Should Charitable Contributions Be Tax Deductible?

The New York Times published an op-ed piece titled “When Rich Give, We Pay.” It’s a pathetic and ill-conceived attempt to make a case against the deductibility of charitable donations.

In 2017 Americans gave $410.02 billion to schools and colleges, hospitals, cultural organizations and museums, medical research and many other institutions that greatly improve the quality of our lives. The benefit of this charity is incalculable. Many students receive scholarships, health care is improved, art is preserved and curated and diseases are diagnosed and cured thanks to donations by generous Americans.

The kindness of so many is a treasure not duplicated anywhere else in the world. And, in many cases, the money donated decreases stress on our society and government, which are intent on supporting education, medicine, science and the arts.

I was taken aback by the strange proposal by the authors of the aforementioned article that affluent donors should lose the deductibility of their gifts that help so many. Then again progressives never give up in their quest to extract more money from the most successful in our country even it the proposals are inherently unproductive.

And, it’s stunning that the amount of money donated last year, a new record, is not even recognized for what it is, subsidization of the federal government. If these gifts were not made, Americans would look to the government to fund the numerous eleemosynary activities alluded to earlier.

When an American donates money to a qualified donee and itemizes deductions, he or she receives a tax benefit equal to the amount granted times the donor’s tax rate. [Note: For expediency I will only speak to the impact of giving on federal income taxes.] So if a person donates $1 million to a hospital or a college or to medial science, he or she receives a tax benefit of $300 thousand, assuming the individual has an effective tax rate of 30%. The highest individual tax rates can be up to 37%.

This means that the qualified donee gets $1 million, with no tax liability and the donor effectively pays $700 thousand out of pocket, including the tax benefit. It is true that the federal government will lose $300 thousand, but the resultant benefits to the donee’s beneficiaries could be far more important than this.

If the money is used to finance medical research, lives will be saved. If the money is used for scholarships, more students will become productive, independent members of our society.

Robin Hood, a charitable organization, raises millions annually from its very enthusiastic supporters. The mission of Robin Hood is to aid the needy in the New York metropolitan area. Is the good that this organization does in feeding, clothing, sheltering and educating the downtrodden worth more than the loss of tax revenues from deductible gifts? I think so. Does anyone really believe that million dollar donations are a merely a ploy to reduce taxes?

I’m puzzled why the Times would publish such a misguided piece. The naivety of the authors is best represented by their call on donors to voluntarily give up tax deductions arising from their gifts. The authors then compounded their misunderstanding by suggesting that donors are less qualified than the government to apply their donations. Why would donors give up the right to use their donations in a way that meets their specific focus? And to the federal government, no less? How well is our government doing managing its finances? Consider the out of control deficit.

It would be folly to take a chance that the generosity of so many would not be affected by the elimination of charitable deductions. Over $400 billion are at stake.

Why Is Socialism Bad For America?

The results of the midterm elections should create a great deal of consternation for Americans. The proliferation of socialistic politicians and their ideology is a threat to our way of life.

Socialism means more government intrusion into our lives. It’s the only way to inhibit the creative and productive spirit of the people. The rules of a socialistic culture prevent the cream from rising to the top.

In a socialistic state, it’s not appropriate for any individuals to have more than others. It’s a society where everyone works the same number of hours, lives in cookie-cutter housing projects and takes public transportation to work. There are no heroes or role models.

It doesn’t matter how hard you work. You will receive the same compensation as others. Only a special few, who are close to leadership, receive special treatment.

Socialistic states have proven time and again that they do not work for extended periods of time. It may be an appropriate starting point for a new country, but the human spirit eventually overwhelms autocrats that manage socialistic states.

An examination of countries around the world should convince Americans that seguing from capitalism to socialism is a bad idea for our vibrant society.

China is the best example of a socialistic state in flux. Under Mao Tse Tung in the middle of the middle of the 20th Century, everyone shared equally. Today, just 50 years later, the Chinese people clamor for both capitalistic benefits and democracy.

Xi Jinping’s regime will not persevere if he can’t deliver more economic opportunity to his people. Xi is demanding more productivity and creativity from everyone. The best of the society now live more comfortably than the lower classes.

In China, students are ranked by potential. The best ones go to the most prestigious schools and ultimately fill the most important positions in the country. This is the essence of capitalism in which upper middle class lives are more rewarding than commoners.

Why would America choose to move in the opposite direction as China? Why would we abandon exceptionalism for a predetermined lifestyle?

You may ask what are the signs of increasing socialism in our country? Here are two.

