Last week, the media went into a froth of ecstasy over news that President Donald Trump wanted to shut down the Special Olympics, to distract from the news that the attorney general misreported (in their dreams) the Mueller probe’s outcome. Okay, I exaggerate. President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wanted to pull public funding for the Special Olympics, not shut it down.
The Special Olympics is a private charity, funded by mostly private donations and sponsorships. As I show below, just the increase in private funding for the Special Olympics in one year exceeded taxpayers’ entire contribution. It’s actually kind of cool, when you think about it: A project set up to create a competition venue for disabled individuals has also achieved a self-sustaining financial model.
Before we continue, I’m going to need the outraged reader to take three steps. First, go get your special outrage pants—the ones with the elastic band that allow you to take big breaths for your screams. Second, find that special chair with the armrests that help you keep your balance while you sit forward and shake your finger in my direction.
There will be a third step, but I’ll wait to tell you what it is. Are you back and in the ready-for-outrage position? Good. Here’s what I think: I agree with DeVos, and I think it was a mistake for the president to walk back the funding cuts (as he later did, in an effort to look triumphant).
The Special Olympics is an awesome cause. Chicago hosted 1,000 athletes in 1968 for the first competition and it has since become an international phenomenon. The sight of athletes overcoming their physical and mental limitations shames our self-pity and compels us to get our butts out there and do our best. These athletes don’t traffic in intersectional victimization in spite of real, actual physical limitations that could excuse self-pity. Athletes despise pity and strive for excellence, straining against the limitations that nature may have imposed.
DeVos proposed to cut federal funding of $17.6 million from the Special Olympics. She explained this cut as follows: “Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year. There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money. But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.”
Actually, the real number was $148,726,084 in 2017, up from $110,929,533 in 2016. That’s right: the Special Olympics increased its operating revenue in one year by $37 million (approximately twice as much as the proposed cut in federal funding).
There are hundreds of thousands of private charities, churches, and civic organizations. We can’t and shouldn’t try to fund them all with taxpayer money. When the government funds a private organization, strings are attached. For example, does your organization say a prayer before the commencement of a ceremony? Special Olympics does, and the continued acceptance of federal money could put that tradition in jeopardy.
The Salvation Army, another extremely worthy charity, was forced to curtail its religious operations because of its dependence on public funding. Abortion rights advocates grumble about executive orders directing how abortions are counseled but they would be free from any federal meddling if they would stop taking federal funds.
Screaming in outrage that taxpayers (i.e., other people) should pay for causes you support is not charity. Supporting charities with taxpayer money has a corrupting effect on the mission because it makes fundraising a political lobbying exercise. Plus, public funding of the charity becomes a shame weapon to use against political opponents.
Here’s something you might not know: DeVos gave away her entire $199,700 salary to charity. She donated one-fourth of that to the Special Olympics. Remember I said at the beginning of this article that you needed three things before you begin lashing me with outrage? The third thing is that I need you to beat my meager donation to the Special Olympics: $19.68. It’s not much, and I certainly can afford much more.
I picked that amount because, one, even a social justice warrior can earn that with a couple of hours of paid protesting, and, two, 1968 is the year the Special Olympics held their first competition. As your lungs swell with a deep pre-shouting breath, can I ask you how much of your own money you gave to Special Olympics? You might think your outrage is even more valuable than $19.68, but I’ll bet the Special Olympics would prefer the money.
If you can’t match or exceed my donation, save your outrage. Otherwise, make your donation here and then you can blast me with two lungfuls of your best rage! Or give the $19.68 because you agree with me. Either way, it’s an awesome cause.