered food donations to all government-run homeless shelters and soup kitchens be blocked. Why? Because Bloomberg’s food police can’t assess the nutrition value of the donated food.
There are so many things wrong with this new policy; it’s really hard to know where to start.
First, what does this say about Bloomberg’s opinion of New Yorkers and the good people who drop off food to these food banks and homeless shelters? Clearly, if you’re kind-enough to take the time to donate food to a homeless shelter, you can be trusted to drop off food with at least a modicum of nutrition.
Secondly, let’s examine that issue of nutrition. Does anyone really think the lack of leafy greens and a multi-vitamin are the greatest problems facing the homeless? Does anyone reasonably believe that it’s their lack of spa food that keeps them from finding a permanent home, a stable job and some measure of self-sufficiency?
As Steir points out in his New York Post piece, most of the people who rely on these shelters and soup kitchens are elderly individuals who have suffered from years of drug and alcohol abuse. We also know that many homeless people suffer from crippling mental health issues. While no one is suggesting the nutrition needs of these individuals be ignored, their much more critical health needs certainly paints the banning of unchecked food donations as a bit extreme.
But an even more important issue arises with this sort of government meddling. How will these government policies that outright ban private food donations to homeless shelters and soup kitchens impact the charitable inclinations of Americans? Americans are extremely charitable people. In fact, according to a global survey conducted last year, Americans give more to help others than the residents of 152 other countries.
Will policies like this change that?
Bloomberg’s new DON’T DONATE policy sends a very clear anti-volunteer and anti-giving message. And, it’s just plain rude. It tells New Yorkers (and all Americans) that they can’t be trusted and that their efforts aren’t needed.
But the most corrosive part of Bloomberg’s policy is that it tells people that they need not bother because the government will take care of it and the government will do it better.