Un-Charitable Takings

Barack Obama declared in his mini-SOTU last week that he doesn’t believe in bigger government. As any objective observer can see, his actions betray his eloquent tongue. There will be plenty to talk about regarding the budget proposal, another bank bailout, and other destructive policies. For now though, here is an example of President Obama’s pervasive belief that government is better than the private sector: he has declared war on charities (see this article by Pete Wehner and Phillip Merrick).

Americans have a long and honorable tradition of supporting the less fortunate through charitable giving (for an excellent review of that history, see The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky). Last year, Americans gave over $300 billion to charities, the vast majority of which came from individuals—not from foundations, not from corporations, not from the über-wealthy. American charities provide a gamut of services to fellow Americans: homeless shelters, drug and prison rehabilitation programs, children’s homes, after school programs, abused women’s shelters, job training programs, food banks, adoption agencies, hospitals, and schools.

In fact, as a result of President Bush’s emphasis on supporting charities through his Faith Based and Community Initiatives, we are better able to channel grants that would otherwise be wasted in government bureaucracy, to local non-profit organizations that are best suited to—and most successful in—providing effective, consequential assistance.

Unfortunately, the president has determined that he would rather the government attempt to meet the needs of America’s needy.

The administration’s budget shockingly limits tax deductions on gifts to certain charities made by upper middle class taxpayers (not the jet set crowd, mind you, but millions of small business owners and professionals across America). Best stated in the Wehner/Merrick article, “It’s an extraordinary grab for money—money given to private charities by private citizens as private donations.” They go on to state, “With this proposal, President Obama is saying as directly as it can be said that the federal government is better able than private citizens and the charities they support to decide how these donation dollars are best distributed.”

According to Jacob Sullum at the Reason Foundation, the administration plans to make up for the shortfall by creating a $100 million slush fund for government-approved nonprofits and charities. “In essence then,” notes Sullum, “Obama plans to take money people otherwise would have given to the charities of their choice and give it to the charities of his choice.”

This unconscionable plan is bad news for small, local charities, the ones that actually make a difference in people’s lives. State and local charities expend considerable amounts of energy and resources on fundraising to keep their operations going (and many barely stay afloat month-to-month, as they try to maximize dollars going to their services, not overhead), but the only ones large enough to lobby the administration for a cut of the new Obama fund are on more solid financial footing. Of course, the more-localized the giving, the less control the Obamaists have on where it goes; and they just can’t have that.

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2 thoughts on “Un-Charitable Takings

  1. Obama has nearly 4 years left but he’ll have to work hard to top his lie that he doesn’t want big government. What a joke.I think he doesn’t really care about helping the poor. He is just capitalizing on the current problems to do an unprecedented power grab.

  2. Removing support from local charitable organizations is perhaps the worst thing the new administration can do. These local–and often religious–groups are able to provide services more quickly (and more efficiently) than the large bureaucracies of the federal government.The principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social teaching is very relevant here. Requiring the government to help everyone is not only inefficient, it also ends up limiting the individual’s potential by enabling him to live off the government.In sharp contrast, charitable organizations aim to get people back on their feet so they can provide for themselves in the future. The limits of smaller organizations are beneficial here: they cannot provide benefits forever (like the government), so they must focus on the best and most results-focused activity.

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