In an attempt to avoid raising rates on the highest income taxpayers, House Speaker John Boehner offered an alternative.
His proposal to cap charitable deductions is pretty stupid. I chose that word carefully.
Few conservatives would defend the current confused mess of a tax code. Most favor either a modified flat tax and/or the fair tax.
When first elected in 1994, I proposed McFlat, a flat tax that preserved the mortgage and charitable deductions. I also co-sponsored the FAIR tax.
Charitable contributions are the least restrictive way to direct money to alternative institutions that otherwise goes directly to the government. Organizations that qualify range from your church to the National Park Foundation, from a conservative educational think tank to InAsMuch and Mustard Seed, from the NRA to the ACLU and from education scholarships for the poor to the University of Notre Dame.
Quite honestly, some is wasted and many times overhead is too high. But the effectiveness and efficiency of such organizations far exceed that of most government programs.
To conservatives, the uniqueness and strength of America derives in a large part from our intermediary institutions. Many Americans, for example John Adams, believe that without the benefit of a godly moral people the presumptions of freedom are likely to fail. In other words, a democratic Republic is not easily exported to people without such a foundation.
History is again proving that the strength of respecting minority rights (a key sub-point) is usually directly correlated to the remnants of Judeo-Christian heritage.
Churches and faith-based organizations would, of course, survive without a charitable deduction. But an era of confiscatory taxation, not just the federal income tax, has hindered such giving. It is also indisputable that large donations are critical to major projects in all categories.
If Republicans cap charitable donations, which means abandoning the principle behind the deduction, they will also undermine our best argument for reducing government.
It is unbelievable that in a week that Sen. Rubio and Rep. Ryan argued we must become more compassionate to the needs of those left behind, that Boehner would propose capping charitable deductions.
Other countries will likely steal American investment if we raise income rates. But clear rates give clear political debate. Once the Democrats' proposal to raise taxes damages our economy — and it will — clarity is to be valued so it can then be reduced (as happened under JFK, Reagan and Bush 43).
The failure will be clear: Lower the marginal tax rates back to the previous level if you want economic stimulus.
Capping charitable deductions that change marginal rates does not offer such clarity.
Furthermore, if Boehner's proposal was accepted, President Obama's main campaign point — raise actual tax rates — would remain as a political hammer. Within a year, we would likely get the rate increase also.
Some days it seems like what Republicans learned from the election was how to become even more out of touch, even with our own fundamental beliefs.