What does that mean? The “richest county in the nation.”
Well, in the case of Loudoun County, VA, it means a median household income of $120,000/yr. There has been a lot of hay made lately about the fact that the poverty level in Loudoun County has gone up, while we’ve remained the “richest county in the nation,” including an article in the Post on the topic.
Additionally, a local Patch writer relayed a conversation with his barber that is very telling. Here’s a snippet:
He [Marko the barber] said he had read that the board had started next year’s budget discussion by focusing on the tax rate.
“Their only priority is cutting taxes, not helping people in need,” he said. “So here we are, with the highest incomes in the country, and before they even know what the needs are, they’re saying, ‘This is all we can afford to spend.’ Here, in the richest county in America!”
“Well, the county does have programs for homeless people, people without jobs…,” I said, but my voice trailed off as his scissors moved closer to my ear and I saw the indignation in his face.
“What is an acceptable number of hungry children, here in a county where the average household earns $120,000?” he snapped.
I had no answer for that, so I remained silent until he calmed down. Finally, I ventured an answer.
“I guess the supervisors would say that the government shouldn’t try to do it all,” I said. “Faith-based groups and nonprofit organizations have a role, too. Even individuals.”
“But it’s not enough,” he said. “Poverty rates are rising. That’s when the government needs to help the most, when everything else isn’t enough.”
What’s wrong with the world when the FIRST instinct for helping homeless people is to look towards the Government. I’ll grant to the author for at least positing the alternative.
The insinuation that because a household makes $120,000/yr, they should have it taken from them at gunpoint and given to homeless people is one of the main, functional, psychological challenges with the United States today.
The fact that a County government can be accused of malfeasance or incompetence by daring to ask how much it can afford to take from the productive sector of the county would be laughable if it wasn’t so darn depressing.
There are a MYRIAD of factors that go into why poverty exists…at any level, but one of them is employment. Even though Loudoun County has a remarkably low unemployment rate, it has STILL gone up since the economic downturn began about four years ago. Less jobs means more poor people.
Forget the fact that the main reason why so many Washington, D.C. suburbs have such high households incomes despite a major nationwide economic downturn is BECAUSE of Government largesse. Forget the fact that 40% of what comes into Loudoun County (sorry, can’t remember the source on that) is Federal spending…in other words…Government largesse…in other words: taxpayer money.
Maybe, if we wanted to be “fair” we would demand that the Federal Government spend a little less money in general, so that less of the money is left concentrated around the power centers of Washington, D.C. Maybe more money nationwide that doesn’t have to go through the obviously expensive filter that is the Federal Government and its D.C. Metro beneficiaries would be a good place to start helping those in need.
Thankfully the author and his haircutter manage to point out, charity and compassion really begins with individuals:
“There’s a fellow I see out there sometimes,” he said. “Homeless, I guess. Sometimes he holds a sign, looking for work. But his hair is long and dirty and his clothes are worn. Who is going to give him a job?”
“You know what I’m going to do?” he continued. “The next time I see him, I’m inviting him in. I’ll offer to wash his hair and give him a haircut, on the house. A shave, too, if he wants it.”
He looked back at me.
“How about you?” he asked. “What are you doing?”
I thought about that for a while. I pay my taxes, I thought, and I’d like the government to do more to help people in need. I also give to my church, which has an active program to help hungry people. A group from my church is participating in the Western Loudoun CROP Hunger Walk in Purcellville next month to help raise money for hungry children and families. We also collect food for Loudoun Interfaith Relief.
If any of you out there are really concerned about those in need, then suffice it to say that charity is not possible by force. It is only possible voluntarily. Any other scenario is not only inefficient, but is nothing short of legalized theft.
If we want to give to the needy, then…we must give to the needy, and strive to expect our Governments (local and otherwise) to do their job, and part of that is determining “what we can afford to spend.”