Having spent last weekend in New York ogling Macy’s spectacular window displays, I am reminded how special this time of year is for so many people. For many children who are raised in a tradition that values giving, this season is also an occasion to create “wish lists” and make resolutions. Borrowing from these traditions, I’ve decided to create my own wish list for 2012.
What do I want from Congress?
In the big picture, I want Congress to put an end to partisanship and come together to help solve our nation’s problems. The one-two punch of an 18-month recession and a stalled recovery have left millions of hardworking, average people on the edge of financial crisis as the gap between rich and poor grows more pronounced. Failure of the Super Committee to come up with a compromise is just the most recent example of their vivid failure to move the country forward. Rejuvenating a spirit of bipartisanship in Congress could help get our nation back on track by getting a handle on our annual deficits and mounting debt, while also preventing more people from tumbling deeper into poverty.
What don’t I want from Congress? As our elected officials continue to wrestle with the hard choices of bringing down the deficit, I don’t want them to balance the budget on the backs of America’s most vulnerable people. High on my wish list is for Congress to recognize the importance of and support programs that help low-income households as well as programs that offer educational and employment opportunities.
What do I want from the White House?
What I really want from the White House is for the Administration to stop making it more difficult for charitable sector to raise the support it needs to do its work. I’m referring to President Obama’s proposal – formally issued five times now – to cap the value of the charitable deduction (along with other deductions) for certain taxpayers. Estimates vary of course, but doing so could cost charities and the people they serve as much as $7 billion annually, when charitable giving has declined by $25 billion during the economic slump of the last three years.
I know that the President and First Lady’s roots are deeply connected to both public and charitable service. The President’s history is captured so well in his own books and the First Lady’s work with healthy food for kids and support of our veterans and their families is documented daily. I am honored to serve on the White House Council for Community Solutions of which she is honorary chair. The President and First Lady know from first-hand experience that our sector and government best serve society when we operate as partners rather than competitors. The Administration consults the nonprofit community on issues such as housing and the environment, but not as readily on jobs, the economy, or issues that affect us as employers such as the stimulus package or Jobs Bill. Should the White House invite us to the table as these issues are being considered, we’d both have greater impact improving people’s lives and strengthening communities.
What do I want from our communities? I want people to get involved in the democratic process by meeting with a local candidate to discuss the issues, rallying neighbors around a ballot initiative, or – at the very minimum – heading to the voting booth.
I wish that you would take the time to help educate voters on issues about which we’re passionate and host forums for all candidates across the spectrum to share their views. And I hope that we re-start a collective dialogue about the kind of society we want for this generation and the next.
Maintaining a vibrant, healthy Republic is no small task; at our own risk we allow ourselves to become complacent or apathetic about a system that depends on and functions best when we, as a people, get involved in building a more decent, healthy, creative society.
If this is not too much then I add one more wish to my list: I wish every staff member and volunteer in the charitable community a peaceful, joyful holiday however you and your loved ones spend this time. I’d also like to thank my colleagues at Independent Sector for their deep commitment supporting you, our members, as you continue to make a lasting difference in communities large and small and the most fabulous Board of Directors for your leadership, passion and decency.
As we start a new year together, I hope you’ll share the items on your wish list in the comments below. And where we find shared purpose, let us join forces and work shoulder-to-shoulder to transform our dreams into realities.