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Here's the really puzzling thing about this whole fiscal-cliff, "let's sacrifice a virgin on the mountain top" adventure we're on. No one really wants this, except rich people and the politicians they own. No one. Tell me one good reason why non-profits should, in effect, slit their own throats -- particularly at a time when we really need them, because of that aforementioned ritual sacrifice to the austerity gods. It's like a giant game of Whack-A-Mole -- as soon as they try to cut one thing, people rise up and say, "No way, pal!"
That's because we still want clean air, safe food and prescription drugs, trains that run, roads without giant potholes, good schools with enough books, and programs that help the vulnerable and mentally ill. (Today, more than ever.)
You know what we don't want? A massive black hole of a military budget. You want to talk about austerity? The Pentagon owns over 200 golf courses around the world -- 234, the last time a reporter counted. (They hide the numbers, just because of stories like this.) Four-star generals live like kings:
The commanders who lead the nation’s military services and those who oversee troops around the world enjoy an array of perquisites befitting a billionaire, including executive jets, palatial homes, drivers, security guards and aides to carry their bags, press their uniforms and track their schedules in 10-minute increments. Their food is prepared by gourmet chefs. If they want music with their dinner parties, their staff can summon a string quartet or a choir.
The elite regional commanders who preside over large swaths of the planet don’t have to settle for Gulfstream V jets. They each have a C-40, the military equivalent of a Boeing 737, some of which are configured with beds.
So when Leon Panetta is running around the talk shows, sternly lecturing that the military is cut to the bone and oh noes! fiscal cliff!!, try to keep that in mind.
Oh, and you know what else we don't want? Enough perks to make the members of Congress into an aristocracy whose members will never want for a pension or health care for the rest of their lives. There's not a ghost of a chance they're going to give up the good life.
Don't get me wrong, many directors of charitable foundations also live like far too much like royalty. I'm not excusing them. But those foundations are still valuable resources for people in need, and donations are how they survive.
So why are the austerians asking everyone else to go without? Why did the president want this created "crisis"?
The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.
In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.
In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.
But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.
“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”