Pete Seeger

Thoughts on Colbert’s “Case Against Charity”

This wrap up of last night’s Colbert report will have to serve as a stand in for the clip I wanted to put here. The Case Against Charity segment, which you can find via the link. I am not savvy enough to figure out how to make Comedy Central clips embed on Word Press.

In the beginning of Colbert’s show last night, Stephen named his fellow nominees in his Grammy category and said he was especially looking forward to beating 94-year-old Pete Seeger.  I have met Pete Seeger twice and one of those meetings stuck with me. It was outside Carnegie Hall. Seeger had just wrapped up a concert with Arlo Guthrie and a group of fans had gathered outside the stage door in hopes of getting autographs. Seeger spotted a homeless man sitting on the pavement across the alley. He walked over to him.

“How are you tonight?” he asked.

The man said he was doing OK.

Seeger asked him if he’d had enough to eat and if he had a place to sleep. “I know some places you can go if you need a warm place to sleep,” he said.

The man thanked the musician and said he had somewhere to go. He seemed pleased though that someone had taken an interest in him as a human being. They talked for a couple of minutes before Seeger went back to his fans and then on his way.

I still had this memory in mind when Colbert aired his Case Against Charity segment which featured John Stossel dressing up as a homeless man in order to show what a scam begging is.

Stossel says that “the people who work with the homeless” agree with him. He doesn’t actually quote any specific person or agency. He also implies that all homeless people are addicts without offering any actual studies to back this up and says that most of the people who beg for money are “fakers.” Again, he doesn’t have any source for his “most” figure nor explain what he means by “faker.” Not really homeless? Not really poor? How poor?

In any case “the people who work with the homless” according to Stossel say that you should not give a beggar money but “help the person get to one of the social service agencies.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if that is, in fact, what John Stossel does when he sees a homeless person on the street. Does he stop and ask the person his story, ask him what he most needs and help him to find an agency that can meet that pressing need?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I have my suspicions.