Let’s All Go Over the Dreaded Precipice Of Quantitative Doom and Then Let’s Put an End to Charitable Deductions

I think all Americans should weigh in on the number one obsession of the media at this time, namely, the dreaded precipice of quantitative doom, better known as the fiscal friggin cliff. If I hear this phrase again in the next three seconds, I think I’m going to scream.

Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhoooooooouuuuuhhhh! Oops – I inadvertently inflicted that on myself.

I have a simple idea for solving the big battle our president is facing with intransigent Republicans. You might think of my solution to the budget impasse as a Thelma and Louse escape plan. It’s quite simple: Let’s go over that sucker and enjoy the ride. It won’t last long. No worries about the landing. It can’t be that bad.

I favor this because it will automatically increase federal revenues and dramatically reduce military spending. The tax rate reductions implemented by President Bush in 2001 and 2003 will expire. Good riddance. They never should have been enacted. Going over will increase taxes, yes, but we desperately need the $281 billion that will flow into federal coffers when we do.

Over over this precipice, Republicans will have little chance of forcing reductions or eliminations of funds for children and lower-income families. This includes funding for food stamps, aid for poor school districts, Pell grants, child health care, child nutrition, pre- and post-natal care and Medicaid. These programs should be expanded with the new revenues.

No more rebuilding of homes in hurricane-prone coastal areas. Make sure disaster relief goes to assistance for relocating people to much safer areas. You want to be near the beach? Visit on a sunny day – and then get the hell out of there before nature turns violent.

Let’s switch the national conversation to climate change, speeding the withdrawal of our forces from not just Afghanistan but from countries all over the world, including those with which we have not been at war for about 70 years. Instead, let’s invest in ways of boosting health status, improving schools, cleaning up the environment and giving the disadvantaged a better chance at quality lives.

It’s time to put an end to charitable deductions. If people want to be generous, and everyone who gives now thinks of charitable gifts as forms of generosity, be generous. But, don’t expect the rest of us to subsidize your generosity – which is precisely the way it is now with the tax write-offs the Congress has long provided. America can’t afford that any longer – and I don’t think it was ever a good idea.

Any idea how much taxpayer subsidies for so-called charitable giving amount to?
About $300 billion annually, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation.
And that does not include religious organizations and churches, which should also start paying their way. How can lawmakers and the White House not take on the charitable subsidy when looking for ways to reduce the deficit?

There’s an old Russian proverb that comes to mind in this context, namely, when money speaks, the truth keeps silent. Members of Congress are falling all over themselves professing concern about the deficit while promising every interest group to which they are beholden not to allow reductions that affect their interests. As Jessamyn West once noted, nothing ruins a face so fast as double-dealing. Your face telling one story to the world. Your heart yanking your face to pieces, trying to let the truth be known.

Here the truth – the country will be better off with a cliff dive at the end of the year and all manner of redirection of funds, and tax reforms that begin with the elimination of subsidies for charitable giving.

One thought on “Let’s All Go Over the Dreaded Precipice Of Quantitative Doom and Then Let’s Put an End to Charitable Deductions

  1. “Precipice of Quantitative Doom” = HILARIOUS! I could get behind your charitable deduction argument — even though in the short term it will decimate nonprofits like Housing Works and NYAAF (two among several I support) — but only if it applies to religious organizations as well. My (completely unresearched, entirely unsupported, probably wrong) thinking is that in the short- to medium-term, churches and their ilk would put the squeeze on their members, driving at least some of them away. (WIN.) And if the resulting revenues were put to work subsidizing secular non-profits and their causes, it could be a net gain over the medium- to long-term. (A lot of qualifications, Big Ifs, etc….)

    I love your rebuilding argument, except for the problem of major cities that we discussed on the blog. But as a general principle, if taxpayers are going to rebuild housing and communities, FFS do it out of the vulnerable zones wherever possible.

    It’s worth keeping in mind in all of these Precipice of Quantitative Doom discussions exactly where these Big Scary Deficits come from in the first place. Here is a graphic I’ve used many times on the blog that illustrates it simply.

    By far the the biggest driver is the Bush tax cuts; second is the impact of the Great Recession. I’m sure I don’t need to point out that both of these are “triumphs” of conservative economic policy.

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