Bring Us Together to Aim High

Advocacy , Charitable Deduction , Nonprofit , Policy , Tax Reform Add comments


We all lose when ideological battles waged before an election taint the policymaking and governance that follows. That is why healing our deeply divided nation must be a priority of the Congress and the Administration. It was a message we heard at our conference that followed on the heels of the election. Washington Post columnist Matt Miller, for one, called upon our community to "harness all the passion and creativity and commitment we possess to force all sides in the debates to aim higher." 

President Obama is in a position to urge Americans to put our differences behind us and focus on our shared goals: safe spaces for our children; an effective military; a chance for older people to live and contribute with dignity; a well-maintained infrastructure; and decent, living wages. In fact, the President and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie demonstrated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy what can be achieved when our leaders set aside their political differences and focus on solving the problem at hand. The problems that now face our country will demand a similar commitment to bipartisanship from the President and Republicans in Congress.

Tackling some of the daunting challenges we face around the globe should be part of the President's priorities. These include staying competitive in an increasingly globalized market and maintaining the ability to defend our borders and people. We must neither shy away from our role on the world's stage nor ride roughshod over our allies. We must consider how to harness conservation and green energy to mitigate climate change and preserve dwindling natural resources.

At home, with the fiscal cliff looming at year’s end, President Obama has an opportunity to set the tone for a debate that ultimately results in a bipartisan solution in the best interests of our nation, rather than the interests of either party. We must continue the commitment to a more cost effective way to deliver health care to people. We must figure out how to reform education; embrace humane immigration policies supported by both sides of the aisle, and much more – all while paying down a spiraling national debt and igniting economic growth. This cannot be done unless our elected leaders of both parties come together and recognize from the outset that compromise is essential to successful governance. That means giving ground on more than you might prefer to gain ground on what you really want.

Our country's staggering debt will require some combination of raising taxes and cutting spending. It's time for lawmakers to roll up their sleeves and sort out budget problems though not on the backs of Americans least able to sacrifice. We did not hear much mention during the campaign season about our most vulnerable communities. Whatever the reasons for those omissions, the poorest members of our society cannot be excluded from the problem solving agenda nor should they be part of any compromise. Their lives have been compromised enough.

The country faces a dramatic series of broad tax increases and cuts to federal programs unless Congress and the White House agree upon an alternative. As lawmakers look at ways to create new revenue streams, they are examining carefully the tax dollars that currently undergird the tax-exempt sector. They will surely ask whether federal, state, and local governments can afford to relinquish such revenue given our financial concerns. They are asking if the social benefits that tax-exempt organizations deliver to society are worth their deductions and exclusions. And if it is appropriate to incentivize giving through tax deductions for certain income levels.

Our community must, as before, mobilize the bipartisan coalition in support of the charitable sector. The bedrock of America's vibrant charitable sector is a tax system that has for nearly a century strongly encouraged Americans to give back. Our tax code supports those who organize voluntarily when they see a need in their community filled by neither business nor government.

From the street corners to the lunch counters, from the parks to science labs, from the stage to the pulpit, nearly every corner of daily life is touched by our work. When you consider that we account for 10 percent of the workforce and 5.5 percent of our gross domestic product, we are punching well above our weight. Above all, this important message must be heard: limiting charitable deductions is not about eliminating tax breaks for donors. It's about the harm that will befall the people least able to cope with reduced donations – poor, sick, and frail elderly people. 

Tell your lawmakers not to cap the charitable deduction during the lame duck session. Send a message using IS's new e-advocacy tool.

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