Helping people costs less than protecting people from criminals. Charles Blow in his New York Times’ column, “It Takes a Village” (September 23, 2011), describes a community housing project in New York City. He features the story of a young girl, Madison, who attends the day care center in the basement of the housing project. Then he provides some eye-catching statistics about costs:
Well, the cost of the building plus renovations was $17 million. So if it houses 190 people, that works out to about $89,500 a person, not including most of the children served by the day care center.
But let’s put that into the context of prison construction, for instance. According to the New York State Commission of Correction, 1,000 new jail beds will have been built between the end of 2007 and the end of 2011 in the counties of Albany, Essex, Rensselaer and Suffolk at a cost of $100,000 per bed.
Furthermore, as Broadway Housing Communities points out on its Web site, “permanent supportive housing for an individual costs taxpayers $12,500 annually, compared to annual costs of $25,000 for an emergency shelter cot; $60,000 for a prison cell; and $125,000 for a psychiatric hospital bed.”
Well-designed, well-managed social programs benefit the individuals involved, benefit society, and lower government costs. Consequently, I find it difficult to understand why some people and groups so strenuously object to government social welfare programs, programs that everyone from Jesus to Adam Smith can appreciate.