A single source health care system is a prime example of socialism at its worst. For one thing, it’s axiomatic that universal care will never be a reality in the US unless all Americans are subjected to extreme taxation to pay for the extraordinary costs affiliated with it.

Supporters of this strategy ask why should some people have better health services than others? The reason is simple- they are prepared to pay more for it. Wealthy people overpay and this subsidizes the costs of other Americans.

Having well run hospitals manned by highly trained doctors is essentially funded by the affluent in this country. Without this subsidization, medical facilities and the personnel that operate them would deteriorate over time. Socialized medicine paid by the state results in inferior quality of service in too many cases. In the meantime, all citizens are subjected to very high tax rates.

Education is another area where the affluent subsidize so many others. For instance, wealthy alumni fund top colleges. College tuitions are not enough to pay for annual operating costs together with scholarships for high performing needy students. Most colleges have blind admissions, relating to financial need. If you score good grades, you can go to a top tier school at little or no cost.

The socialist would have us dumb down (a terrible, but descriptive term) the student bodies so that less qualified students can survive intellectually. Why would America agree to decrease educational standards for political correctness? Why would we hamper the brightest among us to be good socialists?

The remote ideal of income equality continues to depress our society. The so-called have-nots are troubled that others have bigger homes, fancier cars and take glamorous vacations. Not everyone can become a business tycoon, a professional athlete or an entertainer. But dedication and ambition will pay huge dividends over time.

The most important fact is that education can raise the lives of all Americans. The vast majority of baby boomers who are affluent made their fortunes by attending college and working hard. Their parents didn’t give them trust funds. They pushed them as children to get good grades and go to great schools.

Ultimately, a higher standard of living is something that is available to anyone in America who works diligently, has ambition and is trained. Socialism depresses people with a false sense of entitlement that will decrease their ability to live satisfying lives.


“Tina”: The New Musical Is Sensational

Last week, I continued my walk down memory lane at a theater in London where I saw the new hit musical, “Tina.” You may remember, I recently wrote a piece about the new movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a story about the great rock group, Queen.

A 30-year old phenom, Adrienne Warren, played the Tina Turner role and brought the house down. The once nominated actress has a respectable list of credits to her name. I’m confident she will be critically acclaimed for this performance.

Ms. Warren is gorgeous and can sing and dance like nobody. She was perfectly casted to play Tina. Ms. Warren was beaming throughout the entire show and really connected with the audience.

Everything about the performance was entertaining. Ms. Warren must have spent long hours trying to emulate Tina’s dance moves. The costumes and staging were captivating. The show ended with a mini concert during which Ms. Warren had every person in the theater dancing and singing along with her. All of Tina’s most famous songs were performed during the evening including “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and “Private Dancer.”

But the show was about the life and times of Tina Turner, one of the most charismatic performers of the late 20th Century. Her life was affected by every challenge one would expect for a poor black entertainer in her day.

She was brought up in abject poverty in Nutbush, Tennessee. Both of her parents abandoned her when she was a young girl, and her grandmother raised her. She found meteoric success along with every kind of abuse.

A lot of time was dedicated to Tina’s relationship with Ike Turner, a despicable two-bit hustler, who took advantage of a naïve and helpless young girl. She was Ike’s prisoner for years. He beat her and stole her money. Along the way, they had two boys. Kobna Holdbrook- Smith played the role of Ike. His performance was so authentic that I fully expected the audience to boo him at the conclusion of the show. Thankfully they did not.

As I look back on Tina’s life, I can’t help think about all the black women with extraordinary talent that experienced the same issues as Tina. In many situations, they were sentenced to lives as back-up singers for little money, supporting big musical acts. So often their booming voices were pigeonholed and masked so as not to upstage featured singers. Darlene Love was one such singer. In the movie “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” she tells her story. It’s worth seeing.

Tina was yet another casualty of misogyny, bigotry and sexual abuse. She had all the talent in the world and incredible stage presence, but Ike needed to manipulate her. At long last Tina broke free of Ike Turner, and she went back on stage as a solo act.

The show was inspirational, yet I suspect more so for women than men in the current environment. But you can bet Adrienne Warren is going to be a super star.

I hope the show comes to Broadway in the near future and Tina Turner receives the accolades she deserves for being a great entertainer for so many years.


Avenging House Democrats Will Attempt To Take Down Trump

Liberals achieved much of what they hoped for in the 2018 midterm elections. Typically, these elections are unkind to sitting presidents, and so, on cue, Republicans lost the House of Representatives.

