Robert Reich has made this extraordinary proposal on his Facebook page:
Tis the season to be charitable, or at least make a charitable contribution that can be deducted from 2014 taxable income. But if you’re very rich, charity seems to begin at home. No more than 30% of the charitable deductions of America’s wealthy go to the poor. Most go to institutions the rich favor – art museums and opera houses they attend, “think tanks” and political groups whose policies they agree with, and elite universities they graduated from. Yet because such contributions are deducted from their taxable incomes, the government in effect provides these institutions with 35 to 40 cents of every dollar “contributed.”
Wouldn’t it make more sense to limit the full charitable deduction to institutions that focus on the poor, and allow only half the deduction to other nonprofits?
If Reich gets his way, museums and opera houses will have to shut across the USA while soup kitchens won’t receive an additional cent. More than 1,300 people have shared his comments on FB and debate is raging.
– Bob, that’s a swing and a miss. Museums, symphonies, even elite colleges, are not just for the 1%ers. They can’t afford substantial cuts through reduced deductible contributions. Go after capital gains and offshoring corp assets first.
– I run an opera company in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, called Center Stage Opera. We depend on donations to stay afloat, and our ticket prices start at only $25 (with discounts for students and seniors). We provide more community service to disadvantaged kids, seniors, and adults than anything else we do. We bring educational programs into schools, from elementary through college; we bring recitals and concerts into retirement homes; we provide entertainment programs for abused women’s shelters and homeless shelters; we collect clothing, canned goods, and toys for various charitable organizations at our main stage performances…. the list goes on and on. We also set aside a good number of tickets to our main stage productions for low income children and their parents (at our last production of La Traviata we had 60 disadvantaged kids in our audience, none of whom paid a single penny). We never turn anyone away from any performance because of an inability to pay.
– The whole institution of being a non-profit needs to be looked into. Some of the CEO’s of these non-profits receive unrealistically large salaries.
– You haven’t thought this one through very well, Mr. Reich. Funding the arts often transforms depressed areas into places with increased employment opportunities for a wide variety of people. Look at Mass MOCA, for example. Look at neighborhoods and small towns revitalized by non-profit theaters.