An Equal Opportunity Stimulus
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill allowing taxpayers who make a donation to victims of the Haitian earthquake to claim a charitable donation when filing their 2009 taxes this spring.
Nonprofits who have the most to gain from this legislation, such as the American Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations, “wholeheartedly” favor this move because it encourages people to continue supporting their relief efforts.
My initial thought that this was a good thing. Anything done to motivate more people to support earthquake victims in Haiti should be encouraged and of course, is greatly appreciated. A comment made by Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, who said, “it’s a simple gesture, but it will encourage giving in this challenging economy,” has me rethinking my position.
The generosity of the American people is well documented, especially in times of natural disaster. In fact, in the week following the Haiti earthquake, individual donations to the Red Cross, alone, exceeded $130,000,000. A genuine and compassionate desire to help the people of Haiti is the motivation behind these gifts, not the promise of personal gain and incentive.
What message is being sent to all the other American charities struggling in this economy? What about concerns that as donations are redirected to Haiti there could be greater hardships here in America? Why would the House encourage people to give only to the earthquake victims when there is so much need here in our country?
Are they saying that feeding and sheltering America’s growing population of hungry and homeless, caring for our nation’s sick or preventing life-threatening diseases is any less noble than the relief efforts in Haiti?
If Rep. Blumenauer is correct and the bill is designed to stimulate giving, then the only equitable solution is to extend the same tax incentives to all tax payers making donations to any approved American charity.