The End of Charitable Giving?

Today I spent the afternoon at Larry H. Miller’s beautiful funeral service in the Energy Solutions Arena, listening to his family describe the marvelous man that he was. Among other things, Larry was a first-class philanthropist. With no fanfare or media attention, he once gave a considerable sum of money to a non-profit arts organization with which I was affiliated. He did so with no thought for recognition, and, indeed, preferred that his donation be kept anonymous. Since then, the organization has publicly acknowledged him as a financial benefactor, so I don’t think I’m betraying any confidences here, but I don’t want to provide any more details than that out of respect for his initial request for anonymity.

Gifts like Larry Miller’s largely go unnoticed. But if Barack Obama gets his way, future gifts of a similar nature will likely go ungiven.

Consider: as part of his plan to stick it to the rich, President Obama’s proposed tax plan calls for the elimination of itemized deductions for any income over $250,000 per year. And I can almost hear the class warriors cheering in the cyberspace transoms…

“Here here! It’s time the fatcats paid their fair share! No more huge bonuses for CEOs while the working guy gets squat!”

Well, not so fast, working guy.

If Obama’s tax plan had been in effect, Larry Miller’s gift to our arts organization would not be tax deductible. Now Larry was a remarkable enough guy that he might have given the gift anyway, but my guess is it would probably have been a much smaller gift. And not all benefactors are as selfless as Larry Miller was. If you eliminate the tax advantage for charitable giving, then, as surely as the sun rises in the east, you’re going to eliminate a lot of charitable giving by the people who have the most to give.

Which means a whole host of charitable organizations will shrivel up and die.

There’s a certain poetic justice in the fact that the first ones to go will likely be the artsy fartsy frufru theatres that rail on the evils of capitalism while going cap in hand to every wealthy businessman in their community, begging for largesse. Arts organizations enforce a rigid ideological orthodoxy; most of them consist primarily of committed leftists who voted for Obama. But now that Obama’s government will now be taking a forty percent bite out of any donations in the future, there will be less money available and no rich patrons incented to part with it.

These guys have unwittingly dug their own artsy-fartsy graves.

And it will extend beyond the arts. You’re going to see the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups see a sharp drop in revenue. Churches are going to watch their coffers shrink by more than a ten percent tithe. It is axiomatic that when you tax something, you get less of it. Obama can pass any law he likes, but he cannot repeal the law of supply and demand.

Charitable contributions work because they’re surgically efficient. The patron donates to the cause he or she finds worthy, and the government allows the transaction to happen tax free because of the positive societal benefit. But under Obama, government will suck up all those dollars and spend them as inefficiently as possible, and the result will be a lot more lefty artsy-farsty types out of work.

So it’s not all bad, I guess.

The Pie

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