Letter | South Carolina: where you need a permit to feed the homeless

02/23/2014 12:00 AM

02/20/2014 2:55 PM

The good (and bad) thing about living in South Carolina is that there’s never a shortage of national-newsmaking headlines about our state. Some weeks are more lucrative than others, of course, and this past week has been almost an embarrassment of riches on the headlining front.

I mean, there was the high school sports rivalry-turned-fatal-stabbing in Lexington. Then there was the Pickens woman arrested for procrastinating the return of a video cassette (the shocker being both the arrest itself as well as the apparent fact that one can still come by a VHS tape). And then there was the FOX News-driven story about a University of South Carolina textbook which had the guts and gumption to slander Ronald Reagan himself (bless his heart and may he rest in peace). Then, as if all that weren’t enough, there came the news that our capital city has begun enforcing a veritable ban on feeding the homeless.

It makes it hard for a girl to pick a topic, is what I’m saying.

I guess I’ll go with the story about the feeding ban, and here’s why: You know those signs posted at zoos, the ones that warn against feeding the wildlife? Well, there’s a T-shirt whose slogan says, all ironic and all, “Don’t Feed the Model.” Get it?

The model is on a diet, see.

So anyway, I’ve always liked this T-shirt, and now it’s sort of ruined for me as a result of Columbia’s new policy.

Designed to address rampant vagrancy in downtown Columbia, the law now requires a fee and a permit in order to feed the homeless. One charity estimates the cost of compliance will be $120 a week.

It’d be nice for someone to explain this: How is it that in a notoriously rebellious state where anti-authoritarianism runs deep, we have laws like this one? Seriously, this is a state where “small-government” Republicans control all legislative levels ... and yet there’s governmental overreach even to the extent that charities are squeezed.

That’s the saddest part, see. The entire conservative-libertarian paradigm relies on charitable assistance instead of government dependence. Ask any Republican how we ought to fill in the gaps, and they’ll tell you that that’s the role of charity.

So it’s doubly troubling, then, that these same conservatives are now sticking their leg out for charity.

I just don’t get it. Why make it more difficult for people to voluntarily feed the hungry? Why build red tape and punitive fees into the non-profit sector?

Especially if the goal is to reduce government dependency, it makes zero sense to trip up charities with paperwork and permits and penalties.

The same goes for the private sector. While our ostensibly pro-commerce leaders regulate businesses out of existence, those same officials are the first to get breathless about welfare dependency.

Either our local governments have to stop suffocating businesses and non-profits, or we’re going to see dependency keep snowballing.

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