A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Sep 20, 2011

President Obama: Step Away From Our Charity

President Obama claims to not want to solve the nation’s financial crisis on the “backs of the needy”. Yet by cutting allowable contributions to charity, through his new jobs bill, he will do precisely that. Who does President Obama think is reliant upon non-profits if not the “needy”?

The new jobs bill will reduce the percentage of income that donors can write off for charitable gifts and will limit tax breaks for such gifts.

spcaLA officer responding to devastation after Katrina
Government spending on social programs is shrinking, Americans dropping to the poverty level is increasing, unemployment is rising, and disposable income left to donate to a charity is nil.  To reduce philanthropic gifts to the not-for-profit sector is counter-intuitive.  In other words, non-profits are needed now, more than ever.

As a former community organizer, Obama must know that in horrid economic times, philanthropic entities are filling the gaps left by the government and the for-profit sector.  If charities collapse, there will be no relief for those dependent upon our services.  Non-profits are businesses too.  We provide jobs (we are hiring now!), resources, and services that allow a community to thrive.  We are the safety net that cushions the fall when the government and all else fails.

At its inception in 1877, spcaLA was responsible for protecting women, children and animals as they were legally considered property, and as such abused, exploited, overworked, underpaid and discarded.  spcaLA was also incorporated as an spcc (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) as we preceded the enactment of child labor laws and social service programs.   In 2011, spcaLA boasts anti-violence programs for at-risk youth, domestic violence programs to assist those who would risk their lives not to leave a pet behind and an elite disaster response unit that travels nationwide to assist animals and their people.  These programs are also essential as there is undisputed evidence that crimes against animals are a predictor and precursor of crimes against humans.  It is us, the non-profit, who works with those troubled teens.  It is our educators who work in the classrooms and provide age-appropriate humane education curricula to teachers who would not otherwise have them.  We are just one charity – imagine the impact, scope, and reach of all of us together.

Corporations and the wealthy that are willing to contribute to our much needed programs must be allowed to do so at current rates if not at higher ones.  Across the country, charities that provide meals, shelter, hospital services and the like are now shuttered due to already existing funding shortages.  With all due respect, this bill would be cutting the last lifeline to many of us in the non-profit sector.  Is this not contrary to the president’s message asks the “haves” to help provide for the “have nots”?  That is philanthropy – those with funds fund those without.

The argument that the jobs bill will put more people to work and therefore will generate more funding for charities is a faulty one.  These temporary infrastructure jobs will indeed provide a helping hand to those who are drowning but they will not generate the type of financial security that can tolerate charitable contributions.

I ask President Obama not to deprive those that depend upon the non-for-profit sector for their survival and not to not rob the philanthropic community to pay America’s debts.

We live in a time where neither Peter nor Paul has anything else to spare.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. Why do these geniuses frame arguments in an either/or scenario. It is possible to do both. The funding for nonprofits is considered a luxury item. I knew the arts didn't matter; they are held in the hands of the Philistines. But this is ridiculous. We need a Samson to destroy their temple. Words and our cries can help. Keep on writing.