Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Take That, Former Community Organizer

I have to apologize for being New York Times-centric in the last few posts, but op-ed columnist David Brooks has made a very serious accusation against the Obama budget plan this morning. He writes:
"The U.S. has always had vibrant neighborhood associations. But in its very first budget, the Obama administration raises the cost of charitable giving. It punishes civic activism and expands state intervention."
 This is very strong language. Brooks raises very legitimate concerns in this piece, but really, is President Obama, the former community organizer, really going to spell the quick death of "vibrant neighborhood associations" and "civil activism" in America? 

I respect David Brooks' opinion, but I find it hard to believe that capping itemized charitable deductions at 28% instead of 35% marks the tipping point of a downward spiral into civil apathy. 

I don't know about you, but I'm not itemizing my charitable deductions anyway.


regger said...

First of all, I'm thrilled to find ReGeneration, and look forward to a robust dialogue with colleagues and friends.

Like many, I'm following the moves of the new administration with a mix of excitement and awe. SO much is at stake.

However (and I'm still formulating this) there are some signs that all is not as we in the sector may have expected from the first President to get his first job at a nonprofit.

First...on MLK Day, on a day designed to highlight the President’s vision for service---he painted a wall. Painting is cool (and I massively dig Debbie Shore who founded and runs Sasha Bruce Youthworks)...but I really expected a breakthrough vision for volunteerism in America. Still...I was patient.

Then came the budget, and besides the whole deduction cap thing (which isn't trivial, but isn't as bad as some would make it) there’s a call for AmeriCorps to go from 75,000 to 250,000 participants....but I can't find any money for nonprofit capacity in there.

I'm ALL for volunteerism (at DCCK we serve almost 11,000 annually) but without Carolyn Parham, our volunteer coordinator, we'd be up a creek. She really communicates our mission to the volunteers, and helps them understand what they made happen through the contribution of their time and energy. Her task is critical to helping volunteers gain a clear understanding of what we, as a community, can achieve if we work together.

Long story short--I'm worried that we are being viewed as Points of Light LITE, not Social Entrepreneurs who employ millions, pay billions in payroll taxes and support every city in America.

Still…I do have faith. But don’t just assume all will be right in the end…be observant, work together and be bold. Our role is essential to restoring the American economy. This isn't just about us, it's about the U.S.

(I'll be less wordy in the future)

Ida said...

Perhaps, Obama ought to create a new agency dedicated solely to nonprofit oversight (don't the Brits have a ministry of some sort??). Not only will it create new jobs at the fed level, but also force the sector to perk up a bit. Under the current crunch, it's difficult for nonprofits to focus on anything other than band-aid-type service delivery. For long-term sustainability, however, vision and leadership are necessary to see the sector through this bind.

regger said...

Right ON, Ida....the UK has a Minister for the Third Sector. I just met him while speaking about Social Enterprise at VOICE 09, and I am trying to arrange for an appearance here in DC so that he can speak to the way they support and work with the sector over there.

Although many NGO's I met bristle at the term "third" sector.

To find out more about their version of a vision, check out--www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/thirdsector