Consider the role of good deeds. Do we do what is best for our neighbors or do we funnel money to a central authority who decides what is best for our neighbors? Think about it. Decentralized or centralized. Can I watch more closely how my money is spent by a charity or should I pool my money and let others pick the charity and take responsibility for watching?
With a decentralized approach I’ll focus charity on immediate neighbors, my white flight companions, to the detriment of those left behind in Newark NJ. We tend to notice needs close at hand more than those far away. With a centralized approach there’s an intermediary. There’s leakage. When others decide how to donate my charity we see loss to waste and inefficiency.
With a centralized approach you take away my freedom to have my conscience untrammeled by the state. You take my Catholic donations and use them to fund abortion clinics. Or, you take my Jewish donations and use them to fund works by the Palestine Liberation Organization. You say I should consider it someone else’s taxes that went to the distasteful ends. I say I don’t even want to support the overhead, the administrative costs, of anyone tied to those ends.
It’s bad enough you force me to do charity, taking away its moral character. It’s worse you force me to do charity that mortally wounds my soul. You alienate me from my own government. I become receptive to tax dodges or evasions as long as my taxes do not fund evil. I can raise no moral indignation against others who find clever tax dodges. I admire and applaud them. You turn what should be a morally uplifting charity into a morally offensive hatred of my own government.
Soak the Rich Advocates
Soak the rich! Is this what the world’s great religious leaders would advocate? No this form of resentment comes from despots and petty-minded zealots. These individuals would never think of sending their own kids to the same schools as those on behalf of whom they advocate. They justify their behaviors as “helping those less fortunate”, but heaven forbid they should actually have to live and socialize with those unfortunates.
We now hold political power and we’ll do what we decried when power was held by the wealthy: impose our own partisan interests!
Get to know soak-the-rich advocates on a personal level and you’ll often find them to be the most mean-spirited, mad-at-the-world, opinionated and bigoted individuals around. Wonder and gratitude for our many blessings? Unlikely. They are morally bankrupt, subconsciously repulsed by their own deep hatred of those people and trying to assuage their guilt by proselytizing on their behalf.
They are quick to characterize the rich as heartless greedy bastards. They’ve never met them but they use this facile condemnation as a salve for their conscience. It’s subliminal but hating the rich offsets hatred of the unfortunates. Perhaps they read propaganda on CEO pay differentials.
Isn’t it funny those most anxious to soak the rich are those most often shunned at social gatherings? They protest to the contrary, but their inner feelings are betrayed by subtle words and expressions, making those around them ill at ease and looking for an exit.
Sigh. We’re all in this together. In comparison to what is expected of me the difference between us is negligible. I am just as guilty for the depths to which these pitiful advocates have sunk. In what I have done and what I have failed to do. Their spiritual poverty is far more devastating to them than any material poverty in the unfortunates. I mentally grit my teeth, widen my smile and recite my rosary: these are God’s children, these are God’s children, these are God’s children!
A Charitable Proposal
I propose the Charity for All Act of 2014. We soak the rich with a very progressive income tax. But we couple this with a very regressive rebate program for charitable contributions. Rebates ratchet up culminating in a 100% rebate for all donations in excess of $15,000. Rebates are limited by taxes paid, and taxes are limited by rebates available. I challenge the rich to bankrupt the federal government by donating too much to charities.
We completely separate government reporting for these two activities. Tax forms demonstrate the rich paid a highly progressive income tax. They paid ‘their fair share’. This is the only publicly available information for comparisons across tax brackets. Rebates for charitable donations are kept secret. We send in our charitable receipts, a copy of our 1040, and we receive rebates shortly after April 15.
Fair share arguments are crushed. Attempts to limit rebates will pit charities against soak-the-rich advocates. There is no where else to turn. We add schizophrenia to their moral bankruptcy.
This is participatory budgeting. Citizens decide budget priorities at a very granular level. Politicians still decide what constitutes a charity (including religious organizations) and can even offer bonus rebates for their favorite charities in Newark, NJ. Taxpayers funnel money into choices they consider most in line with their values (e.g., most effective). Fundraising becomes more democratic; less pandering to the political elite. Taxpayers decide, by giving to charities or not, how many tax dollars will be left over for non‑charitable federal expenditures.
Is forced charity really charity? We’re not talking about charity in the biblical sense. We’re talking about taxes and politics. We eliminate the ‘pay your fair share’ argument wielded by partisans to divide our country. We can now point to concrete tax returns and refute any claims about the rich not paying their fair share. Our charities are the best funded in the world. And no new tax revenues fell into the hands of the politicians, a loaded gun which they often put to our heads to demand even more. It’s the best of all worlds.