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Federal Government Must Be Charitable

November 25, 2001

Bingo! Matthew Miller is right on target ("Charity Can't Be the Safety Net," Commentary, Nov. 20). The notion that private charitable giving, faith-based or otherwise, can substitute for the federal safety net is absurd. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000 there were 31 million Americans who were hungry or food-insecure, including 12 million children. Many of the adults were working, albeit in low-paying jobs.

Since Sept. 11, massive layoffs in the service industries have had an onerous impact on workers on the bottom rung of the payroll ladder. Add to that the 1996 welfare reform legislation that limited people to a lifetime maximum of five years of public assistance. Without the federal benefits of food stamps, WIC (aid to women, infants and children), extension of TANF (temporary assistance to needy families) and school breakfast and lunch programs, the rolls of hungry people will increase exponentially.

It has been estimated that charities are expected to replace $197 billion in benefits by 2002, while total charitable giving for next year is projected to be $4.7 billion. By anybody's math, it doesn't compute. Americans are extraordinarily generous, but they have a right to expect that a reasonable portion of their tax dollars be the primary source of assistance to those in need.

H. Eric Schockman

Executive Director

Mazon: A Jewish Response

to Hunger, Los Angeles

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