Charity and the tax man

Charity and the tax man

An interesting article from the Acton Institute examines a liberal contention that tax breaks for charitable giving are less efficient than letting the government take care of people. The Action article does a delicious takedown.

The author, Karen Woods, looks at an article by a Stanford political science professor: “After a long exposition of the uncertain ‘redistributive’ effects of charity, Reich concludes that, ‘Given the evidence already presented, philanthropy does such a poor job of channeling money to the needy that it would not be difficult for the government to do better.’” Her reply?

First of all, a gift of money or goods and the resulting tax deduction is only a government subsidy if you believe the money or goods belonged to the government in the first place. What’s more, wealthy people get a bigger write-off than poor people because poor people can’t give to charities – they’re poor.

... The real problem with government “charity” is that government takes a “one size fits all” approach to the problem of poverty. That, really, is all a bureaucracy can do. Government agencies are not designed to understand unique circumstances or to care about personal problems. And government certainly is not equipped to provide total coverage for major disasters like the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Government also pretends to distribute its help in an equitable and even-handed manner, an error of policy that results in waste, fraud and corruption.

This is the problem with Catholic charitable agencies going on the government dole. Because of the way it works, it becomes less and less like a charity and more and more like another government bureaucracy devoid of what makes it Catholic in the first place. Real charity is an act of love by which individuals help others in need, showing them the love of Christ. Mother Teresa embodied this in her act of simply taking one person at a time from the gutters of Calcutta and caring for them as if they were themselves Christ.

As I’ve said many times, Catholic charity is not done by some diocesan bureaucracy. It should be done by individual parishes caring for the people who live within its boundaries.

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