Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Policy Thought in Support of the 99%

The focus of the self-termed 99% (or at least the 1% on the streets that say they represent the rest of us) has been income inequality, and there is little doubt that income inequalities have grown over the last few decades.  However, the remedies put forth by some, when they do offer up remedies, are usually focused on traditional taxation: tax the rich and give to the poor - it seems our prescriptions to problems haven't much changed from the days of Robin Hood.

There are other options which are seldom if ever discussed.  One thought that comes to mind is specific to charitable donations.  Every year, particularly around this time of year, billions of dollars of private charitable donations are provided: often to the those in the lower and mid-lower rungs of the 99%.  Individuals alone contribute to over $200B every year in charitable giving, often matched by corporate contributions.

Our federal government provides a healthy deduction on many kinds of charitable giving, but some research shows that we as a society would get a bigger bang for our buck if the subsidy were a match (similar to the above stated corporate match).  And in fact, even a modest match might encourage private citizens, often those wealthy enough to do so, to give more.

So, instead of a deduction, and perhaps as a political solution to get around arguments of class warfare etc., the federal government could instead encourage the private market to ramp up what they already do every year.  The government could honor, with all the full force and faith that our government can provide, a match on every dollar of contribution made to certain charities that benefit the poor or down-trodden.  This helps the poor like a tax cut would, albeit through a charity organization; it helps the rich by increasing satisfaction to a cause they already celebrate; it helps government by partially deflecting arguments of class warfare - after all the government is simply mirroring the actions of the private market and the 'revenue' isn't coming from increasing taxes on the rich.

The revenue could at least partially come from eliminating the need for a charitable deduction (money that ordinarily would go back in the rich guy's pocket) and replacing 100% that program with a matching program (where the money would go to the poor guy's pocket - but a poor guy of the rich guy's choosing!).  Personally, I'd be in favor of putting new dollars into this kind of a project for at least a time, since there is no sign at this point that government spending is causing any serious inflation - though I understand that might be political suicide.

There could be issues politically with setting up a federal matching program, not the least of which would be deciding what charities could be supported in this manner.  There would, for example, need to be a minimum threshold by which the private citizenry would have to contribute to a particular cause for the match to kick-in.  IE., if one crazy nut donates to the 'poor satanist's society' or some such thing, the government would not match that obviously.  But, I suspect since the government already has a list of 501c3 non-profits that many corporation feel comfortable in allowing their employees to associate with, this picking and choosing may not be too difficult.

All this is not to suggest that I disagree that certain persons should be paying their fair share of taxes (and they aren't).  But it is a suggestion given our political reality and given the pressing immediate need for a solution.

UPDATE: further research shows that this kind of idea is already on the table.  Must admit, I haven't heard much about it though.  Also, the match discussed in the article seems rather week.  I'd suggest a much more substantial match.  It appears that I'm not alone in that.  Anyone else?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused. In the typical case, why won't the rich people just donate a smaller amount so that the transfer of money is equivalent to the old system?

Anonymous said...

OK, after reading the linked article at the end, which goes into a bit more detail, it seems like some implementation of this might have some indirect effects in terms of where charity money goes.

But it strikes me as an incredibly subtle way to pressure the rich to maybe part with more of their money. After all, donations are completely voluntary. It might still be a good policy for other reasons (fewer loopholes?), but I'm not convinced that this would have any noticeable effect on income inequality.

Garth A Brazelton said...

I agree...it is a more subtle way to pressure rich people or middle class persons to part with more of their money...which to me is the point.

The beauty of it is that it works off of a person's utility for helping other less fortunate individuals that the person cares about, by increasing the incentive to do so - as opposed to just taking tax money and doing random things with it.

The effects probably would not be noticeable at the low match-rate the study suggests. It would indeed need to be a substantially greater implementation than discussed in the linked article.

Anonymous said...

The matching rate can only be so high if you want the reform to be revenue neutral. And in any case, I don't think the incentives would work in the way you claim.

For sake of computation, take 33.3% as the top marginal tax rate. Assume that people have a fixed target amount of after-tax income they'd like to keep, and they donate the excess.

Suppose rich person Bob usually donates $10000; this means Bob takes home $6666 less than if he did not donate. From this you can see that to make the policy revenue neutral on the rich, government would have to match 50% of donations. But for lower income donors with lower tax rates, the government would run a deficit, so the actual revenue neutral rate is lower than 50%. In this model the rich end up having some of their charity donation under the old system siphoned off to the government by the absence of a tax exemption.

