Helping the Un-helpless at Your Expense

In college I found myself befriending a fellow student who I can only describe as “troubled.”  I don’t know what was at the root of his “troubled” soul, but I confess I became really frustrated when it seemed he would not do what he could to help himself.   And the thought occurred to me that an increasing number of our local politicians believe it’s their job to come to the aid of those who won’t help themselves. And it’s costing you as a taxpayer.

I’m referring to actions that have been taken recently by local governments in Chattanooga, Collegedale, and Knoxville.  Nashville is looking at taking the same action in the coming months and no doubt Memphians can expect their city council, in lemming-like fashion, to try and do the same.

That action is creating “domestic partnership” benefits for employees of their city.  It’s a term we’ve all heard and come to accept without much critical thought. It’s “what we do now,” Local governments do it to “compete” with private businesses that do it.

While there are important reasons why “competing with private businesses” is a bad idea, I’ll stick to the main point — our elected officials are taking your money to help those who are not helpless.

What “domestic partnership” benefits means is that taxpayers are going to start footing the bill for providing health insurance benefits for non-employees who happen to be in a sexual, live-in arrangement with a city employee.

We also need to understand that the push for “domestic partner” benefits is not coming from the group of people that will cause the greatest cost to taxpayers.  Heterosexual couples in live-in sexual relationships will generate the bulk of the cost, but they are not the ones pushing the issue.

This is where helping those who are not helpless at your expense comes in.

Under the city personnel policies as they have stood for years, nothing has kept unmarried heterosexual couples from getting health insurance benefits.  All they had to do was make a formal, before-the-world, legal commitment to one another and, presto, they had benefits.

The point is that these unmarried heterosexual couples had made a conscious choice: staying unmarried was of greater benefit to them than the “domestic partner” of the city employee getting health insurance benefits.  It was a free and conscious choice.

Society, through its elected representatives, required this choice because it at one time it esteemed marriage and believed that if children might someday be introduced into that relationship, it would be best for the child that the parents be formally committed to one another as a family.  Essentially what our local elected officials are now saying – just sticking to the issue of heterosexual couples – is that marriage is no longer valued or important. But that’s another issue.

The issue right now is about the fiscal sanity of government making taxpayers fund benefits for non-employees who could already have had those benefits but had voluntarily chosen not to do so.  And that may help explain what just happened in Chattanooga.

Fourteen days ago Chattanooga’s City Council voted to give the people’s money to folks who weren’t asking for it through a “domestic partner” benefits ordinance. And in just 14 days, that included Thanksgiving week, almost half the people who voted in this spring’s mayoral election signed a petition to let the people vote on whether to repeal the largesse of their fiscally irresponsible City.

When half the voters do something like that, then they must come from a wide spectrum of ideologies.  It could not have all been about “gay bashing” or “religious fundamentalism” unless you want to believe that half the folks who turned out to vote in the city’s recent elections are of that mind-set.

But what happened in Chattanooga is not just about Chattanooga.  It should be a wake-up call to every citizen in every city that they do not have to accept city officials taking other people’s money to help those who have chosen not to help themselves.