Former Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

May 7, 2013 — by: Commissioner Linthicum

Compassionate_handsThe Klamath County Budget Committee is getting plenty of feedback with regard to Meals on Wheels and the Senior Center.  The committee is not struggling with the validity or need for the Meals on Wheels program. The issue, given the local stagnant economy and declining county revenue, is whether it would be fiscally prudent to fund these programs at current levels.

Public commentary is mixed but there is a sense that as long as the program passes the “compassion” threshold, then it should be funded.

One perspective supposedly has “compassion” and the other doesn’t. Long-term fiscal responsibility appears to show a cold-hearted mathematical meanness rather than a real heart-felt compassion for the public good.

Government Doesn’t Represent Compassion

Government expenditures are not compassionate. Within welfare service programs the government only engages in financial transactions. Their function entails gathering resources then providing a mix of services or resources back to certain segments of the population. There is no heart in this effort, per se, it’s a job that gets accomplished.

If the money happens to be used by a public service organization then those service employees may have compassion. However. those individuals are not compassionate because they received government money. Those individuals show compassion because they are morally capable human beings.

Your dog, or the neighbor’s cat, is not morally capable of compassion. Neither is government. Remember, government represents nothing more than the shear legal authority and self-justified power to collect tax-payer funds for its own partisan advantage.

George Washington made the claim, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”   This phrase might well be apocryphal according to Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, but its meaning is clear.

Where Does “Compassion” Come From?

Real compassion stems from individuals. It is the result of individual action not collective action.  Certainly, as a group joins in a common effort they can exhibit better results – better prices, quantity discounts, more people served, etc. But, again, this is because the caring individuals have voluntarily joined in a community to positively impact their neighborhoods. This is real community. This is real compassion. Accept no substitutes.

An Illustration

In Klamath County, here is a simple illustration of what is required to collect any amount of taxes:

  1. The County’s Assessor office assesses the value of property within the county’s boundary, along with any and all improvements, annually.

Question: When the Assessor’s staff assigns value to land or improvements are they being “compassionate” or are they adhering to Oregon’s Revised Statues (ORS’s)?

  1. The County Tax Collector’s office sends Tax Statements to property owners based upon assessed value, collects taxes paid and pursues the collection of delinquent accounts, fines, and penalties, annually.

Question: When the Tax Collector’s office pursues these interests are they exhibiting “compassion” or compliance with any and all appropriate ORS chapters?

  1. Property owners pay taxes for county services – the administration of justice,  public safety, public health, zoning, planning, public works, animal control, schools, et. al., annually.

Question: When the property owner pays these taxes is he exhibiting “compassion” or compliance with the law?

  1. Everyday during the year, County employees process all of this paperwork (according to rule and statute) and then outside Auditors verify that everything was accomplished according to the appropriate set of formalized procedures.

Question: When these actions were being performed was anyone exhibiting “compassion” or were they only displaying a keen fondness for following the rules that govern their employment?

At this point, we have added more costs and overhead 1 to the equation than “compassion” or “benevolence”. Where would a committee’s “compassion” come from? Here are two choices:

  1. If the Committee were to encourage productive and sincere involvement from individuals, neighbors, churches and friends, would the committee be exhibiting “compassion”, or not?
  2. If the Committee were to provide short-term funding at the expense of long-term fiscal responsibility, would the Committee be praised for their “compassion”? If the Committee were to allocate scarce financial resources away from mandated county services, would the committee be more “compassionate”, or not?

“True compassion is a bulwark of strong families and communities, of liberty and self-reliance,
while the false compassion of the second usage is fraught with great danger and dubious results.  
True compassion is people helping people out of a genuine sense of caring and brotherhood. It is not asking your legislator or congressman to do it for you. True compassion comes from your heart, not from the state or federal treasury. True compassion is a deeply personal thing...” 2


1 The myriad of functions listed here, along with the wage and benefit packages for these employees, represent only part of a county’s overhead. Other costs come in the form of electric and heat utilities, information technology - software and hardware, furniture, tools, machinery, equipment, and buildings combined with required services like legal, administrative, human resources and  others.  This is why only a small portion of any taxes paid results in actual county services.

2 Reed, Lawrence, What is Real Compassion, (, Apr 2013) accessed 4/16/2013; via



  1. Finnious T. Fogbottom ~ May. 21, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    Compassion is indeed an interesting stick. One weaponized form was experienced recently by a local family enjoying a day at a lake some distance from the Klamath region. During their waterside picnic a potato chip was compassionately and/or passionately tossed to a seemingly needy local goose. Who would have ever guessed that a generous act such as that would bring an enjoyable family outing to a harsh and miserable end? The chips came down in the form of a young ranger with dark sunglasses and an attitude to match. The alleged evil chip tosser was duly informed that he was violation of the law by feeding a migratory bird. He was also made privy to the level of penalties and consequences that such a dastardly act could bring. All the while an older mentor (or whatever) officer of the gods of nature police stood by, readied with his hand on his (thankfully holstered) service revolver. It didn’t help at all to attempt to explain to the creature praetorian that some geese, like intentionally welfare dependent humans, just choose to stay put. Such can cause some organisms to fall out of a compassionately protected definition and place them into the - could move if they had to move but so far there is no need to move so they won’t move category of wildish things. It does tend to make some good compassionate future sense at times though not to make it too easy to just hang around and eat junk food. Though that just may apply a bit more to the human than the geese types in this particular natural sort of scenario. The bottom line is that like really necessary and/or warm and fuzzy and well appreciated tax dollar funded programs, there is an extremely finite compassion capacity out there. Still, over and over again we keep seeing very little compassion left over anymore for those responsible, hardworking, attempted law-abiding, yet targeted citizens who are called upon to pay the price for many things on a vast number of levels. For sure, passion and compassion can be complicated and funny stuff. Too little available capacity in some circumstances, and right or wrong some will just see you as a monster. Too much towards the wrong sort of stuff and you could be considered by some to be a form of vice related passion professional. No matter what you do though someone is always trying to force you to sing that famous old song; “O Waaa Taaguze Siam…” and sing it like you mean it! Compassionately yet still parentally yours, Finnious #
  2. Wendy M ~ Oct. 5, 2013 @ 3:56 am

    The purpose of government is indeed to govern, however that is accomplished it must be done with compassion or it becomes ineffective. Find a solution in your budget. Make one. It's your job if you are in government, and your responsibility to do so. Even if you disagree with compassion being a function of the government it makes GOOD economic sense to be compassionate. Children who eat well perform better in schools, so make sure they are fed-- in return it costs less to educate them, and with the right direction they will grow up and thrive as productive members of our community. Elderly that eat poorly are more susceptible to disease, which becomes a burden on the medical resources as well as the tax payers that fund completely preventable problems. Create opportunity for people to thrive and they will contribute as taxpayers and voters, remove opportunity as a cold hard responsibility and they will leave, taking whatever worthy contributions they may have with them. #
  3. A.Smith ~ Oct. 9, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

    James Madison, who is one of the constitution's main authors, viewed government in a very different light than Wendy. Madison said about government, “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Madison never saw government as a conduit for compassion. Madison knew that government can not fairly accomplish such a task because its essence is power. It is from people where real compassion is found, never from government. #
  4. J. Madison ~ Oct. 11, 2013 @ 10:01 am

    If compassion is voluntary by nature and government action is coercive by nature, then government cannot show compassion. It is the duty of individuals. #

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Commissioner Dennis Linthicum

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