Giving to Panhandlers Doesn’t Help anyone

We talk a lot about government economic policies at this site. This is more of a personal plea: “Don’t give to panhandlers!” Kudos to the City of Albuquerque for finally taking action to address the issue. You can’t get off of a highway in this town without someone with a sign asking for money. That’s not the real problem.

Rather, my issue with panhandling is that it doesn’t really help the people who are out doing it because it violates the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” One panhandler detailed on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal this morning is a perfectly-healthy 38 year old man who makes up to $30/hour tax-free from begging. I don’t know what his personal issues are, but he should be able to work. At $30/hour (or something like it), what incentive does he have to work? If he doensn’t work, how will he get skills and become a productive member of society? If he does have real issues that prevent him from working (mental health, say) he certainly isn’t getting help on a street corner.

And here’s where the government policies come in. According to the Cato Institute, in New Mexico government welfare payments already exceed the minimum wage (as seen in the chart below). So, in our personal lives and the government policies we advocate for, it only makes sense that we emphasize what Arthur Brooks calls “earned success,” as opposed to the quick freebie.

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5 Replies to “Giving to Panhandlers Doesn’t Help anyone”

  1. I’ve lived here for nearly 40 years and have never seen so many “corner” people asking for handouts at intersection corners in Albuquerque. I assume that word gets out among panhandlers that if you panhandle in some cities you will or will not be hassled by the police. Word is obviously out that you will not be hassled by police in Albuquerque.

    Notice also that you will almost never see an Hispanic panhandler in Albuquerque or anywhere else. It says a lot about personal pride.

  2. Paul, I agree with your premise that we must begin to address what to do with “Panhandlers.” However, I submit that the foundational question which must be answered is “Why do “Panhandlers” exist? As you say, many have mental health issues and truly cannot help themselves. And further, how many are homeless because, in spite of all their effort and toil, they lost their homes due to loss of a job or other financial factors out of their control?

    Until we answer those questions, we cannot begin to create solutions.

    We need these people to become productive members of society. I believe in the old adage, “We all do better, when we all do better.”

    1. The question of why panhandlers exist is a good one. I don’t think government can come up with solutions. Private charity is much better at helping those who want help.

  3. A friend if mine has a neighbor with an adult son. Most days the son is seen leaving his parents home to park his car near I-40 and get out of his car with his “Homeless, need help” sign. This man is a dual abuser – mooching off parents AND Albuquerque citizens. Thus far, both have been willing enablers.

  4. I think one of the main rewards for panhandlers is booze and drugs besides those who found a way to work the art of panhandling as gainful income.

    Perhaps if they were supervised for panhandling for some homeless help organizations to earn their bed and breakfast along with some sort of job training. And theirs always gardens for raising food for homeless shelters and food banks.

    And the state is too generous with welfare.

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