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December 31, 2012

Givers should not be treated like corporate welfare seekers

(Continued)

And interestingly, liberals give less than conservatives, so any changes would disproportionately impact those who voted for the other guy in the last election.

Some charities, perhaps unwittingly, have done their part to remake themselves as just another special interest in the eyes of the media by employing high-priced lobbyists. That smells on the face of it and many donors won't give to those groups because of it.

But it is like faulting charities for the fact that the government is huge and complex. They should have the right to navigate it, too, like everyone else. Besides, the vast majority do not have the money or resources to petition Washington just like small businesses, which need every employee focused on making money to survive.

Ultimately, it would be best to get rid of all deductions, simplify the tax code, and broaden the tax base. That would benefit charities and everyone who cannot afford to pay lobbyists to manipulate the tax code in their favor. Data from Giving USA buttresses that viewpoint. It shows that donations have hovered around 2 percent of disposable income for decades under different tax regimes, signifying that expanding the pie is the best solution to increasing donations.

But that does not mean in the interim that Congress should treat the broad swath of Americans who give as if they were serial tax avoiders like General Electric. It's a dangerous moral equivalency that undermines civil society and makes government a bigger arbiter in deciding Americans' priorities.

- Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at marta@martamossburg.com.

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