By Rev. Creede Hinshaw
Former Commissioner of Major League Baseball Fay Vincent recently served up a curve ball in a Wall Street Journal op ed piece (Sep. 16 2011, p. A11) titled “Soak the Rich? No, Soak the Needy.” Mr. Vincent complained because the Obama Administration, as part of a comprehensive jobs and deficit reduction package, is proposing to reduce the benefit a donor can receive for making a charitable contribution.
Noting that this plan would cost him and others an additional $70 on each $1,000 gift, he threatened that he might have to “diminish or terminate” his charitable giving to the Mayo Clinic, thus causing President Obama to punish a worthy young female doctor receiving his funds. The torturous logic of this article is reminiscent of some of the wildest pitches Mr. Vincent ever saw on the baseball diamond.
One might think that this pastor of a local church completely dependent upon charitable gifts would want to sign up for Mr. Vincent’s team. Don’t churches want to promote tax laws that have the greatest opportunity of feathering their own nest?
But Mr. Vincent’s self-serving article disappoints and he throws an intentional bean ball at the government by accusing them of giving an “intentional whack to the wealthy.”
The major world religions decry making charitable gifts based on an anticipated return for the giver or self-promotion. The Jewish philosopher Miamonides stated that the second highest level of giving is when neither giver nor receiver know each other and Jesus clearly warned with regard to giving, “Do not let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.”
Because no one is wholly altruistic, most of us will work every angle when it comes to taxes and charitable giving. I will concede Mr. Vincent’s point that some wealthy people (sadly) will reduce their giving because they’ve lost a $70 benefit, but his complaint runs counter to the conservative argument that what this nation needs is less financial assistance and more self reliance. I guess it depends on who’s getting the financial assistance. Most Americans will never receive Mr. Vincent’s benefit at 35 percent or 28 percent, not having enough wealth to itemize deductions in the first place.
Prior to 1917 the federal government did not allow one single penny of deduction for making a charitable contribution. It is worth noting that probably more than 90 percent of the hospitals and institutions of higher learning in this nation were founded by religious people who never asked for nor wanted tax relief from their government. Out of the religious impulse people fed the poor, healed the sick and educated the nation. They did it because it was the right thing to do and not because a certified public accountant said it would help their bottom line. That’s true conservatism. The former baseball commissioner has struck out on this one.
The Rev. Creede Hinshaw is the senior pastor at Wesley Monumental UMC in Savannah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org