Republicans still retain the presidency, and with it the power to veto progressive legislation conjured up by the House. Even if Democrats can find a ray of partisan support from the opposition, the president can make it virtually impossible to enact new legislation.

The president has the power to “legislate” to a degree using presidential mandates and new regulation just the way Obama did when he lost power. But most believe this is an unhealthy way to govern our nation, and could be deemed unconstitutional.

Trump will be able to follow his instincts in foreign policy. However, if he needs a treaty to confirm deals he makes with foreign leaders, he will have a tough row to hoe. Treaties must be approved by 2/3 of the Senate, an insurmountable hurdle in the current environment. Pending are: a new Iran nuclear arrangement, a North Korean treaty and numerous trade deals around the world.

Of note, the president, with his majority in the Senate, can appoint many more conservative judges to lower courts and to the Supreme Court. Of note, Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg is becoming frailer every day and could step down during the next two years. Confirmation of judges by the Senate was recently changed to a simple majority. These appointments could have a huge effect on our society prospectively.

Democrats have much greater influence with their new majority in the House. It’s worth considering how the acknowledged group of Trump haters will behave as we approach the presidential elections in 2020.

As a general rule, liberal House Democrats will obstruct all legislative initiatives by the Trump administration, even if they would be good for our nation. Of note is a proposed new tax cut for middle class Americans, immigration reform including the construction of a wall on our boarder with Mexico and the retooling of our military.

The budgetary process is going to come to a screeching halt as the political parties fight for their constituents. Obamacare will limp along unresolved, which could materially increase health care costs prospectively. All new legislative initiatives will have a zero chance of becoming law.

The change in control is reminiscent of the situation Democrats found themselves in when Obama lost his filibuster-proof majority, after enactment of Obamacare and the death of Teddy Kennedy (he was replaced by Republican Scott Brown). At the time, Democrats continued to control the presidency and both houses of Congress. But the Senate filibuster proved to be a potent weapon of obstruction for Republicans. During the next six years, Obama was unable to pass any substantive legislation. The president tried to govern with mandates. Many of these efforts turned out to be short term, as Trump abrogated most of Obama’s orders.

Equally important is how Democrats will be busy for the next two years. It’s obvious that their most important objective is to bring down the Trump administration with impeachment (unlikely because Republicans control the Senate), obstruction and tedious investigation of scandal or missteps by Trump. This will encompass his family, his businesses and his confidantes. All will be investigated while the wheels of government simultaneously come to halt.

Current efforts to affiliate Trump with Russia’s attempt to influence our elections will be rehashed. The House will demand to see Trump’s tax returns, even though he is not required to comply. House committees will become more intrusive and demand information about every meeting with foreign leaders. In effect, Democrats will confirm that they don’t trust Trump to conduct affairs of state.

Democrats are going to criticize and intimidate the Executive Branch in hearings and with jawboning in an effort to discredit Trump. They say they want the truth. Don’t believe it for one second. Liberals and the media hate the president and will join hands to destroy his administration, even if it damages America.

The liberal crusaders for justice, truth and democracy may create yet another national crisis. The ability to compromise is an all-time low (excluding the years surrounding the Civil War). Finding compromise is virtually impossible. The suggestion that infrastructure reform could be something both parties could work on together is a joke. The two sides will find reasons to disagree on this desperately needed legislation.

In the future, comity and cooperation that enabled previous governments to do business will be gone for the foreseeable future. Each successive new administration will spend an inordinate amount of time fighting off the opposition, rather than enacting new and needed legislation to improve conditions in America.

At some point, enacting laws will need to change. Already, the power of the filibuster has been diluted, at least for the appointment of judges. It’s likely that filibusters will no longer be a tool of the minority in future deliberations, which will greatly increase the power of the majority. It’s folly to think that a super majority can be mustered at this time on any issue. Congress cannot even enact laws with a simple majority.

The Democrats are in a position to put a dagger into America’s governmental bureaucracy. It’s stunning that the legislative branch of government will be busy trying to take down the executive branch of government.

The only thing that is clear for the next two years is that nothing will be done in Congress. Hopefully, this will not be a permanent condition.




Is Trump Too Nationalistic?

Have the U.S. and Donald Trump become too nationalistic? Before answering this question, it would be worthwhile to consider the definition of nationalism and how it influences decisions by our government and its leaders.

Nationalism is a patriotic feeling . . . [It could be] an extreme form of [patriotism] marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.” And, “[It can be] advocacy of political independence for a particular country.”

The real issue is whether nationalism always, sometimes or never compliments democracy. Can a nation be extremely protective of its homeland and culture and still be a model democracy?

