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Two Philanthropists Call for Counterweight to Anti-tax Tea Party Movement

06/12/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jane Wales President and CEO, World Affairs Council and Global Philanthropy Forum; Vice President, Philanthropy and Society, Aspen Institute

Everyone has gripes with the ways in which government tax dollars are put to use. Especially now, knee-deep in tax season, some dream of a tax-free, libertarian society. It certainly has done that for those associated with the anti-tax Tea Party Movement.

But philanthropist Chuck Collins argues that the public debate should focus on the reasons for collecting taxes in the first place. The debate is "stuck" in anti-tax rhetoric, designed to appeal to the Tea Party Movement, Collins says. Along with Alison Goldberg, Collins is leading a campaign for progressive tax reform aimed at the post World War II goal of expanding the middle class and meeting collective needs ranging from public education to physical infrastructure. These two philanthropists are gearing up for Tax Day -- April 15 -- by recruiting more colleagues to join their cause to provide a progressive counterweight of sorts to the Tea Party activists. Collins says the goal is to "bear witness" to the need for a tax system that produces a more equitable society. It should also produce more philanthropy.

As detailed in a March 24 Chronicle of Philanthropy online discussion and in a March 25 Bolder Giving teleconference, Goldberg and Collins' organization, Wealth for Common Good, specifically aims, among other things, to end Bush-era tax cuts for those with annual incomes over $235,000, close overseas tax havens, reinstate the estate tax and create an additional top tax bracket for high incomes. Taken together, they assert that their proposals could generate more than $500 billion per year in revenue. Their organization is also considering ways to use the tax code to encourage more charitable giving aimed at reducing inequality. During the Chronicle of Philanthropy chat, Goldberg said that foundation boards and grant decisions should also be opened up to include representatives of the communities supported by their grantmaking.

The proposals contained in Wealth for Common Good reflect and respond to a growing worry about income and wealth disparities in our society. And philanthropy has a role to play in providing thoughtful solutions. As Goldberg wrote in a Jan. 13 post to the New Voices of Philanthropy blog, "the funding community can't afford to be absent from these debates." For the television news would have us believe that the tea Party Movement is the dominant -- perhaps even the sole -- voice.

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