By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Besides weighing in on embryonic stem cell research and—depending on how you see the issue—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the other big faith-based moments for President Obama at last night's press conference centered on his proposal to reduce the charitable tax deduction for Americans who fall in the top tax bracket. Of course, a huge number of charities are faith based.
I was surprised to hear the president tell charities point-blank that they're wrong to oppose his plan. But he laid out a novel case: that by fixing the economy, partly by goosing government revenue through lowering the charitable tax deduction, his proposal will wind up helping charities by allowing more people to give.
Here's the exchange, a follow-up to an initial question on his plan for the charitable tax deduction:
QUESTION: Given what you just said, are you confident the charities are wrong when they contend that this would discourage giving?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I am. I mean, if you look at the evidence, there's very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving.
I'll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving, is a financial crisis in an economy that's contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy; to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, and to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine.