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Even Anger... What Is Charity... Terrified Nonprofit Leaders...

Builder1 started this conversation

A colleague found a very interesting article - "The Kindness of Strangers" by Robert V. Levine. Here is a snippet:

"Over and again, New Yorkers told us they cared deeply about the needs of strangers, but that the realities of city living prohibited their reaching out. People spoke with nostalgia for the past, when they would routinely pick up hitchhikers or arrange a meal for a hungry stranger. Many expressed frustration—even anger—that life today deprived them of the satisfaction of feeling like good Samaritans."

I just hope that Aidpage will eventually give those unhappy New Yorkers... and the many like them all over the world... the informal and immediate ways to be good Samaritans again. That's my work now... and the work of our team at Aidpage... Ivan, Tzenko, Boby, Valcho, Pencho, and Stamen.

And then... another good... somewhat philosophical article... from The New York Times...  "In Pursuit of Unhappiness" by Darrin M. McMahon. He writes:

"... the philosopher John Stuart Mill, came to a similar conclusion. His words are all the more worth heeding in that Mill himself was a determined proponent of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. 'Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so,' Mill concluded after recovering from a serious bout of depression. Rather than resign himself to gloom, however, Mill vowed instead to look for happiness in another way.

'Those only are happy,' he came to believe, 'who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.' For our own culture, steeped as it is in the relentless pursuit of personal pleasure and endless cheer, that message is worth heeding.

So in these last days of 2005 I say to you, 'Don't have a happy new year!' Have dinner with your family or walk in the park with friends. If you're so inclined, put in some good hours at the office or at your favorite charity, temple or church. Work on your jump shot or your child's model trains. With luck, you'll find happiness by the by. If not, your time won't be wasted. You may even bring a little joy to the world."

And then another article from The New York Times... by Stephanie Strom... originally titled "What Is Charity?"... as of now suspiciously archived under the totally meaningless "Aftermaths." What were the "maths" for changing the title... I wonder. Did it sound a bit too much of a "questioning" for the good taste of some influential charity?

Here are snippets from "What is Charity?"...

"... among the many who had been turning away from Americans most in need of charity was the philanthropic sector itself. Last year, the share of giving going to organizations most directly related to helping the poor hit a record low, accounting for less than 10 percent of the $248 billion donated by Americans and their philanthropic institutions...

Other statistics also suggest that the nonprofit sector has drifted from core notions of charity. Nonprofit hospitals provide no more charity care than taxpaying counterparts do. While university assets soar, tuition continues to outpace inflation. Only a sliver of giving to churches is spent on social services...

So what is charity today if it is not aimed primarily at the have-nots? Has its definition been stretched so broadly that it no longer has meaning? If so, are the tax breaks that propel our philanthropy justified? Representative Bill Thomas, Republican of California, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has raised those questions in a series of hearings examining whether tax exemption is justified for certain types of nonprofits.

The question, in his words, is, 'What is the taxpayer getting in return for the tens of billions of dollars per year in tax subsidy' offered to donors through tax write-offs or to nonprofits through their tax exemptions? According to the Treasury Department, the charitable deduction will amount this year to a $40 billion tax subsidy, mostly to upper-income households - overshadowing the roughly $20 billion the human services sector is likely to raise. No official estimates exist for the cost of the tax exemption covering money that nonprofits spend and for the property they own.

The hearings have received little public notice but have terrified nonprofit leaders, more than a Senate Finance Committee threat to tighten regulation of charities.

'When you start to ask what is the fundamental underlying rationale for tax exemption and the charitable deduction for donors, it leads to questions that are far more difficult to answer than questions about greater disclosure and better governance,' said John D. Colombo, a tax-law professor at the University of Illinois who testified before Rep. Thomas. 'It gets you to questions like, why should an institution with billions in the bank get tax exemption?'"

(more on the "questions about greater disclosure and better governance"...) 

I am tempted to ask my questions though. Does compassion need incentives? If you want to give $10... why would you want a $1 tax break. Why not simply give $9? What's the point of this tax incentivized "giving"...? But I must be too simplistic here... I probably don't know enough about the complex dynamics of the partnership between government and private (some call them "special") interests... bla-bla... bla-bla... whatever...

That's it for today... and may be for this year. Hopefully, I did not break too many laws by doing these extensive quotes.

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