Guest Commentary

It's downright un-American to support charities with tax revenues

The federal government is behaving like a bunch of children in an elementary school class who are learning about the legislative process by putting together a make-believe budget. Unfortunately, there is no adult around to interrupt them and explain that in the real world, people can't spend twice as much as they take in, and that quadrupling the debt over the next 10 years will lead to very bad things.

At least Tucson's politicians made the effort and balanced the budget. They did it with spending cuts and a collection of new taxes and tax increases that were disparate enough to not raise anyone's ire. Those ranged from a new tax on hotel-room stays to an increase in the environmental (trash) fee—a fee that both Nina Trasoff and Karin Uhlich condemned when they ran for the offices they now hold. Both Trasoff and Uhlich are up for re-election this fall. I doubt they have anti-trash-fee planks in their current platforms.

It is disappointing that the City Council did not adjust spending down to match revenues without increasing the tax burden. I would like to see both spending and taxation reduced, so I started poking around in past budgets to see what we could throw out.

I found a category under which the city of Tucson steals our prerogative in regards to how we help our fellow Tucsonans. It makes charitable contributions for us with tax money. It's called "Human Services," and it supports outside agencies that help people like the homeless.

I know of two organizations that provide direct services to the homeless. They are the Primavera Foundation and the Gospel Rescue Mission. Both do good works, and contribute to the betterment of our city. In 2008, Primavera received in excess of $364,000 from the city of Tucson. I could find no payments made to Gospel Rescue Mission.

I called Danny Hansen, associate executive director of the Gospel Rescue Mission, and asked if they received financial support from the city. He said that the Gospel Rescue Mission takes no government money. Apparently, it affects the "focus on the work we are called to do." He added that the money always has strings attached; though those strings might seem harmless at the time, they often change with new administrations.

Gee, do you think that governments might want to leverage their "donations" into more power, control or vote-buying? Who would have thought?!

One might counter, "Yeah, well how about corporate donations? Don't they want to control, too?" Probably not; most are too busy building missiles, rainwater cisterns, homes or whatever. They are usually motivated by the "good corporate citizen" ethic, public relations or both. Besides, it's much easier to say, "Go pound sand!" to a corporation than it is to the guys who can change the rules (write laws) and who command the guys in the ninja suits (SWAT teams).

As I said, both organizations do good work. They do, however, have different approaches to the problem. While they both offer contingent services, education and job-training, the Gospel Rescue Mission offers transformation to a new life through faith in Christ.

Now, if you do not believe in the value of that religious stuff, you should not be compelled to support it. Of course, if you think that the secular approach does not address the root causes and is urinating into the wind, to a degree, you should not be compelled to support that, either.

I'd like to think that, at this point, Americans are nodding, while totalitarians are furrowing their eyebrows.

Look at it this way: If there is an interest among the people to support the work of an organization, people will support it directly. If there is little support among the people, and the government represents the people, how can the government justify funding that organization?

The difference between free-choice support and tax-money support is force. Charity, when freely given, benefits both the donor and the recipient. When money is taken involuntarily—ultimately by force, if necessary—and given to an outside agency, the relationship between government and the citizenry is changed. It also inhibits character development by relieving people of adult responsibilities.

It is un-American for a government to point a gun at a citizen and tell him which charities he likes.

About The Author

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman moved to Tucson from Connecticut in 1977 and never looked back. He attended the UA, ran for City Council Ward III in 2001, and made regular contributions to the Guest Commentary section of the Tucson Weekly for over five years. He helped launch the Southern Arizona News Examiner. He is a former...