President Barack Obama’s FY 2010 budget proposal to cut the tax deductions that wealthy Americans can claim for their charitable donations has been roundly criticized, including by us here and by Harvard University economic professor Martin Feldstein here. But Obama does have his leftist defenders, including New York City Coalition Against Hunger executive director Joel Berg who writes:
Combined with other progressive Obama tax proposals, that change would not only start to redress the inequality gap that has engulfed America in recent decades but would also help to pay for many effective domestic programs, including efforts that fight hunger and improve nutrition; boost public education; improve health care and make it more affordable; and create jobs for low- and middle-income families. In other words, the funding would greatly reduce struggling families’ need for charitable aid.
Forget for a second that increased federal government funding for education and health care does not lead to better education or health care results, or that government spending does not create jobs. Instead, focus on Berg’s closing arguments:
It is fashionable these days to say that “the community,” not government, should solve social problems. Yet no nonprofit leader, myself included, was elected by the community as a whole. Elected officials, whether we like them or not, are picked by voting citizens. In America, the government is the most legitimate voice of the entire community.
Therein lies the fundamental difference between the left and conservatives. Conservatives believe in a vibrant civil society that allows individuals to flourish and where government plays a crucial but limited role. The left sees government as “the most legitimate voice” in the entire community and an entity that should be in charge of solving all problems. That is what this charitable donation fight is about.