A Wall Street Journal op-ed calling into question whether tax “reform” should disallow the deduction for charitable donations offers a nugget of data that Catholics interested in tax reform should carefully consider.
The “nugget” is the total amount of money the federal government is pouring into charitable programs sponsored by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Charities USA (CC-USA). The op-ed notes:
Religious organizations also receive large infusions of federal funds. Catholic Charities USA receives more than half of its funding each year ($554 million in 2010) from federal grants. In 2012, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops received $63 million…in federal grants.
It’s difficult to unpack the exact numbers because the recipients oftentimes use multiple names. That said, the USCCB directly received $34,767,249 in the form of three awards in 2012. That’s 17.3% of its 2012 annual budget. CC-USA directly received $5,546,607 in 2012 for 21 contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The President of the William Simon Foundation, James Piereson, who wrote the op-ed, stated:
These are reputable institutions, and many of the programs they sponsor are important. Nevertheless, in view of their dependence upon government funds, no one can seriously maintain that these groups are “independent.” Instead, they form one of the more powerful lobbying forces in Washington for increasing government spending, especially spending on tax-exempt groups.
Forget all of that “lobbying” to garner more federal largess which, in turn, only increases the federal tax burden on the less than 50% of U.S. citizens who pay income tax.
Bad as that is, all of that lobbying represents these organizations’ ever-increasing dependency upon the federal government to subsidize their “charitable” work. And that’s the problem: The government knows just how to pull those strings when it’s to the government’s advantage to do so.
If the government threatens not to increase funding, leaders of charitable organizations cry “Wolf!”, insisting their organizations will no longer be able to provide the quality of goods and services all of those people who are dependent upon those organizations have come to expect. Why? Those leaders define “no increase” in funding as a “cut” in funding.
Then, too, if the government was to cut funding to those organizations, those leaders will also cry “Wolf!”, insisting that the cuts will hurt those who are already dependent upon those organizations as well as all of those additional clients who also need the goods and services provided by those organizations.
In the end, the government uses the power of the purse to control those organizations, exerting appropriate pressure to get them to knuckle under to the government’s diktats. Never forget: The government wants those charitable organization to do its bidding and to promote its policies. Look at what Obamacare has attempted to do to Catholic higher education and the nation’s Catholic hospitals.
So, where is the lion’s share of all that federal largess to the USCCB and Catholic Charities USA going? “Immigration services.” Hmm…why ever would the federal government so willingly fund Catholic organizations to provide those “services” and not “educational” services, like parochial schools?
Charity is an individual’s love of God and neighbor that is demonstrated in that individual’s freely-given acts of love. Churches—funded by their members—do that. Government can never do that.
It might very well be time to eliminate the tax deduction for charitable donations as part of a much larger tax reform package. This should include eliminating the IRS and introducing the flat tax (with appropriate thresholds for the poor, destitute, and those in need). Then, let’s see if “charity” is really charity or if much of it is just a tax deduction.
To view the USCCB data, click on the following link:
To view the Catholic Charities USA data, click on the following:
To view the USCCB 2012 budget news, click on the following link: