Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Last year, Kate’s Club served more than 200 Atlanta children who had lost a parent or sibling.  This organization is a microcosm of our nation’s history of public service and charitable giving.  A need exists, an organization is founded and people are helped.

Charity matters not only to those who are helped, but also to those who give. Government spending – well – I cannot remember the last time I felt happy to send my money to Washington, D.C., where someone else got to determine how it might be best used.  Nor can I remember feeling connected with those who might receive a portion of the dollars that I pay in taxes.

In “Gross National Happiness,” Brooks writes, “Leaders need to take our giving seriously.  It is not a dalliance, or an expendable substitute for government spending.” Unfortunately, that is what Congress is doing trying to do.

While trying to increase public service by spending more taxpayers’ money – President Barack Obama is at the same time stifling the incentive for individuals to make personal contributions.  Today, people in the top tax brackets get a tax break for each personal dollar donated to charities that ranges from 33 to 35 percent.  So if they give $1,000 of their money to a charity – the after-tax (cash) impact to them is on average $660. 

Obama’s proposed change would increase the personal after-tax (cash) impact of the $1,000 charitable gift to $780.  In order for donors to remain cash-neutral, they would have to give eight percent less to the charity.  What will happen is that personal charitable giving, so important in this time of need, will be reduced.

If the goal is to promote good works, then let us do that directly, maintaining the current tax rates for charitable giving and letting people instead of government decide where their money should go.  If the goal is to create government jobs to employ those who are unemployed in work that will benefit the public good – then let us call it workfare and create a temporary workforce that our tax money will fund.

Let’s not confuse the two – one is charity and the other is government work – the two are not the same.  They are not identical twins – they are not brothers who look an awful lot alike – it’s more like big brother who is making decisions for you.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.