Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tax "Reform"???

I had started to write this blog post about the tax (“reform” “overhaul” “cut”), bill, analyzing the various provisions that affect nonprofits in both the House and Senate versions, soon to be reconciled in legislative conference. But then on December 7 I was caught up short by a full page photograph in The Washington Post, and put aside the analysis until there is a final bill. I am not sure I understood all I knew about it anyway. But I daresay not many of the legislators do either.

The photo is heartbreaking. It shows a mother clinging to her adult son. Both are standing. Her age- lined face is a portrait of misery and apprehension. Her head rests on his shoulder, held there by his hand.  The son’s face, looking over and beyond her, is impassive. Their physical position together is all too familiar to him, as is their economic one.  

They are Tyler McGloghin and his mother Sheila of Grundy Va.  The $500 a month she gets from disability supports her unemployed son and daughter-in-law. Periodically Tyler stands on the highway holding a sign that begs for money to help feed the family. 

To me, this photo symbolizes the rotten core of the tax legislation, its content and purpose.  It Ignores the poor through the middle class in favor of very rich individuals and corporations.  Its Republican advocate-enablers admit the monster deficits it will give birth to will eventually mean cutting back Medicaid and Medicare, and other parts of the fiscal “safety net” designed to assist families like the McGloghins.  

A recent study by economist Edward N. Wolff revealed that the richest 1 % of American households own 40% of the country’s wealth. There is hardly anyone but the “One Percenters” who benefits from this blatantly cynical train wreck of “law-making.” 

There are other telling anecdotes about the stark contrasts between the have and have nots in our society. A Leonardo Da Vinci sells for $450 million at a New York City auction. Even though it was bought by an obscure Saudi prince, who were those who bid up to that point?  The founder of Amazon (and owner of The Washington Post ) Jeff Bezos’ net worth is  $96.1 billion (down from $100 billion in November). And so on.
I have written before about the plutocrats in the Trump cabinet (“Pluto Philanthropy” April 2017). Longtime political commentator E. J. Dionne Jr. writing recently in The Washington Post  suggested why Republicans dare not take on Trump: …” it might derail their party’s only  driving purposes: court packing, the care and feeding of the privileged, and the gutting of federal social services and regulation.”
Undoubtedly the final tax bill will affect nonprofits negatively in one way or another, most likely through altering the deductibility architecture or raising taxes on individuals.  At the same time, many of the nonprofits, especially in the social service arenas, will face intense pressure to make up for the federal cutbacks. But what the congressional Republican leadership lacks in backbone and serving any purpose other than their own interests, nonprofits and their supporters must try to bridge the gap. It will take courage. It will take donors to ignore the tax roadblocks and step up in support of decency and compassion.
Finally, some charities are advising their donors to accelerate giving this year given the uncertainties –tax code and otherwise- in 2018. Those who benefited from the stock exchange run-up have increased encouragement to act now. And shake out some of those Bitcoins, if you have them and/or understand what they are.
In any case, happy holidays, Merry Christmas and above all, Happy New Year! The latter is sorely needed.  See you in 2018.

Comments on this and any other blog posts found in the archive to the left are always welcome at gplatt63@gmail.com