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As Long as We Remember...

March 1, 2011

Charities To Fund or Not

Shawn Burns

Frederick County is fortunate to have such a wide range of non-profit and charitable organization that work for the benefit of the community. These groups here at home and across the country are faced with the reality that government is reducing or completely eliminating funding for many of these programs.


For me, personally, this raises the question of what role should or shouldn’t government play in providing funding to these organizations? I do not know the answer.


Clearly at some point, collectively, we have determined that there is a benefit to our communities to include funding for our charitable organizations. Not too many people would argue the literacy programs, food banks, or an organization such as Heartly House are not worthwhile.


The issue is whether or not the government should use a portion of tax money to make these contributions. As we all know, government isn’t always efficient. Let’s just say that $100 of my tax money will be used to fund charities. And let’s say that the government pockets $20 of that money to cover administrative costs. So, now my $100 has been reduced to $80. The next step is that the government decides which organizations will be given my $80. What if it goes to a charity I don’t support? I guess I’m just out of luck.


Now, I’m not saying this to be critical, but rather to point out the reality of our current system.


This system must have more check marks in the positive column than the negative column.


For those who feel government should not at all be in the business of giving tax dollars to charities, what is the answer? Should we completely stop government funding of such organizations and reduce our individual tax burden by whatever percentage of tax dollars that currently is used for this purpose?


Would people then use that money to give to the local charity or charities they believe in? Or would we just take that money and go to the mall?


Again, I do not have the answer either way. It’s not a fun situation for any of our elected officials to deal with, but deal with it they must.


If cuts and/or reductions are made to help balance the budget, those officials will be labeled as uncaring and lacking in compassion. Is that a fair assessment?


Should there be criteria placed on the kinds of organizations that can receive government funding? Should government money be available for charities that assist people who are homeless, jobless, in abusive homes, in need of assistance from a food bank and other human relief/aid organizations?


Should money be available for charities that work to clean up a stream or organizations that are focused on fostering the arts in our community? Is one type more important and valuable to our community than the other? If so, which is it? And who’s going to break the news to the losers?


One thing I’m sure of is that there is no easy answer and that in the end someone is going to be mad at someone else.


There may be no choice but to cut government funding for charitable organizations. But we had better make sure that we have first eliminated corporate welfare programs before we start cutting funding to charities that help our friends, neighbors and family.


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