9 Political candidates and organizations
In the post-Citizens United world, it’s pretty silly to throw your money in the maw of a broken system funded by billionaires and corporations. But that doesn’t stop the political class from asking for it all the goddamned time. If you’ve ever made a donation, you’re on the list forever, doomed to a lifetime of urgent fundraising emails full of gratuitous bold and italicized text. I’ve gotten them from the DNC for years. I’ve clicked every unsubscribe link in town, but they know who I am and they always will. I’ll surely get pitches years after I die. But I’ll never give them money, because donating to large, establishment political organizations is such an inefficient way to do good. I’d do just as well to throw $100 in a fountain and wish for Ted Cruz to disappear.
8 The George Washington University Alumni Association
So let me get this straight, The George Washington University. You get some bright-eyed teen who thinks they love politics, play up your proximity to the White House and Capitol to convince them to enroll in you instead of their local state school, charge the gullible bastard about $200K for about the 57th best university in the country, encourage them to work as many unpaid internships as possible, make them hang out in Foggy Bottom for four years, and then send them on their way with a political science degree that puts them in the running for a staff assistant job on the Hill that pays less than $30K in one of the most expensive cities in the country? And then you’re telling me you wait like six months before sending them emails asking for more money? What was that PT Barnum line about a George Washington applicant being born every minute?
7 501(c)(3) non-profits
It feels good knowing your donation makes a real difference in how well an executive director who could never hack it in the private sector is paid.
6 Dudes on U Street shoving their music into your hands
So you’re walking down U Street, minding your own drunken business, thinking about where to find some terrible pizza, when some dude shoves a CD in a clear jewel case into your hands. Confused, you say “thanks” even though you don’t want it. You keep walking, but then you hear the dude yell “Hey man that isn’t free.” And now you’re really thrown. Thinking you must have made a mistake, you try to give it back. But now he looks pissed off and says something like “you got any money homie?” And you do, but you wanted to spend it on terrible pizza, not terrible music. So you mutter “no, sorry” and the dude looks at you with disgust, because he knows you’re lying. He grabs his CD like you were trying to steal it. Bewildered, you get the hell out of there, wondering how you could have handled the situation differently. But you couldn’t have. You were entrapped.
5 Millennial canvassers with clipboards
Conservatives love to tell horror stories about all the awful shit Planned Parenthood is supposedly doing, but the organization’s real crime is making those poor fuckers stand on street corners where they get treated like lepers. You know the drill. You see a pack of them in advance, all chipper in their vests, and you know they’re probably miserable, but now is no time for empathy. You just got off the Metro after the longest goddamn day at work and all you crave in life is to get home. You even support Planned Parenthood or Greenpeace, but this is the worst possible time to ask you for money. So you cross the street or pretend to talk on your phone, or if it’s too late for that you just avert your eyes as you pass them, hoping they spare you the displeasure of rejecting them directly. But you will, if that’s what it comes to.
Hi, do you have a minute to talk about the environm—okay, have a nice day.
Hi sir, would you like to—oh okay, thanks.
Hey there, I’m loving that shirt! You look like the kind of person who cares abou—alright, maybe next time!
And you think your job sucks.
4 Street Sense vendors
The whole Street Sense racket is one of capitalism’s little inside jokes. Put the homeless in sales! Many don’t realize that the vendors have to pay fifty cents for each paper up front and take a gamble on hawking a product with no consumer demand. So if they can’t push enough papers, they lose what little they had to invest. If they can eke out a profit, they’ll have theoretically acquired the skills to compete in the very market economy that produces the permanent underclass they’re in. All the while, the invisible hand claps and claps. If you want to help, just give them money and and tell them to keep the paper.
The great thing about buskers is that they let their open guitar case do the asking for them. You don’t have to avoid them, you don’t have to feel guilty if you don’t give them money, and at their best, they can enliven a Metro station and put an unexpected smile on your face.
2 People just pretending to be homeless to make a bunch of money
Just kidding. This isn’t a thing, and if you think it is, you’re probably a jerk.
1 Homeless people
Keyword people. Your fellow man, the least among us. So many exhibit a perverse antipathy towards beggars, or else just pretend they aren’t there. But out of everyone on this list, they’re asking for the least and need it the most. Giving $100 to the DNC or Greenpeace ultimately doesn’t do much to defeat Republican extremists or protect the environment. But giving just a few bucks to a person on the street can give them a real reprieve from the crushing pain of their existence. Out of everyone in Washington asking you for money, the man on the street is the most justified and the least offensive.