Cut it out with the “We will just stop giving to charities” pouting, please

Some great comment from Michael Skapinker of the Financial Times this morning comes in the form of a Dr. Seuss rhyme. It is of such a high calibre that I have to quote it ver batim.

If you’d like to read the whole article, it’s HERE.

In the convivial land of Philanthropy,

The donors and funders were happy to be
Backers of med schools (like the great Dr Seuss),
Of the fight against hunger and spousal abuse.
They were ungrudging, good-hearted, these great Giver-Backs,
And all they desired was a deduction in tax.
For decades they had it, what more did they need?

And they, and their causes, were happy indeed.

They were . . . until Chancellor Osborne and President Obama
Proposed some new rules that provoked a great drama.

They said: “You are marvellous, you great Giver-Backs,
But some of you out there pay almost no tax.
Not a bean, not a sausage, it’s really unjust,
When both our economies are about to go bust.”
“With the rich,” said Obama, “my patience is spent,
I’m cutting deductions to 28 per cent.”
“For tax breaks,” said Osborne, “There will be a top figure:
Quarter of your income, 50 grand – whichever is bigger.”
Well, they shrieked and they shouted, these great Giver-Backs,
“We’ll give so much less if we can’t claim our tax.”
The researchers and theatres all rushed to respond,
Orchestras, hospitals – both sides of the pond.
“This will be a disaster,” they wailed and they gnashed,
“Our museums and universities are going to be trashed.”
They worked themselves into a terrible squall,
“Let’s write to the White House and march down Whitehall.”

“Wait!”

In the midst of this scrum, of this furious melee,
One brave Giver-Back stepped forward to say:
“My name is Sylvester McMoney-Machine,
As big a philanthropist as you’ve ever seen.
I give, and deduct, and I want a solution,
But I think we need first to clear up some confusion.
We surely aren’t claiming, when all’s done and finished,
That this charity business is entirely unblemished?
You lot are all fine, you play by the rules,
You back decent causes, don’t take us for fools.
But glance at the list of tax-exempt operations:
Tell me some don’t try a decent soul’s patience.
There are dubious causes of all shapes and stripes.
Even tax breaks, God help us, for creationist types.
Now don’t get me wrong, I back free speech every time,
But why should they get it on the taxpayer’s dime?
Every year, in the US, 50,000 apply
For tax-exempt status – nearly all get an ‘aye’.
They must stay out of politics, steer clear of fraud,
But what counts as a charity is excessively broad.
(That comes from a clever professor called Zolt.
He sounds like a Seuss character, but that’s not his fault.)
Your accountants and board may be fine, even stodgy,
But we know Giver-Backs who are really quite dodgy.
Some say it’s for government to clamp down on malpractice
But I don’t think that’s really enough to extract us
From suggesting proposals for a system that’s better.
(The state can’t do it all – that’s our main raison d’être.)
And let’s end the ‘we will stop giving’ chit-chat.
Frankly, I think we are better than that.
“I’ve said my piece,” said Sylvester. “I’ve run out of juice.
I’ll take no further liberties with the great Dr Seuss.”

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