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An American Charity Slump?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The Obama Administration and both houses of the U.S. Congress are fast-tracking a number of programs designed to increase the size of what's commonly known as the “welfare state.”


These programs are having a devastating impact on American charitable giving. While the wealthy have been vilified, the census data shows that households earning $200,000-plus, which comprise only 2.6% of all households who submit tax returns, give nearly 50% of all individual charitable contributions.

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One of the drawbacks of the Obama Administration's and the liberal-left's tax law revision is the decrease in the amount charity-givers may deduct from their annual federal income tax. Ideologues, such as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others, believe the government should use the "cover" of charity as a means of redistributing wealth.

In other words, President Obama's version of "charity" is more akin to Karl Marx than it is to Jesus Christ. Obama and his ilk are charitable, to be sure, but they're charitable with other people's money.

In the days before Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal and Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society, it was the Christian church that provided food, clothing and shelter for the poor and destitute members of society.

For example, during The Great Depression and thereafter, the majority of "soup kitchens" and "shelters" were run by local churches. The homeless were provided a warm meal, a place to rest, and a chance to hear the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. Christians in those days understood that if you were to address the needs of the soul, it was best to first address the needs of the body.


While President Obama can't wait to get his hands on this nation's health care, many Americans have forgotten that it was the Christian church and Jewish temples that built most of the hospitals and clinics. Religious groups provided medical treatment to people who were given the bums’ rush out of hospitals because they were too poor to pay for treatment.

For example, in New York City, hospitals still bear the names given by religious groups who created them—Saint Vincent's Hospital, Calvary Hospital, Christ Hospital and many others. While the city government manages 10 non-profit hospitals, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies manages 15 health care centers.

But today, we run the grave risk of letting the government undermine support of these charitable institutions and thus eliminating crucial charitable services.

While President Obama and his minions will never tell citizens they should stop giving to faith-based organizations, their actions appear to be intentionally or unintentionally stifling such charitable giving. It’s a fact that many politicians in Washington believe the government is better able to distribute charitable services than people whom they view as simpleminded Bible-thumpers.

According to a survey conducted on behalf of Dunham+Company by Wilson Research Strategies, Americans reported that they are beginning to spend more of their disposable income on entertainment and other household expenses, while continuing to reduce or stop their charitable giving.


Compared to the 2009 study, Dunham+Company's 2010 New Year's Philanthropy Survey shows that in spite of a surprising 56% jump in the number of households indicating they have not reduced their household budget as a result of the economy, 37% of the respondents said they continue to reduce their charitable donations and nearly 1 in 4 reported in the survey that they have completely stopped charitable giving. The WRS survey reveals that statistically the 2010 rates are the same as last year's rates.

However, Rick Dunham, the president and CEO of Dunham+Company, a firm that helps Christian ministries with marketing, fundraising and media relations, said there are some exceptions.

“When you dig into the data, you find that more of those who frequent religious services indicate that in spite of the economy, they are continuing or increasing their support of charity in 2010 compared to 2009,” he said in a press statement. “Fewer of these households have reduced or stopped their giving. This is especially impressive as there is actually a 10% increase in the number of non-religious households who say they have stopped their giving as we enter 2010.”

Dunham+Company's survey also indicates that households earning $35,000 or less are much more likely to have reduced or stopped charitable giving (33% more than the national average), whereas households earning $100,000 or more are less likely to have reduced or stopped their charitable giving (38% less than the national average). However, about one in six frequent churchgoers say they do intend to give more, which is 33% greater than those who do not attend church.


While the survey reveals a disturbing reduction in charitable giving, respondents are not enthusiastic about having the federal government come in to pick up the slack.

For example, when asked about their support for federal funding of health care necessitating increased taxes on the wealthy, a whopping 63% of those surveyed rejected such a policy.

“The data related to giving basically remains unchanged from 2009,” Dunham said. “Most charities should expect contributions to remain relatively flat this year, which is not good news for the many non-profits that are struggling. But religious charities should fare better than most as there are a greater number of these households indicating they are supporting charities as we begin this year compared to last year.”

Mr. Dunham points to one bright spot, however, for all charities. The findings do indicate that there should be a resurgence in giving by households making $75,000 or more a year. Among those making $75,000 but less than $100,000, this year’s survey showed an 80% jump in those who intend to increase their support of charity in 2010 (18% in 2010 compared to 10% in 2009) and for households making $100,000 or more there was a 31% jump compared to one year ago (21% in 2010 compared to 16% in 2009).

But now that Obama has unveiled his budget and the increase in taxes on households making $250,000 or more and decreasing the amount they can deduct for charitable giving, this intention to give more may be short-lived.


The economic crisis and now the policies of the Obama Administration may mean a prolonged American charity slump that will wreak havoc on charities for years to come.

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