Not The Onion. Really.

A recent headline in the Washington Post read: “Taxing Churches to Help Corporations.” It really was the Post, and not the Onion.  It wasn’t Borowitz. (This assurance does prompt me to give credit to Donald Trump for providing consistent, excellent assistance to political satirists…)

E.J. Dionne explains:

You would be forgiven for thinking this is a headline from the Onion or the fantasy of some left-wing website. But it’s exactly what happenedin the big corporate tax cut the GOP passed last year.

Now — under pressure from churches, synagogues and other nonprofits — embarrassed leaders of a party that casts itself as religious liberty’s last line of defense are trying to fix a provision that is a monument to both their carelessness and their hypocrisy.

The authors of the measure apparently didn’t even understand what they were doing — or that’s their alibi to faith groups now. It’s not much of a defense. And the fact that Republicans increased the tax burden on nonprofits, including those tied to religion, so they could shower money on corporations and the wealthy shows where their priorities lie.

I do disagree with E.J. on one point. He dismisses legislators’ excuse that “they didn’t know what they were doing.” I don’t. No one who saw the recent hearing where a Congressional committee was “grilling” the CEO of Google could come away believing that our elected lawmakers have the slightest idea what they’re doing.

Evidently, the GOP’s slap-dash effort to relieve the rich from the rigors of taxation had a negative effect on houses of worship.

At stake is a provision in the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that directednot-for-profits of all kinds — houses of worship but also, for example, universities, museums and orchestras — to pay a 21 percent tax on certain fringe benefits for their employees, such as parking and meals.

The new levy on the “armies of compassion” former president George W. Bush liked to extol would raise an estimated $1.7 billion over a decade.

That’s a vanishingly small amount in the scheme of the GOP’s deficit-inflating tax extravaganza, but it’s revealing. To lower the price tag of their confection for the wealthy, Republicans effectively hiked taxes on all sorts of other people and entities — most controversially, by sharply curtailing deductibility of state and local taxes. This was another two-faced move from a party that regularly assails “unfunded federal mandates” and lauds the importance of state and local problem-solving.

This story provides critics with an abundance of riches: we might focus on the mounting evidence that the Grand Old Party is filled with doofuses who haven’t the faintest idea how to structure public policy. We might focus on the “bought and paid for” identity of today’s GOP, and the party’s willingness to throw its religious base under the bus if pandering to its corporate base requires that. Or we might agree with E.J.’s accusation that this was a deliberate, nasty, entirely partisan assault–yet another example of Republicans putting the interests of their party over the good of the nation.

GOP leaders have told representatives of religious organizations that they had no intention of taxing them. They were focused on what they saw as liberal bastions in the third sector: universities, foundations and the like.

But this excuse only makes the story worse. It shows how slipshod the architects of this tax bill were, and it demonstrates their deeply partisan motives. After all, limiting the state and local deduction raises taxes far more on middle-class and well-off taxpayers in Democratic states than on their counterparts in Republican states.

Calling these assholes slipshod is way too kind.

That said, I think a stronger case could be made for taxing churches than universities and non-profits….

16 thoughts on “Not The Onion. Really.

  1. Ball State University voluntarily paid $150,000 toward public services — mainly the cost of two fire department personnel. That want to back out of it. Any idea how many emergency fire runs our small local fire department makes to Ball State dormitories?

    And last I checked, the public only funds 36% of the university while the governor still appoints all board members.

    Talk about a rigged institution.

    As for churches, every single one should pay property taxes to fund local government. If they have a fire, the fire department still responds.

    Ah, but the politicians have no backbone. The tax scam passed by the GOP was written by corporate lobbyists just like Obamacare. As you mentioned, our representative body isn’t bright enough to conjure up tax loopholes for multinational conglomerates. Remember, much of the tax scam was allowing these large multinational corps to bring back cash they had stashed in foreign accounts avoiding US taxation, to begin with. They were given a special rate of 10% without penalties.

    Can anybody see Luke Messer assisting in the underwriting of a complex bill? LOL

    Luke quotes the US Chamber of Commerce on climate change issues. He’s one of many rubber stamps the wealthy have employed to serve their interests. They embarrass themselves when they speak about serving the interests of the public. We embarrass ourselves by thinking they do.

  2. Tax the churches!

    It will be interesting to see how the confusions and extra taxes on non-profits will play out in 2019.

    Oh what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.

  3. When you leave your governance to idiots don’t complain when the boat capsizes for lack of a ‘captain’… wow…

    P.S. At this point I think the ‘Church’ and all her children should be taxed – if they are preaching politics – they are NOT a church(.) And make them declare themselves all – FOR PROFIT businesses, or better yet ‘political parties’! I am tired of seeing Pat Robertson, Crefelo Dollar, rev. Gray, Joel Osteen and the rest of those sheep shearing wannabes get away with million dollar life-styles and warehoused sized ‘mega-churches’ preaching unmitigated political conspiracy theories and bullshit while fleecing people who honestly ‘believe’ they are serving god – and then to be called NON-profit! NO! Time to tax the living tar out of them! The only ‘god’ I see in them is in their pants pocket.

