Friday, March 27, 2009

Charitable Giving, Liberals, and Conservatives.

Joel Berg is a community activist in New York who runs "The New York City Coalition Against Hunger", and he's written an Op-Ed in this morning's Washington Post in which he accuses large charities and conservatives of "hyperventilating" about the damage that will be done to charities by reducing the charitable giving deduction on the wealthiest Americans. Putting aside for a moment the fact that much of the "hyperventilating" has come from the Democratic chairmen of the Congressional committees charged with writing tax law, I generally tend to agree with Mr. Berg. I don't think lowering the value of the deduction will matter to the overwhelming majority of wealthy people, and I find the tie of "deductibility" to one's tax bracket to be odd. That said, Mr. Berg and I arrive at our common views through very, very different processes.

The plain truth of the matter is that in ceteris paribus, conservatives give more than liberals to charity. Here's a story of one of the many such studies available, and I pulled it from that the propaganda organ of the RNC known as the New York Times. Where Berg goes off the tracks in his argument is in equating charity and government spending. Charity is the free and uncoerced donation of money to an organization devoted to functions and causes. Government spending is the redistribution of money removed from its bearers at the point of a gun (you think that is too dramatic? Try tax evasion; I guarantee the federal marshals who come for you will be armed). Berg's argument is supported by the likelihood that much of his funding COMES from the government (he's coy on this, citing only that he gets MORE of his private funding from middle class people than from wealthy--it would be interesting to see where ALL his revenue comes from--methinks there are a butt-ton of government funds coming in)rather than from charitable giving. Plain truth is, his "competition" gets more of its money from private funding--the competition being largely church groups.

Berg's support for raising taxes on the rich flows from the central idea that what he is doing is a proper function of government, and that the rich aren't paying their fair share. Besides, in his opinion, charitable giving is inefficient and benefits places rich people like anyway. My support for eliminating a portion of this benefit to wealthy Americans arises from a sense that the wealthy in America will keep giving anyway, and eliminating any difference in the level of deduction for anyone kind enough to donate to charity is simply the right thing to do. Berg just doesn't like the competition.


Anonymous said...

"Try tax evasion; I guarantee the federal marshals who come for you will be armed."

Unless you're Marion Barry.

Mudge said...

"Unless you're Marion Barry."

...or any one of about 15 cabinet or White House staff nominees...

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