advisors generally assume that wealthy people, no matter
what their political persuasion, share the goal of giving
as little money as possible to the government. While all
of us can cite examples of government waste and stupidity,
I see things quite differently, and urge my friends and
colleagues not to passively accept this mentality. I do
not base my giving on how much the government allows me
to deduct, and I am proud to support vital government
services with my tax dollars.
I value private philanthropy, I know that the charitable
sector also has its own inefficiencies and bureaucracy,
and is among the least democratically accountable sectors
of society. I also know that philanthropy can never, by
itself, create the kind of society I want: with universal
health insurance, affordable higher education, decent
public schooling, a cleaner natural environment, well-funded
public parks, full employment, and expanded loan programs
to first-time homeowners. Nor are privately-funded efforts
likely to reign in unreasonable corporate power and other
excesses of unbridled capitalism. A well-functioning society
requires a government supported by fair taxes and guided
by elected officials who are accountable to the entire
populace, not just the wealthiest contributors and lobbyists.
of the saddest trends of the last twenty years has been
the withdrawal of wealthy households from the commonweal.
Instead of supporting public transportation, public policing,
and public parks, many of us in the wealthiest 10 percent
(who own and control 70% of the nation's private wealth)
have privatized our security and recreation needs. We
no longer have a stake in the institutions that most people
withdrawal furthers a cycle of decline. As we disinvest
from the commonwealth, the quality of public institutions
decline, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We who can
afford to opt out of public schools, public transportation,
and urban areas, do so, creating a "rush to the door"
effect. The result is a polarizing society of rich and
poor, where two of the biggest growth industries are prison
construction and gated communities.
the summer of 1997, Congress passed a package of $85 billion
in tax cuts that furthered this withdrawal from the commonweal.
Touted as "middle-class tax relief," over 45 percent of
the tax cuts went to the wealthiest five percent of taxpayers.
The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers got cuts averaging
just $6, or enough to buy half a pizza.
protest, last April I joined with other members of the
organization called Responsible Wealth and pledged to
give away a portion of our savings from these new tax
cuts to support groups organizing for a fairer economic
system and a more progressive tax code. Together, 125
of us contributed 1.2 million dollars.
bottom line is, that for all
its undeniable shortcomings, government remains the only
"trust fund" for 80 percent of the population, the institution
that people fall back on in the event of catastrophe,
infirmity, and old age. We should not withdraw our financial
support from the government, but work to make it better.
- anonymous author
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