Almost invariably, the majority of mail that we receive is from charitable organizations, the preponderance of it from so-called charities to which we do not contribute nor most likely never will. There are some, I admit, that once received a contribution in a moment of weakness on our part, but never will again. The unanswered telephone solicitations are even more disturbing, because we have never contributed to anyone or anything based on a telephone solicitation.
It appears, in fact, that everyone and everything has its own charitable organization. While this perception is in fact erroneous, it still feels that way to me, perhaps because there are over a million and a half charitable organizations in the United States alone. And after the scattered revelations of the past few years about the compensation of those running charitable organizations and the fact that, in all too many cases, far too much of donated funds to legally permitted 501(c) (3) organizations goes to anything but the purposes for which they were ostensibly founded. From what I can tell, there are foundations for almost every form of ill-treated or endangered species, particularly mammals, land-based and aquatic, and large avians, not to mention scores of foundations dealing with social ills, justice, discrimination, civil rights, conservation and environmental improvement – the list is truly endless.
The problem, of course, is that a great many of them address very real problems. Far fewer do so efficiently and cost-effectively. Some address problems that don’t seem to be problems to me, such as the “need” to “return” federal lands to either the people or the states [not that either ever held those lands], and some spotlight problems that cannot be solved by greater application of resources.
If people wish to give money to these causes, so be it, but should all these donations be considered tax-deductible? For that matter, should donations to religious organizations be tax-deductible? Such deductions add to the federal deficit and, in essence, require higher taxes on everyone.
Now, I know that many conservatives feel that government attempts to do too much in social programs and believe that private charity is more suited to dealing with many of these problems, but isn’t providing tax deductions for charitable and religious organizations effectively the same as a government subsidy? And all too often, the cost of subsidies is far greater than anyone knows because it’s essentially hidden. The more than one and a half million U.S. charities spend 1.5 trillion dollars every year, an amount equivalent to the 40% of the federal budget. Given the billions poured into charities, if charity were that effective, shouldn’t we be seeing better results?