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Most of us don’t give enough back to our community, our country, we’re being told more and more today.

We’ve got to get out there and volunteer. Stop being so selfish. Stop being so stingy.

Jimmy Carter is one of the ex-presidents really promoting this volunteerism movement. For years he’s been hammering nails himself as part of his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, a wonderful charitable institution that builds housing for the homeless and needy.

In a recent speech in North Carolina, Carter demonstrated the extent of his own misguided compassion by attacking the greatness and goodness of his own country.

“I have never seen a nation more stingy than the United States of America,” he said.

Stingy. Think about that. Which nation on earth has done more to help other people? Which country opens its borders to more immigrants than every other nation combined? Who — rightly or wrongly — redistributes more of its own taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to foreigners? Whose defense investment protects all of the free world?

Stingy? I don’t think so. But what is more appalling is that such a statement would be made by a former president of the United States — someone who should certainly know better.

But, then again, consider the source. Carter makes a show of his compassion by hammering nails into houses. Is that really the best use of an ex-president’s time? I mean, aside from the symbolism of an ex-president volunteering, what is the worth — the real value — of such a contribution? Wouldn’t we all be better off if a qualified carpenter devoted the same number of hours to the project, rather than the ex-president?

Consider, for instance, how much Jimmy Carter is getting paid to hammer those nails. What does he get from his federal pension? $250,000 a year? Maybe $300,000? Then, add to that what he gets from the state of Georgia, the Secret Service protection and other perks.

I figure each one of those nails costs me about 100 bucks. Those are expensive nails. Wouldn’t we be better off if Jimmy Carter showed his compassionate spirit by donating all of his taxpayer-supported pension to hiring dozens of top-notch carpenters, who could, in turn, build lots of houses for the poor?

I mean, if he wasn’t volunteering all that time hammering nails, he could be writing books or doing something to earn a little money so he wouldn’t be on the public dole like he is today. That would be real compassion — compassion for me as a taxpayer as well as for the poor, homeless person.

My friend Rush Limbaugh is exactly right about this phony volunteerism stuff. He’s been criticized for his stand — even by some conservatives. But he’s right when he calls it “symbolism over substance.” When I watch Al Gore and Bill Clinton painting over graffiti, one part of me thinks this may be the most productive work these guys have ever done. But another part of me says this is nothing but another photo opportunity by the masters of the photo opportunity.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in charity or volunteerism. But I believe in them the way I believe in prayer. That it is usually most sincere when it is practiced quietly — in a closet somewhere — rather than out in the public square like the Pharisees of old.

I’m sick and tired of hearing people tell me how compassionate they are while they use my money to subsidize their compassion. It’s even worse when they insult you and the nation — like Jimmy Carter did — for not willingly and cheerfully giving them even more.

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