Tag Archives: social programs

The President thinks we should all be safe, educated, and successful. Duh.

RandomSpotter is somewhat amused by the President’s State of the Union address this evening.  Perhaps amused is the wrong word.  It’s more like I am like a child who knows a secret and finds it comical to be in the presence of those who don’t know it.  What is this secret?  I’m afraid it’s only a secret to those who choose emotion over intellect, and by now you should know that I make every effort to NOT do that.

Here it is:  When someone makes emotional appeals for anything from quality, early childhood education, to revitalization of cities hit hard by manufacturing movement offshore, to not hurting those who need federal entitlement programs, there is no real opposition to the statements.  All of these were made tonight by Mr. Obama.  It’s like saying America should be the home of the free and the brave.  Only a fool would take an opposing position to statements that espouse positive values and human prosperity.  And, if you’ll forgive some honesty here, there is no courage in these statements.

Courage is found in those who don’t just form attractive ideas in their mouths but who actually do the difficult work of identifying the painful sacrifices that must be made.  At a time like this, with another sequester threat looming, the President chose to continue to present mostly hollow, emotional pleas, as usual.  We again heard that Mr. Obama has many big ideas that will solve all of our problems.  But those of us who need a little more meat with our potatoes can’t just agree robotically and sing Yankee Doodle.  First of all, as offensive as the logic of this statement may be to the weak thinkers among us, Mr. Obama had four years to create the harmony that he promises will soon be upon us.  However, I give his first four years failing grades, and the logical conclusion – again, our emotion-driven counterparts will object – is that we will get plenty more of the same in this next term.  Secondly, if he is to be an activist President, I would expect to hear a deeper commitment to compromise and even a little bit of acceptance of responsibility for certain failings from Mr. Obama.  A strong sense of mission and humanity can spur great admiration in a people.  Instead, we got the same threats that, if we don’t do what he wants us to do, he’ll continue to issue Executive Orders to get his way.

So, Mr. President, I say that you were a coward this evening.  Not the kind that runs from a fight, but a coward, nonetheless.  Tonight you elected to expound cheaply and to lead weakly.  No collaborative cost-reduction strategies that could accomplish real economic change.  Instead, you dug in your heels and said that any cuts would be unacceptable and that flat spending is good enough.  Where’s the brilliance, sacrifice or leadership in that?   But, I’m still grinning.  Unlike so many who fall victim to the empty poetry of your emotional appeals, I can see right through you.

Charitable Giving: Taxes and philanthropy go hand in hand, but not the way you think

RandomSpotter had the opportunity to participate in a charitable event yesterday.  A community church held a three-peat drive for 3 different organizations that distribute supplies to the needy.  This got me thinking about charitable giving in the US, especially in light of what I view as forced giving through government entitlements.  I wanted to answer for myself whether it doesn’t make more sense for Americans to just increase charitable giving to save the significant taxes that will continue to be funneled to government “causes.”

One report from Sparxoo indicates that 65% of American households give to charity, with an average household contribution of $2,213 (2008-2011).  Of those who give, the top-earning ten percent contribute over 25% of the funds donated, and 98% of high income individuals contribute to charities.  75% of the estimated $300 billion donated each year comes from individuals, 13% from foundations, 8% from bequests, and 4% from corporations.  The US has the highest rate of giving among all countries, donating 1.65% of GDP to charitable causes (Forbes).  Let that all sink in and you see that we are a giving nation already, even if we could and should grow the number of Americans who give.

Observing the above, it’s puzzling that a country with the third highest government revenues from personal income taxes (38%) and relatively high effective corporate tax rates (around 13%) should need to continue to push ever-harder for government programs to solve social problems.  It seems to me that a fallacy we’ve embraced is the belief that government should solve every major problem of our citizens.  One undeniable fact of life is that it comes with hardship.  Government can’t make us happy any more than it can make us pain-free or healthy.  There is an ocean of evidence to prove that government programs are wasteful and inefficient in comparison with not-for-profit organizations serving the same goals.  To burden our government and tax structure with a philanthropic mission is lunacy.  Although I’ve not seen them, I’m sure there are studies that indicate an inverse relationship between growth in charitable giving and growth in government social programs.  That’s got to be the most reasonable answer.  Of course, volunteerism goes hand in hand with giving.  It costs relatively little in comparison to donations, is available to most everyone, and is a tool that expands the value of charitable contributions exponentially.

Therefore, it would fall upon us, individually and collectively, outside of government to do the heavy lifting of philanthropy and charitable support.  And doesn’t it make a lot more sense for each of us to decide who gets the benefit of our time and dollars?  It does to me.