The American Red Cross regularly touts how responsible it is with donors' money. "We're very proud of the fact that 91 cents of every dollar that's donated goes to our services," Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said in a speech in Baltimore last year. "That's world class, obviously."
The Alliance Defending Freedom and others have been hard at work for years organizing pastors to challenge (i.e., break) tax laws by electioneering from the pulpit. ADF insists this is about a pastor’s freedom of expression. I’m inclined to land where Amelia Thomson-Deveaux does: You can say anything you want (legally; let’s save theological arguments for another time)—once you give up your tax-exempt status.
Last weekend's This American Life included a great Planet Money segment about GiveDirectly, a charity that gives poor Kenyans not food or equipment or livestock or training but cash. The idea is that, whatever risks or downsides exist in just giving people money, these are outweighed by a) extremely low overhead, and b) the fact that the poor actually know best what they need.
If you’ve been here long, you won’t be shocked to hear that I’m not impressed by a lot of what American conservatives have to say about domestic poverty. (Though I do appreciate the basic political courage it takes for an elected official to even use the word.)
But there is at least one idea from the right that I’m more or less on board with: we should be very careful about cutting the tax deduction for charitable contributions.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading this strange book called The Spiritual Meadow, written by sixth-century wandering monk John Moschos. One of the last stories in the book was as relevant to my daily existence as any story I have read in a long time. I have only the vaguest idea what it means, but I do know it’s another weird monk joke. And this one was aimed directly at me.
The story goes like this: In the ancient city of Antioch, the church had various kinds of social services. “A man who was a friend of Christ” used to gather supplies and give them out to people in need.
It is true, as a Century editorial recently argued, that poverty did not get the attention it deserved in the presidential campaign. Even more frustrating are the comments often made about poverty and social program when they do come up. Let’s look at three common distortions.
On Sunday night I went to hear Dan Savage speak about the It Gets Better Project. The last time I saw him was 2003, if memory serves, in front of a crowd of perhaps a hundred. At one point Savage took a break from promoting his new book Skipping Toward Gomorrah to refer his audience to the now-famous New Republic cover story "The Liberal Case for War" (against Iraq).
It was a good talk, funny and engaging, and it made a striking contrast with his Sunday appearance.