Tag Archives: charitable giving

Talk About Cutting The Safety Net….

When you elect people who have very limited knowledge of government or the legal system, you get a lot of unanticipated and unfortunate consequences.

Trump is hardly the only self-proclaimed “genius” who is actually clueless; in fact, voters need to recognize that the real villain of this surreal moment we’re experiencing isn’t Trump–who is arguably too far out of it to even know what he’s doing–but the current in-over-their-heads gang of Congressional Republicans who are protecting and enabling him.

A recent, glaring example is in the combined impact of their much-touted tax “reform” bill and their proposals to dramatically cut America’s social safety net.

Republicans love to talk about the negative consequences of social welfare programs–the purported encouragement of “dependency,” the “unfairness” of taxing working folks to support laggards who are sitting at home eating bon-bons (and while they rarely say it out loud, there is usually a “wink wink” suggesting  that those laggards are disproportionately black or brown). Data and evidence–things foreign to their comprehension–dispel all of this, of course. For example, most adult food stamp recipients work full time, as do most non-disabled adults on Medicaid. There is absolutely no research supporting accusations that receipt of welfare produces dependency, and most people on welfare are white.

Even more irritating is Republicans’ repeated insistence that, if government would just get out of the way, poor people’s needs could be met by private and/or nonprofit charities, especially religious charities. When George W. Bush called on the “armies of compassion” to replace much of the welfare system as part of his “Faith-Based Initiative,” researchers (I was among them) pointed out that private charities didn’t have the resources to even come close to his goals–and most churches were barely keeping the pastor paid and the roof fixed.

As we’ve seen, facts are pretty irrelevant to this crew. Nevertheless, given their constant lip-service to American generosity and private-sector charity, you wouldn’t expect them to pass a tax bill that threatens to cripple those same efforts. After all, they are now proposing massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid–cuts they evidently assume will be made up by funds from the charities their tax bill is eviscerating, if they think about it at all.

Patrick Rooney is an economist at the Lilly School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, where I teach. (Full disclosure; I am adjunct faculty at the Lilly School.) I know  Patrick and his work, and he is a first-rate scholar. Here’s his analysis of what the tax bill means for charitable giving:

The tax-code overhaul that Republican lawmakers approved and Trump signed into law will raise the price of charitable giving for millions of Americans, surely reducing how much money the nation gives.

As an economist and a scholar of philanthropy who researches how public policies shape charitable giving, I anticipate that the tax tweaks will lead Americans and U.S. companies to donate roughly US$21 billion less per year to charity.

The link will take you to the article detailing the impact of the tax bill’s various provisions on incentives for charitable giving, and those details are instructive. But the real “take away” is the utter failure of Congressional Republicans either to connect the dots– or worse, to care about the harm they are doing to millions of Americans (most of whom are elderly or children) in order to further enrich their donors.

Those who aren’t “geniuses” like our President–aka mental midgets–are something even worse. They’re moral midgets.



The More We Learn, The Less We Like

The GOP tax bill has cleared another hurdle, and appears to have momentum–there are even reports suggesting it will be voted on today. Those of us hoping that at least two or three Senate Republicans might put the interests of the country above those of their party are likely to discover that those principled Republicans don’t exist.

Every time I discover something new about this abominable bill, it gets worse. So far, I’ve come across no redeeming features of this obscene and economically destructive proposal.

The latest “discovery” comes courtesy of Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Republicans love to tell us that if the government would just stop providing a social safety net, churches and charities would step in and everything would get better. But a study of the new Republican tax “reform” bill says it will reduce charitable giving by up to $24 billion a year.
It’s hard to tell whether this nasty little surprise was intentional–I rather doubt it, since the entire bill displays incredible ignorance of how the economy really works. (If anyone supporting this giveaway to the rich really believes it will create either jobs or prosperity, that would be the ultimate triumph of hope over experience.)
As any economist or tax lawyer will affirm, many–perhaps most– of the provisions in the IRS Code work a lot like the balloons used by the guys making them into animals at fairs and festivals–squeeze here, and it gets bigger there. As the referenced study found,

Even though the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) preserves the charitable income tax deduction, other income tax provisions of the bill could reduce charitable giving by between $12 billion and $20 billion in 2018, based on new estimates from the Tax Policy Center. A second provision—repeal of the estate tax—could reduce giving by another $4 billion in the longer run.

By nearly doubling the standard deduction and either repealing or scaling back most itemized deductions, the House version of the TCJA would substantially reduce the number of taxpayers who elect to itemize. TPC estimates that fewer than 13 million taxpayers would itemize deductions in 2018 under the House version of the TCJA, down from more than 46 million under current law.

It would be lovely if everyone making a charitable contribution was motivated purely by concern for whatever cause their dollars are supporting. (If you do believe that, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you…) Even generous givers, however, are conscious of the tax incentives involved. When the effective cost of a donation is less, it’s easy to give more. This tax bill reduces that incentive by increasing the after-tax cost of giving by about 8 percent.

This troubling result is less obvious from the face of the bill than several of the other consequences that have been highlighted: the 1.4 trillion added to the deficit, severe automatic cuts to Medicare, making graduate school unaffordable by taxing tuition supports as income (or, for that matter, making all college educations less affordable by removing the deduction for interest on student debt.) It goes on and on.
We are living with an American government that reserves its favors for the “haves” while doing steadily less for the “least among us.” The people getting the short end of the stick are going to depend to an even greater extent upon the charitable organizations that are already stretched well beyond their capacities– organizations that are demonstrably unable to fill the considerable gap between what poor families need to survive and what they earn.
It’s going to get very ugly.
On the other hand, you will still be able to deduct the expenses for your corporate jet….