  4. “Additional eligible property
    In addition to the property described above, the following property is eligible for the Religious Exemption:
    • Under certain conditions, property owned by the church and needed for church parking .
    • Property owned by the church and leased to a public school for public school purposes, provided the church
    files an annual Lessors’ Exemption Claim form .
    • All of the activities listed for the Church Exemption on page 4, provided the property is owned by the church .
    • Buildings under construction or in the course of construction, land required for their convenient use, and
    equipment in them if the intended use would qualify the property for exemption . ”Course of construction”
    includes the demolition of a building with the intent of replacing it with facilities that will be used exclusively
    for an eligible activity ”

    I tried to find original, specific reasons religious facilities were deemed tax exempt by this government; found the above information in Property Tax Exemptions for Religious Organizations, Publication 48, LDA, September 2018. There seems to be much more to religious tax exemptions allowed than churches, etc. These additional exemptions, when totaled with church’s exemptions, etc., could equal some corporation tax exemptions…couldn’t they?

    I had occasion to read through “INSIDE THE VATICAN”; the Official Catholic Calendar for Nearly 100 Years. It contains incredible pictures of the Vatican and it’s splendor as well as an “accounting” of some of their assistance to some of those Catholics in need. I have always considered the Catholic religion to be the largest and wealthiest religious cult in the world…what other religion has it’s own city? Some of those they consider “needy” are their own missions and some nun’s salaries. A few quotes from the calendar; “Hispanic ministries receive more than $2.5 million annually from Catholic Extension.” How many Hispanics practice the Catholic religion? “Year after year, Catholic Extension funds more than 1,000 ministries and programs in poor Catholic communities and parishes.” How many poor Catholic communities and parishes are there in this country? “Every school year, 100,000 Catholic students benefit from Catholic Extension support for campus ministries.” I’m sure our voucher funds are also helping financially for these campus ministries; voucher students are required to participate in classes in Catholicism, but are not required to pray. The quote from the December page of this Official Catholic Calendar is interesting; “More than 250,000 children and adults will benefit this year from Catholic Extension funding for religious education classes.”

    Approximately three years ago, the Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese had to decide to shut down three of six of their churches on the east side; those chosen to remain “in business” were those churches containing schools…Catholic schools with voucher student enrollment receiving public education tax dollars. The churches remaining open had to absorb those parishioners from areas of closed churches; none are in high-income areas but were called-to-task for not providing more neighborhood outreach..which they could already not afford to assist. The wealth of the Vatican sitting in Vatican City and controlling the strings to their wide-ranging , world-wide religious system are not financially supporting their own parishes…WE ARE by allowing their tax exempt status.

    “That said, I think a stronger case could be made for taxing churches than universities and non-profits….”

  5. Taxing the churches and other not for profits that own property would meet unprecedented opposition. But a state could begin by imposing a fee on such entities for police and fire protection. That alone would go a long way toward relieving the unfairness of the present system.

  6. “Calling these assholes slipshod is way too kind.” No more correct statement could be made when referring to (mostly) Republicans at any level. Other adjectives like corrupt, beholden, criminal also fit into this scene.

    Yes, churches reap the benefits from our society while living off the dole of the public sheep who keep them afloat. They say they preach love, but fear and bigotry are the undercurrents that the most “extreme” churches, mega-churches and pop-up tent revivals live off of. Taxing them is O.K. with me, but instead of those taxes going to the moguls, REQUIRE that those monies go to getting the homeless veterans off the streets and out of the parks. Have those taxes pay for the medical care for their PTSD acquired from our illegal wars based on lies. Have those taxes retrain these discarded veterans and turn them into productive citizens again.

    Wow! What a concept. Using tax money to actually do some good for people… What was I thinking? Well, I guess I don’t qualify to run for office. Whew!

  7. It’s not just that churches and certain other organizations are tax-exempt; it’s that the rest of us who do not believe their activities should enjoy such freedom are called upon to pay more taxes because of such exemptions, thus in effect contributing to the collection plate for activities in which we do not participate. Of course, this also applies to those who believe their activities should be tax-exempt; we are all caught in the tax web whether for tax exemptions, giveaways to corporations such as the recent Trump/Ryan tax bill provided, lower repatriation rates for overseas profits, carried interest etc.

    I have written dozens of blogs demanding that the internal revenue code and the bankruptcy code be redone since both are blatantly pro-corporate and favor capital over labor (see the recent travesty involved in a bankruptcy judge’s approval of $25 million in bonuses for the executives of a failing corporation and zero severance for workers – and it’s legal) and the taxation of churches and non-profits is just one of my complaints lodged in such blogs, a tip of the iceberg.