History reveals a number of examples of nationalism gone wild. The Nazi regime led by Adolf Hitler is the best example of nationalism at its worst. In the aforementioned definitions, “a feeling of superiority over other countries” stands out as an example of problematic nationalism. Hitler attempted to build an empire based upon a false assumption that some races are superior to others.

The murder of six million Jews to gain political and cultural advantage is extreme, to say the least. Unfortunately, some are using this disastrous period of time as a reference point to describe the political environment created by current U.S. leadership.

Trump, as president, is, and should be, deeply concerned with the security and welfare of Americans over all else. He needs to be nationalistic and make America his first priority. He must insure that the actions of our enemies, and any other types of danger, are kept in check regardless of the feelings of other nations and their people.

Cooperation with other states is ideal, but not always feasible. Trump has effectively pointed out several instances where our national interests are not aligned with other nations. And, after concluding this, he has walked away from existing arrangements and/or severely criticized others.

Is this practice a form of nationalism? Yes, of course. Should Trump be looking for situations in which the U.S. is disadvantaged, and insist on changes? Absolutely. Will other nations feel insulted? Probably, but that isn’t a reason to not move forward.

The most obvious examples of agreements made by former administrations that don’t consider America’s needs first, include the following: the Iran nuclear deal, trade agreements with certain countries and defense arrangements around the world.

Iran negotiated a very advantageous deal with the Obama administration that has the potential to be an existential threat to the U.S., Israel and other parties in the Middle East. It is the cornerstone of Obama’s foreign policy legacy, which may account for the agreement’s undesirable and irresponsible terms.

U.S. policy towards Iran has always been that the rogue nation should never possess a deliverable nuclear capability. On this principle alone, the deal fails miserably, as Iran will surely be a nuclear threat in about a decade.

Further, why would Obama and Kerry make a deal with a country that cannot be trusted and is arguably our most despised enemy? Why would we bargain with a country that publicly supports the demise of the State of Israel? Why would we ever be comfortable giving billions of dollars to a regime that incites so much discord and terrorism in the region?

Frankly, the only reason this deal was ever consummated was to bolster Obama’s pathetic legacy. The abrogation of the arrangement by Trump was the right thing to do, as was the adoption of aggressive sanctions against Iran.

The country’s economy is faltering every day and, in spite of complaints from our European allies, the sanctions are gaining traction and could result in regime change in the near future.

It’s been revealed that in almost every trade deal around the globe, the U.S. is at a significant disadvantage. The tariffs applied by our trade partners are always greater than those imposed by the U.S. Is this observation radical nationalism? No, the deals are inane. Why would former American presidents and Congresses agree to give an economic advantage to our trading partners?

Trump said he would address these inequities and was labeled a nationalist. He has already negotiated concessions with various countries around the world. They have no choice but to accede to U.S. demands because of our economic strength. Will they be unhappy? Who cares?

At the same time, Trump has complained about the role of the U.S. as the policeman for the world. Actually, playing the part is something the U.S. should embrace with certain limitations.

For one thing, the U.S. should not bear the cost of protecting other developed nations. Why should we station troops in Germany along with billions of dollars of equipment without an equitable monetary commitment from our hosts? Problems have surfaced over many years in NATO, where only a small number of members have met their spending responsibilities for defense. In the meantime, the U.S. provides the lion’s share of financial support to the alliance.

As he has gone around the world, Trump has exposed many unfair arrangements and built up a considerable amount of bad will. Deals must be equitable. If it’s nationalistic to put America first in trade and defense, so be it. Too many countries have taken advantage of America’s generosity, and Trump has been the only president with the courage to address it.


Bohemian Rhapsody Is A Fitting Tribute To Queen And Freddie Mercury

While the country was voting, I took an exhilarating journey down memory lane. I went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the new movie about Queen, the British rock super group, and Freddie Mercury, its flamboyant and controversial lead singer.

The film had a number of interesting storylines. The most important was the tribulations of Mercury’s lifestyle. This included the problems he had gaining acceptance from his father, sexual confusion throughout his life and his musical genius that led to significant issues with his band mates.

The movie began in 1970 when Freddie joined the group. During a 15-year period, Queen developed into a rock and roll force by experimenting with different concepts, and challenging its movie company supporters with innovative strategies that involved both music and the relationship with audiences. [As an aside “Bohemian Rhapsody” was six minutes long, and was shunned by many in the music business before becoming a gigantic hit.]

The saga ends just after Freddie is diagnosed with AIDs, which was a death sentence in the mid 1980s. The denouement was the band’s extraordinary performance in 1985 at Wembely Stadium in London as part Live Aid.

