When you are one, you have only just learned to speak. You move about clumsily and knock things down a lot. You don’t yet know what is possible, but you are burgeoning with life.
As the New Year gets underway, we could conjure up a list of “top trends” in philanthropy for 2015 or make a bunch of predictions that we would probably regret twelve months from now, along with all the junk we ate over the holidays.
But we’re going to skip such exercises and instead offer up a quick tour of the obsessions, favorite causes, and pet peeves that we’ll be indulging this year. If you’re still wondering what the agenda is at Inside Philanthropy, you’ve clicked on the right post.
Four decades after de-industrialization began in the 1970s, reviving jobs and opportunity in battered manufacturing cities across the U.S. remains a daunting challenge.
Various foundations have come at this problem from different angles over the years, and one funder that’s especially focused here these days is the Knight Foundation. In September, the foundation announced a new $5 million Knight Cities Challenge, seeking ideas to make cities more successful, with a particular eye on attracting and retaining talented people, and creating economic opportunity.
When it comes to the big names in housing and particularly sustainable housing for the underserved community, one man stands out from the crowd fairly quickly. Michael J. Hanley, President of the Hanley Foundation, has been working for more sustainable housing, and housing for those in need, for over 15 years.
Talk about speaking truth to money! From the Whitehouse Press Office:
Floor Statement of Sheldon Whitehouse
On H.R. 5771
December 16, 2014
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr./Madame President, later this week, the Senate will likely take up and pass legislation to extend several dozen expired tax provisions. While I support a number of the individual provisions extended by this bill, I rise today to explain why I reluctantly plan to oppose it.
The so-called “tax extenders” package includes the one-year extension of a hodgepodge of over four dozen tax provisions. This extension is not for the year ahead of us, as one might reasonably expect, but rather for the year that’s mostly past us. In other words, we will be extending for 2014 tax programs that expired at the end of 2013. This means that, for the most part, the bill will offer credits and deductions to reward things that have already happened while doing absolutely nothing to help businesses and individuals plan for the future.
If tax policy is intended to influence behavior, the extenders bill is a double failure: it spends money rewarding things that have already happened and offers no incentives for businesses and individuals for the year ahead.
Let’s take for example the production tax credit for wind energy, a program I strongly support that encourages the construction of wind farms. The provision in the extenders bill offers this incentive for properties for which construction has commenced by the end of 2014. That’s three weeks from now. Instead of giving energy companies time to plan and prepare wind projects, we’re saying: if you happen to have one ready to go, you’ve got until the end of the holiday season to break ground. The clock is ticking.
In contrast to Congress’s temporary, year-to-year treatment of the wind tax credit and other incentives for renewable energy, Big Oil and Gas enjoy permanent subsidies in the tax code. It’s long past time to reform the tax code so it reflects America’s 21st Century energy priorities. Permanent incentives for oil and gas and temporary programs for renewable energy is simply upside-down public policy.
In total, there are 50 or so extensions in this bill, and the only thing they seem to have in common is that Congress repeatedly packages them together. It’s truly a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s start with some of the good provisions. In addition to clean energy incentives, the bill extends a popular tax credit that encourages businesses to hire veterans, a host of incentives for energy efficiency, and a provision that ensures that families that lose their homes in foreclosure don’t incur tax bills for the deficiencies. These provisions have strong bipartisan support.
Then there’s the bad: the unjustifiable tax giveaways. These include so-called “bonus depreciation,” a program that allows corporations to deduct the costs of equipment right away instead of spreading out the deductions over the life of the equipment. Congress first included this provision in 2009 in the Recovery Act when it made some sense. The idea was to encourage businesses to accelerate their purchases when the economy most needed the investments. We’ve extended it so many times, though, that now we’re just giving money away to corporations for buying things they would have bought anyway. That’s a nice subsidy for the businesses, but not a wise use of taxpayer dollars.
The bill also includes tax giveaways for NASCAR tracks and racehorses. While I know these sports are popular, it’s hard to justify subsidizing them with taxpayer dollars at a time when we’re running large deficits and face the prospect of more budget sequestration.
And then there’s the ugly, the stuff that does actual harm. There’s a pair of provisions in the bill–the “active financing” and “controlled foreign corporation look through” provisions–that reward U.S. corporations for shifting money overseas to avoid paying taxes. Sadly, there are already a number of provisions in the tax code that encourage companies to move operations and assets overseas. We should repeal those provisions, not enhance them as the extenders bill does.
This one-year, retroactive mixed bag of extensions will increase the budget deficit by over $41 billion. To put that figure into perspective, that’s more than the annual budget for the entire Department of Homeland Security.
Earlier this year, my senior Senator from Rhode Island, Jack Reed, lead an effort to extend unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have struggled to find work in this uneven economic recovery. Republicans repeatedly filibustered his unemployment insurance legislation, with many citing the $17 billion price tag and the offsets included to pay for it.
I expect many of these same Republicans will vote to pass the $41 billion tax extenders bill, legislation which is not offset and will add to the deficit. If Republicans are truly as worried about the deficit as many of them claim to be, they need to raise these concerns consistently and not forget them when it’s convenient. Spending through the tax code is still spending, and we should offset it.
Mr./Madame President, next year this body will have new leadership and a fresh opportunity to tackle our nation’s problems. I hope Senate Republicans will show us they can exercise the power of being in the majority responsibly. President Obama says he is eager to work with the Republican majority on several major bills including tax reform. I too am eager to work with Republicans on sensible, responsible tax reform—reform that ends the era of year-to-year extensions, eliminates wasteful tax spending, and decreases the deficit. I thank the chair, and I yield the floor.
The American public is finally starting to recognize the connection between sugary drinks and obesity, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is helping schools and community organizations get water into schools, and soda and sugary drinks out.
This year, Washington State considered legislation to fund water stations in schools throughout the state, but the legislation was not passed. Advocates are not going away, though, and will be back and ready for round two next year.
Inside Philanthropy’s David Callahan speaking truth to money in The New York Times:
This power shift is part of a larger story about rising inequality and shrinking democracy. One reason the wealthy are flush with cash is that they’ve paid historically low taxes in recent decades, which helps explain why government can’t afford to do big things. A small step toward rebalancing things would be to tax capital gains — the source of much of the wealth of the superrich — at the same rate as regular income, and then dedicate most of that money to rebuilding our eroding infrastructure.
As for ensuring that all New Yorkers have equal access to good public parks, we should require private parks conservancies to chip in to rehabilitate parks in low-income parts of the city, just as developers are expected to help finance affordable housing. If we want even the semblance of equity in civic spaces, new ways must be found to pay for it.