Big Picture vs Self Interest

One of my pet peeves is when people and organizations shoot themselves in the foot because the lack the vision to see the big picture. This is especially obvious when it comes to many in the nonprofit sector fighing against a change in the charitable tax deductions of our wealthiest donors to help pay for health reform.

Many of our organizations are serving the uninsured and underinsured. We deal with school children who misbehave because they have an undiagnosed hearing problem or a cavity that hasn't been filled, we serve families that have gone bankrupt because they have an emergency room bill that they can't pay, and we suffer the effects of a  weaker economy because people can't afford the health insurance costs if they left their job to start a small business. We are already paying the price without the benefit of universal care.

I will get off my soapbox now and let E.J. Dionne from the Washington Post say this much more eloquently.  From E.J.

If the uninsured can't count on the do-gooders to help them, where else can they turn?

The question arises because certain leaders of the sector of our society devoted to civic endeavors moved this week to block a perfectly reasonable way of raising some money to extend health coverage to those who don't have it.

At issue is a proposal by a number of senators, including Jay Rockefeller and John Kerry, to cap tax deductions taken by the well-to-do. Their suggestion wouldn't even unsettle existing deductions, and it is far more limited than a sensible idea along the same lines put forward earlier by President Obama.

With the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire in 2011, the marginal rate on the top income bracket is scheduled to rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. This affects only families with taxable incomes of roughly $370,000 a year or more.

To help pay for expanded coverage, the senators are proposing that the itemized deductions taken by those with high incomes be capped where they are now. So beginning in 2011, people in the top bracket who made charitable contributions would have them offset against taxes by 35 cents on the dollar, not 39.6 cents. People in the next bracket down, $210,000 to $370,000, would still get a bigger deduction than they do now. The plan is estimated to raise about $90 billion over a decade.

At the beginning of the year, Obama proposed limiting the deduction to 28 cents on the dollar, which would have raised more than $300 billion and solved much of the health-care financing problem. But Obama's idea was shot down, and now, a group of charitable leaders -- including representatives from the Council on Foundations, the American Association of Museums and, shockingly, the American Institute for Cancer Research -- wants to kill the new proposal, too.


Read the rest here.