The charitable tax deduction was supposed to “reduce the need for government” aid to the needy, notes James Piereson of the William E. Simon Foundation, but “it no longer serves that purpose, given that private charities have become advocates for bigger government.”
Piereson admits that “placing a limit on the charitable deduction might make charities even more dependent on government funds.” So he doesn't demand we throw in the towel in the fight to keep the charitable deduction. But he does ask that we judge that question
broadly in terms of the role we want charities to play in our system of limited government. Those committed to preserving the charitable deduction and the integrity of not-for-profit organizations would be well-advised to liberate the charitable sector from its self-defeating dependence on government.
The problem arose, he argues, as the “independent” sector became dependent on government succor, which has turned it into
one of the more powerful lobbying forces in Washington for increasing government spending, especially spending on tax-exempt groups.
As a first step, Piereson urges charity watchdogs to monitor the percentage of revenues a nonprofit receives from government sources.
Further proof of Piereson’s argument comes just two pages away in the same newspaper, courtesy of Dr. Henry I. Miller, the founding director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology. Dr. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is now a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. He deplores the vast sums of government “science” research dollars spent—often at nonprofit universities—on “silliness” like studying how to ride a bike and "why the same teams always seem to dominate the NCAA basketball tournament."
One last thought: Why does the Left -- which is convinced that any nonprofit that receives tens of thousands of dollars from, say, the Koch brothers loses all its independence -- not fret more about the endangered independence of nonprofits that receive tens of millions of dollars from a U.S. Senator?
UPDATE: You can't make this up. What should appear in my mailbox today but an email entitled, "Win More Government Grants," from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
UPDATE II: Michael Wyland of Nonprofit Quarterly has weighed in thoughtfully on the Piereson op-ed, mostly agreeing.