August 24 2009
Carrie L. Lukas
Over at the Huffington Post, Eve Ensler (of Vagina Monologues fame) offers a harsh assessment of Governor Schwarzenegger's decision to cut California's domestic-violence budget: "Schwarzenegger has always had contempt for the vulnerable, or maybe it's just his own inner girlie man he despises."
It's pretty unfair to suggest the California program cuts are motivated by malice - as everyone who's been paying any attention knows, the state is in the midst of a spectacular budget crisis, in part brought about by a spending binge (outlays have increased by about 40 percent since the "miserly" Schwarzenegger took office).
Ensler presents a grave picture of how these cuts will affect women: "I try to imagine . . . how he sleeps knowing women across his state who are exposed to brutality will be left without escape, shelter or even a friendly voice at the end of a hotline. How he justifies women having to choose between becoming homeless or staying in the midst of danger."
Admittedly, if these cuts force shelters and other programs that assist victims of violence to shut down, many women now depending on them could face hardships. Yet the key lesson Ensler fails to take from this episode is that it's dangerous when government dominates victims' services. Yes, many nonprofit groups struggle during economic downturns, but the healthy ones have broad bases of support; so even if some donors cease giving, the charities survive. Those concerned about social-welfare programs should question whether they do more harm than good by replacing voluntary civil-society groups with taxpayer dollars. After all, politicians - either those facing a fiscal crisis or, more laughably, Ensler's limited-government boogeymen - can cut or zero-out funding on a whim. The market for charity usually proves a more robust safety net.