There Simply Is No Limit to the Stupidity of Elected Officials!

The Mayor of San Francisco is considering a plan to give portable credit card machines to homeless panhandlers so they can accept hand-outs from credit cards. Oh the convenience of such charity. The bum puts out his machine, and without even slowing your pace, you can whip out the ol’ Visa card and swipe it through his portable machine. In fact, to save time, you can just let the bum pick the amount you want to give.

I’m not making this up. Last month, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said he is considering a proposal (dubbed the “Benevolending Box Program”) that would give homeless beggars battery-powered machines to allow then to accept credit card donations. Under the plan, the panhandlers would get 20% of the donations they collect – with the rest going to the city’s homeless shelters. Taxpayers would pay for the cost of the program.

Mayor Brown, the ultra liberal, powerful former Speaker of the California House (and the man who single-handedly saved leftist Tom Hayden from being voted out of the California legislature in 1984) said he liked the “innovative idea” because it “empowers homeless people to take responsible actions for their lives.” Shoving a credit card machine in your face is a responsible act?

But it gets even more absurd. Acknowledging that there could be problems – such as people being reluctant to give their credit card information to a bunch of drunken drug addicts, supporters of the plan say the bums would have to pass “security checks” before they get their credit card machine – and then they will be given only to “clean and sober” homeless people. It would seem reasonable that if someone could pass all those tests, one could ask – “why are they homeless?”

Steve Dasbach, National Director of the Libertarian Party sums it all up when he says, “(b)efore we start testing the homeless to see which of them are sober enough to get a government credit card machine, perhaps we should test the sanity of the San Francisco politicians who support this plan. The fact that the politicians are seriously considering this plan proves they are more bankrupt intellectually than the panhandlers are financially.”

Warning – listen carefully to President Clinton’s next State of the Union speech. If he asks for funds for credit card machines for the Homeless, Republicans can be expected to announce that this “free market” solution to homelessness was actually stolen from them. “Credit cards – not taxes” will be the Republican slogan.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.