Being a cynic in December

Both by my nature and via my profession I’m a hard-core cynic, which means this time of year I can praise those doing good for their fellow man and at the same time wonder why that goodwill is not year-round.

It seems nearly daily in December there is a story in the newspaper of some group collecting toys, raising funds or providing care and services to those in need. While some of that humanitarian effort goes on for specific people or groups throughout the year, the effort multiplies during December with all of us taking a second look at what we can do to help our fellow man during the Christmas season.

Sadly, though, there also are those scammers out there collecting money in the name of organizations that might or might not exist and might or might not provide funding and/or care for those in need. The tough part of giving at this time of year is knowing which organizations are worthy of support and which ones need to be avoided because their standing is questionable if not outright trying to take advantage of the donor.

It would seem logical to me that if one selects to donate to a name organization, the funds in all likelihood will get to those in need. Churches, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, St. Jude’s Hospital, Shriners’ Hospitals and local food pantries, among others, certainly deserve to be supported and do outstanding work for those in need.

But the cynic in me says to be wary of those making telephone solicitation, supposedly on behalf of known organizations. Most known worthwhile organization with which I’m familiar don’t do blind solicitation over the phone, utilizing “boiler room” operations where the calling company gets the majority of money collected and the supposed known organization gets pennies on the dollar.

The bottom line is know the track record and legitimacy of to whom you’re donating money. It’s the time of year when you have to be just as careful as you doing in the summer when that fly-by-nighter says he has leftover asphalt he can use on your driveway for next to nothing.

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I have to admit, I was both pleased and surprised that select members of the House Budget Committee and Senate Budget Committee reached agreement and proposed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which, if adopted, will fund the government without another disastrous shutdown.

While the budget is not a win-win situation for the political parties, it represents what government leaders are supposed to do – compromise to guarantee government continues for the benefit of the public.

Of course, the tea party members of Congress already were speaking against the budget even before they had a chance to read it or know what was in it – big surprise that tea partiers were against anything government does or spends.

Too bad the Speaker of the House didn’t stand up to the tea party last fall and reach a compromise that kept government open and didn’t give a huge black-eye to the Republican Party.

Contact Jim Smith at jsmith@newsandsentinel.com.