Rami Malek, acclaimed for his role in “Mr. Robot,” looks remarkably like Freddie and was expert in portraying the outrageous attitude and overt sexuality of the man. Malek’s Freddie was totally believable as he transitioned from heterosexuality to homosexuality. It was a painful journey, which resulted in great heartache and frustration for Mercury who continued to love his girlfriend, Lucy Boynton, even during his dangerous sexual exploits that ultimately led to his demise.

The real treat was the music that overwhelmed all other aspects of the film. Most of Queen’s famous songs were performed over the course of the show. They were totally awesome. Even if you are not old enough to fully appreciate Queen’s impact on rock and roll, you will walk away acknowledging that the band greatly influenced the music business.

It was an act that superseded four men singing songs. Freddie acted out each and every lyric while onstage. I couldn’t help feeling cheated by the short tenure of the band, 15 years, versus 50+ for the Stones, The Who, The Beetles and Bob Dylan.

The finale was the band’s performance at Live Aid. Bob Geldof, the organizer of the concert, allotted each performing group 20 minutes. During that short time, Queen solidified its place in rock and roll history. 100,000 adoring fans sang with Freddie. It was interactive rock and roll on the grandest scale.

Mercury was a swashbuckling, sexually charged performer. He experimented and played upon the sensitivities of those who adored him. But, he was never shy or embarrassed by his proclivities. His unbridled dalliances in real life ultimately were the cause of his death.

I doubt the film will win any Academy Awards, but I really enjoyed the show. It was highly entertaining and heart breaking. Go see the flick.

Most people are overwhelmed with the presence of Freddie. The fact is that his band mates were equally talented musicians. They include Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Beacon. The group sans Freddie played at Mercury’s memorial concert, which was another incredible event. The part of Freddie was performed by a number of different rock and roll legends.

Are You Racist If You Are Against Illegal Immigration?

Passions are running high, and political rhetoric is frightful. It’s crunch time, and Americans must make a choice between the immigration proposals of Donald Trump and liberal politicians that want to open our borders.

It’s shortsighted to believe the current level of illegal aliens in this country, which supposedly stands at 12 million, is a non-issue. This number will increase substantially because of further illegal entry and childbirth of those already on American soil. Yet the naturalization of existing illegals is the only sensible alternative.

It’s inane to espouse further illegal accommodations, including the caravan of those marching towards the U.S. and sanctuary cities, which limits the effectiveness of our immigration officers. Why isn’t the number of illegals that use our health care and educational services at a cost estimated well above $100 billion annually a relevant concern?

Surely, there’s no turning back the clock on illegals already in the country. But it makes no sense to allow the number to increase, or to abandon efforts to deport those illegals that are criminals and/or troublemakers.

The most puzzling thing is why so many Americans believe that others have a right to come to our country with or without sensible conditions. There are no references to any such responsibility in our Constitution. Immigration is an activity that has resulted in productive diversity, but it has been measured until just 20 years ago.

Developed countries and some undeveloped countries are facing the same issues as the U.S. What policies regarding illegals make sense, are fair, are humane and take into account the citizens of the home country that are subsidizing them?

In an ideal world there would be no poverty, religious persecution, racial discord or political instability. Every poor person believes or has a strong expectation that life in America, Germany, France, Italy and Great Britain is much better than their current circumstances. But there are not enough financial, societal, educational, medical and political resources in all the aforementioned countries to save every one that needs saving.

Advanced and wealthier countries have an obligation to protect themselves from outside influences that are harmful or disruptive. In recent years voters have been electing representatives that promise to protect the homeland from reckless immigration policies among other issues. More and more citizens in developed countries throughout the world are no longer willing to keep the floodgates open to people seeking something better. More and more individuals don’t want limited resources to be used for illegal immigrants at the expense of domestic requirements.

The leaders of these countries and their followers are not necessarily racists. Wanting an orderly and well-vetted system to accept applications for citizenship does not make Trump or his base evil or bigoted. Most Americans are descendants of immigrants. We understand the value of diversity. It results in innovation and prosperity, and in the case of America, the strongest and most wonderful place in the world.

No, it’s not racist to have closed borders and to accept new applications for citizens based upon a well thought out process. It’s not racist to have immigration officials rooting out troublemakers. It’s not racist to worry that illegals are straining our educational and health car system. It’s not racist to add up the cost of open borders, especially when there are domestic needs not being addressed.

America must make choices. We must fund the needs of America first, and hopefully, find enough money to help needy people around the world. The priorities should never be in reverse order.