Is it Charity or Something Else?

Robert Reich caused a stir when in a recent article, he suggested that the United States’ tax code should be changed. He asserted that many wealthy donors are helping themselves and their wealthy friends by donating to certain charities. He suggested that full deductions be allowed for charities that benefit the poor and that half deductions be allowed for donations to universities and art institutions. He referred to his thoughts as a “modest proposal.” Many others have since commented on Reich’s article, including “The Wealth Report” blog in the Wall Street Journal.

Supporting the poor and underprivileged is a tremendous goal and there are many organizations, globally, that do it well. They deserve to be funded as much as any other institution. However, to change the way the tax code works, would create a hierarchy among not-for-profit organizations based on their missions. That doesn’t sit well with me. I am a huge supporter of environmental organizations. One could argue that the donors to organizations that benefit the Earth should get the biggest tax deduction because without their work, and the health of our environment, all else is for nought. I might have a supporter in Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia Inc., who started 1% Percent for the Planet. Chouinard’s goal was to incentivize others to exclusively support organizations serving the environment. There is a great quote from David Brower on the home page of the 1% website. Brower said, “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.”

I thought about Robert Reich’s viewpoint, then discussed it via e-mail with one of Horst Engineering’s advisors, Bill Ghormley. Bill understands higher education, after having paid for a combined eight years of private college tuition for his two kids. He also has close ties to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, so I knew that he would have an opinion…I just didn’t realize how strong.

With regard to Harvard and other universities, Bill said, “Harvard is using its resources to build research facilities in their new Stem Cell Institute that will change all of our expectations around a wide range of human sufferings.  Note, ALL of humanity’s expectations. Harvard is also providing an environment where many international diplomatic efforts can be thought through and brought through into existence in its school of Government. Harvard is redeveloping Allston Center, thinking through the green/clean lens to create something new and better to inspire city architecture worldwide. Harvard is a gem — a place our country can point to and say ‘this is exceptional!’  Just ask for perspective from other lands — Harvard is the model institution many admire — worldwide.”

I guess he doesn’t think the IRS should cut the tax deductions for Harvard’s donors!

What about the arts? Much the same according to Bill. He feels that both universities and art institutions deliver value to their communities. Of course, he and I both agree that there is much waste in how funds are raised and spent. Not-for-profit organizations aren’t any different than for-profit organizations. They can be latent with waste, mis-managment, and fraud, just like other enterprises. The same inflated compensation that is paid to the CEO’s of big corporations is making its way into the not-for-profit world. Many executive directors of .org’s are being given rich pay packages by their boards, which are stocked with their cronies. The governance of not-for-profits, which is not regulated by the government like for-profit corporations, is very important. I often use Charity Navigator or similar online tools, when evaluating .org’s.

In his e-mail, Bill went on to say, “The culture created at such peak institutions flows down in many ways — from potential cures for medical maladies to free concerts, free admissions, stimulation of youth creativity, access to beauty and the provision of spiritual home — these “charitable institutions” are serving a large number of people — certainly the vast majority of Americans.   However, tax policy creates huge advantages for institutions that primarily serve wealthy patrons — true.  Those institutions often create the highest of human achievement — and often the environment those achievements take place in MUST be separated from “the street” where survival is the sad common denominator. So, I guess I don’t agree with Robert.  His view leaves empty the pinnacle, the superlative best that inspires all who seek to achieve anything.  High achievement deserves support and deserves a tax break and a lot of room to flourish and lead us all to do more with our lives.    These charitable institutions are creating excellence, inspiring excellence and nurturing the creation of great beauty — away from Government oversight and Religious overbearance — and that is valuable to all.”

Clearly, Bill was stimulated by the comments from Reich.

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@thecubscouts #pinewoodderby never gets old. Pack 157 Bolton, Connecticut #cubscouts So that little injury caused by my @renocxnats crash on Saturday afternoon wasn’t so little after all. It’s a broken leg (fibula). Prognosis is good, but it hurts like heck. My blog post report with blow by blow details is linked in my profile. #cxnats #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #crossisboss - - -

This #lifedeathcyclocross stuff is true!!!! I crashed out of the Singlespeed Championship @renocxnats (on the dreaded off-camber) but not before having more fun. @artroti43 raced on the frosty course ❄️ at day break. 🚴🏽 We met a lot more @horsteng #crossspikes customers. I hung with little bunny hopper 🐰 Miles, the Junior 11-12 year old Silver Medalist.🥈I cheered for Nic, who represented @the_ccap in the Junior 15-16 age group. @sportstert and Iva came down from Tahoe to cheer LOUDLY for me. 🎺 I got my badly sprained ankle taped and iced. I had a beer. 🍺 I’m even looking forward to my red eye flight home ✈️ . Best of all, I’ll see @trailrunningmom and the kids on Sunday. I can’t explain the sensation, but despite the pain, I’m ready for next #Cyclocross season to begin... after some rest. #teamhorstsports #cxnats #horstengineering @parkavebikeshop #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross #crossiscoming You could say that at least for this week, I’m married to my #bicycle - - -

@renocxnats #cxnats @seven_cycles #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #horstengineering #crossspikes @horsteng #chapelofthebells #Cyclocross #lifedeathcyclocross Good day representing @horsteng at @renocxnats in the 45-49 age group. It’s a great course. The wind was blowing hard, but the sun finally came out. I’m happy with 37th place but should have made a move to get to 29th, which was 30 seconds ahead. That’s a long way when you are going flat out and cramping. 4,500 foot elevation was a factor. I’m disappointed that they cut one lap of my race when I wasn’t close to getting lapped by the leaders. You train this hard and come all this way; and you want to get the most racing for the $ and time invested. They only let 25 riders do the full six laps. The only positive to come out of that was that I watched fellow New Englander @adammyerson execute a perfect final sprint to win the Stars and Stripes again. Teammate @artroti43 had a good ride too. 
@seven_cycles #sevencycles #horstengineering #teamhorstsports @bicycleseastct #crossspikes #cxnats #renocxnats #Cyclocross #crossisboss @therichardsachs didn’t have the race he hoped for but it was still great to see him @renocxnats and “pit” for him. He said he officially started his second off season, but first of 2018. @artroti43 and I played soigneur/mechanic for 90 minutes, but minus the massage! atmo #renocxnats #richardsachs #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #hauteframebuilding #Cyclocross #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross I previously hadn’t published this image, but it recently received an Honorable Mention in the 2017 @appalachianmountainclub Photo Contest for the People Outdoors category. Check out my blog (link in profile) for the interesting story of his photo (shot with this iPhone 6s), a trip report from this amazing Maine adventure, and past contest history. I love this image of two of my favorite women. I’m barred from submitting images to the 2018 contest, but I’ll be back in 2019. #appalachianmountainclub #baxterstatepark #katahdin Congratulations to Master Park, the Park Family, and the entire team at Park’s U.S. #Taekwondo at the Grand Opening of the new facility in the former VFW building. Our kids love it! So much better than being next door to the pawn shop and liquor store.😊#tkd 🇺🇸🇰🇷 This morning, the @trinitycollege Main Quad was bathed in beautiful sunshine ☀️but it was frigid and the wind was blowing! ❄️ The chapel was packed with an overflow crowd to celebrate the (shortened) life of a lovely friend. She will be missed. #circleoflife 🌏

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