Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forced opt-in and opting out

In the current political climate in the USA, "individual rights" have been brought sharply into focus. The whole "what should the country provide, vs what should individuals provide?" debate is in full swing.

Everything seems to be up for grabs and discussion. For example, vaccination of children against childhood diseases is public policy, but there is a group of people (highlighted on the radio yesterday) in Washington State (not the US capital, Washington, DC.) who won't vaccinate their children for several reasons. Individual choice? For sure. Good thing - the medical community doesn't think so. My view, I side with the medical community.

Then we come to some real sacred cows. Charities. There is no doubt that many charities do fantastic work. There is no doubt that many people are comforted by their Churches, that their faith sustains them. However, each of us is somehow forced to contribute to their upkeep, How? Because charitable deductions are tax-exempt - at least here in the US of A. So if I have a marginal tax rate of 30%, then every $100 that I give to a results in a reduction of my tax burden by $30. Yet the charity gets all $100. So where does the difference come from? Presumably the general fund. And where does the general fund get its money? Er, um, from taxes.

Ergo, we are each paying for each other's favorite charities. I am not saying whether we should or shouldn't have the instituions, but let's value them properly/transparently.

Make it a matter of public policy to explicitly show where from general revenue the funds are going, and if people want to give more to support others - in times of crisis or whatever, then let them. I don't want to support mega-churches, I don't want to support super-mosques. I don't want to support giant synagogues. I don't want you not to be able to support these things.

Let's get the government of of the charities business, drop the administrative burden (reducing government cost) and let those who want/use the services pay for the services.

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