This is equivalent to levying a small tax on donations from the rich. The incentives for rich people to donate more would be mostly psychological, e.g. if they are trying to hit some target nominal donation figure for the purposes of bragging to friends or to feel good about themselves (this is the subtle effect I was talking about, although upon further reflection it might be more substantial than I originally thought).

Now, if there really is a significant effect whereby people would rather give, say, $150 to the charity of their choice than give $100 to the government, then the core of your argument should be to subsidize specifically rich people's donations even more than tax exemption (through e.g. government matching). But this is unpalatable because it potentially gives even more influence to the rich, and the cost to the government could probably be spent better elsewhere.

oakleyses said...

tiffany and co, christian louboutin shoes, polo ralph lauren outlet, coach purses, nike free, longchamp handbags, coach factory outlet, louis vuitton outlet, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, gucci outlet, kate spade handbags, louis vuitton outlet, true religion jeans, tory burch outlet, kate spade outlet, prada handbags, air max, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, burberry outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet, prada outlet, nike shoes, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, louis vuitton handbags, ray ban sunglasses, coach outlet, jordan shoes, michael kors outlet, louboutin outlet, michael kors outlet, polo ralph lauren outlet, air max, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, coach outlet store online, louis vuitton outlet stores, oakley sunglasses cheap, oakley sunglasses, true religion jeans, louboutin, longchamp handbags, louboutin

oakleyses said...

hollister, louis vuitton uk, michael kors, sac burberry, true religion outlet, nike tn, vans pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, nike roshe run, nike air max, michael kors, louboutin, oakley pas cher, timberland, nike free pas cher, north face, nike trainers, polo ralph lauren, mulberry, ray ban pas cher, michael kors pas cher, new balance pas cher, ray ban sunglasses, air max, air force, barbour, sac longchamp, sac louis vuitton, vanessa bruno, lululemon, sac guess, sac louis vuitton, air jordan, sac hermes, louis vuitton, true religion outlet, nike free, air max, longchamp, hogan outlet, nike roshe, hollister, ralph lauren, north face, polo lacoste, air max pas cher, converse pas cher, nike blazer

oakleyses said...

hollister, herve leger, canada goose, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, canada goose, soccer jerseys, north face outlet, p90x, ugg, uggs outlet, canada goose, marc jacobs, new balance shoes, ugg pas cher, canada goose outlet, ferragamo shoes, canada goose uk, celine handbags, jimmy choo outlet, abercrombie and fitch, reebok outlet, mac cosmetics, longchamp, wedding dresses, ugg boots, beats by dre, mcm handbags, asics running shoes, ghd, giuseppe zanotti, babyliss pro, soccer shoes, canada goose jackets, ugg boots, ugg australia, lululemon outlet, birkin bag, mont blanc, north face jackets, nike huarache, nike roshe run, bottega veneta, chi flat iron, rolex watches, instyler, vans shoes, valentino shoes

oakleyses said...

hollister, herve leger, canada goose, insanity workout, nfl jerseys, canada goose, soccer jerseys, north face outlet, p90x, ugg, uggs outlet, canada goose, marc jacobs, new balance shoes, ugg pas cher, canada goose outlet, ferragamo shoes, canada goose uk, celine handbags, jimmy choo outlet, abercrombie and fitch, reebok outlet, mac cosmetics, longchamp, wedding dresses, ugg boots, beats by dre, mcm handbags, asics running shoes, ghd, giuseppe zanotti, babyliss pro, soccer shoes, canada goose jackets, ugg boots, ugg australia, lululemon outlet, birkin bag, mont blanc, north face jackets, nike huarache, nike roshe run, bottega veneta, chi flat iron, rolex watches, instyler, vans shoes, valentino shoes

oakleyses said...

montre homme, iphone 6 cases, thomas sabo, swarovski crystal, hollister clothing store, swarovski, lancel, rolex watches, moncler, ray ban, wedding dresses, air max, hollister, ugg, ralph lauren, coach outlet store online, pandora jewelry, converse, baseball bats, oakley, louboutin, juicy couture outlet, moncler, gucci, air max, pandora charms, hollister, moncler outlet, timberland boots, louis vuitton, toms shoes, juicy couture outlet, canada goose, vans, parajumpers, moncler, ugg, pandora charms, canada goose, moncler, moncler, links of london, converse shoes, moncler, supra shoes, karen millen