Showing posts with label government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label government. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 10


The intense clamor to cut costs won't stop with governments but could extend to charity, too. Some needs are too great to rely on resources delivered in an uneven way. A lack of food or shelter among large groups of people, inadequate education for entire communities of children, can pose a security risk.

Writing an opinion essay for Commonweal, Fran Quigley, a professor of law at Indiana University, proposes that the United States end the tax deduction for making charitable contributions, replacing the system with solid social welfare programs managed by government. Ending the deduction would provide an additional $50 billion annually to government coffers.

US citizens donate more than do citizens of other countries. "We Americans get to vote with our wallets on what kind of support we want to offer the poor, an arrangement hat suits our individualism as well as our suspicion of bureaucracy," Quigley writes, but adds, "The generosity of Americans, impressive though it is, does not meet the needs of America's poor." He goes on to describe research that suggests the recipients of charity often feel demeaned.

For some, certainly not all, the purpose of charity may be to alleviate guilt or instill a sense of superiority.

Rob Meiksins responds to Quigley's argument for NPQ, NonProfit Quarterly, pointing out that the deduction not simply addresses needs but also quality of life: "It is about ensuring that we have a deep and meaningful cultural base to our society that both entertains and challenges."

Such arguments inspired Allure of Deceit, a novel about charity gone wrong. Worries about inequality in charitable giving and misplaced priorities inspired an opinion essay, and work on the novel began soon afterward. Why does one school district get a windfall and not another? Why does society step aside from setting firm priorities?  "Tax deductions for charitable giving effectively put the public good in the hands of wealthy donors and pet causes – at the expense of government revenue for the fair and reliable provision of services," I wrote for the Christian Science Monitor four years ago.

Allure of Deceit picks up after the murder of a wealthy inventor and his wife while on their honeymoon. Their will and trust documents shock family and friends alike, and lead to creation of the world's largest family foundation to support programs in the developing world. The reason for the shock? The young wife had dedicated her research questioning the inequality of charitable giving as well as the connected history and etymology of "forgiving," "charity," and "wrongdoing," as detailed in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

The corrupt can give, too, and shape minds. Corruption and waste in government hurts all government programs, and the same applies to charities, too.

Photo of unemployed men, 1931, lined outside a soup kitchen, started in Chicago by gangster Al Capone, courtesy of US Information Agency and Wikimedia Commons. 

Contact Seventh Street Books for review copies of Allure of Deceit. 

Wednesday, November 7


Public service requires mutual trust. The Republican campaign slogan for 2012 was “Believe in America.” The election results should have come as no surprise. The list of Americans who have failed to win Republicans' trust is long. For the party to survive, they need to rebuild trust among diverse pockets of the electorate and the electorate as a whole.    

7 percent: Government employees can’t be blamed for the climbing deficit. Falling revenues, uncertainty, stagnation bear much of the blame. Government workers represent 7 percent of the workforce.

20 percent: Appeals to religious values fall on some death ears, with one out of five Americans reporting they are religiously unaffiliated, with more than a third holding atheist or agnostic views.

47 percent: Americans who pay no federal income taxes – including senior citizens, the working poor or veterans – have contributed to the country, are contributing to the country or will someday contribute to the country. Don’t knock them.

50.8 percent: Politicians who try to intervene between women and doctors on health care face a challenge when women make up more than 50 percent of the population. And women vote at higher rates. Denying or suppressing voting rights produces a backlash that can linger for years.   

80 percent: “Studies show that approximately 80% of all new jobs come from small businesses or new companies in their fast growth phase; those that grow the fastest hire the most,” writes Walter Cruttenden, author and investment fund founder, in comments posted on the US Securities and Exchange site. “However, because research, development and new product innovation are risky and often require multiple rounds of equity financing, short sellers often target these companies, to the detriment of America. Short sellers are essentially traders that are hoping a company will experience problems (such as product delays or the inability to raise financing) so they may profit from the setbacks.”

97 percent: The vast majority of researchers agree that climate change is a real problem,  exacerbated by humans. The US military, the insurance industry and other businesses are already making preparations and issue warnings.

100 percent: Transparency on tax returns is essential. Tax reform is needed. The share of wealth among the top 5 percent grew while wealth of middle class households declined between 2007 and 2010, according to the Federal Reserve. Americans can and should understand the complexities of the tax code.

100 percent: The polls are no place for bureaucracy. There’s no reason to deny voters early voting privileges or absentee ballots. Requiring identification, filling out and signing forms, ballots in folders, machines that can match time of voting with a select ballot, questions from poll workers add to the confusion of voting days and long lines. Long lines at the poll are unconscionable.

President Dwight Eisenhower said in his 1961 farewell address: “Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

The party that opposes government intervention cannot impose unreasonable controls on women’s health care, climate-change research, voting procedures and more. Trust is crucial for any successful society. Democracy requires that governments trust their people.
Photo of penny courtesy of US Government and Wikimedia Commons.