    The system is definitely rigged, but we voted for it, so the solution is to elect those who unrig the fix, and if we do we can expect the WSJ and corporate propaganda to the effect that the reformers we elect are socialists, communists, the usual epithets applied by the rich and greedy to those who want economic justice for the 99 percent. When and if we come to such a point, my advice is to ignore such propaganda and press on in amending the revenue and bankruptcy codes in favor of economic justice for all.

  8. E.J. Dionne in his concluding paragraph writes: “If this Congress fails to act, House Democrats should make repeal an early priority. It would be illuminating to hear Republicans respond to Democratic speeches praising religious congregations and their indispensable work on behalf of charity and justice.”

    I guess grandstanding by the Democrats is a “priority” for E.J. Dionne. E.J. Dionne proves what a hack he is: Screw Health Care for all, it is more important for the Democrats to come to the rescue of the Religious Establishment so the Democrats can try to ingratiate themselves to the bible thumper’s another example of triangulation.

    E.J. Dionne could have written an article about the Democrats looking into all the tax avoidance schemes of the 1% and Multinational Corporations, phony foundations, money laundering, tax loop holes, but no, the 1% must be protected, so he proposes the Democrats waste resources and time trying to “fix” a problem that should not be a priority.

    If you want to take a partisan point of view do nothing and let the Republicans stew in their own juices.

  9. “No one who saw the recent hearing where a Congressional committee was “grilling” the CEO of Google could come away believing that our elected lawmakers have the slightest idea what they’re doing.”

    Even though high tech dominates so much of our lives, very few members of Congress have any first-hand knowledge of technology. They like to prove this by calling Facebook execs in to testify, then reading questions written by their young staff members, then asking follow-up questions which prove how clueless they are.

    Can you think constructively about society in the 21st century if you lack even the most trivial tech knowledge? What basis do you have for making policies about the coming AI or robotics or bio-tech booms? Can you make intelligent laws about serious bio-medical ethics issues if you have no understanding of DNA? Could this knowledge gap help explain why we hear nothing from our government about creating jobs and training for the new jobs when robots displace a huge percentage of today’s workers? Does it help explain why we are, by dint of neglect, ceding technological supremacy – and therefore economic supremacy – to the Chinese? Being a senior citizen does not necessarily imply one is a technophobe, but many congressmen/women seem to have ended up devoid of knowledge in areas of vital national interest. The devil is not in the details, it is in not knowing the details.

    Nearly every job in the country comes with a basic set of requirements for entry-level qualifications if a resumé is to be taken seriously. Yet the job of running the country imposes only an age restriction. What I’m suggesting is that there should be some background check on potential congressional candidates to verify that they know enough to do their jobs. Could Congress better use its time attending immersive courses on topics relating to legislation, or is calling constituents to ask for donations the key to fulfilling their responsibilities? We didn’t impose knowledge requirements on our current president, and look where it has gotten us.

  10. We can all agree that this whole administration is incompetent, corrupt and in it only to enrich themselves personally as well as their sponsors. We all saw it coming in 2016 too in what has been recorded in history as the largest collective brain fart in human history.

    Unfortunately this particular aspect of stupid is the least of our worries. My tea leaves hear giant footsteps coming in the new year that will be much more painful for we the people. The combination of Mueller and truly inept fiscal policy will not go well for us and the results will be that the Trump economy will win over the Obama economy in the crash heard ‘round the world.

    Will Trump’s base learn then? That’s not there best trait, learning. They will blame Mueller, Democrats, immigrants, dark skin, women and Muslims.

  11. was this writen by ALEC and kochs without regard? or is this another political,lobbyist written bill again? does the gop have a degree in simple reading? put it all togather,i’m laughing my ass off! it couldnt happen to a finer group of hypocrites..

  12. one more note,didja read about the big church reverend who bought his wife a 200k lambo suv?
    i wonder where his write off starts,and ends?

  13. There are very few bills that come to the House and Senate that are even read by the members. To think that they actually know what they’re voting for is just plain crazy.

  14. Here are some thoughts about Trump acolytes:
    My take on the people I call the “5th Avenue Crowd” (“I could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and not lose any votes.”) is that they suffer from an acute case of the true believer syndrome. They simply cannot or will not admit their error of judgement. A lot of it has to do with the strong father model of their families. Indeed, this strong, authoritarian model is the basis for the entire Republican party. “Daddy knows best and you will obey his commands.”

    Since most Trump-ites do not take the time or have the ability to make the intellectual leap in realization, they are wed to this idiot for all eternity. Victimhood does not have the same meaning to them as it does to those of us who HAVE made the leap. They think it’s part of their penance.

    There will be some high drama when indictments come down for Trump’s children. That is when he will become the most dangerous person on Earth. We got a hint of that yesterday when he unilaterally decided to pull our troops out of Syria and let the Iranians/Russians/Turks have their way with our allies the Kurds. That “decision” is beyond corrupt and a complete disgrace to the presidency in our country. There will be severe consequences that will last for years.

    In other news, try to have a wonderful holiday season everyone.

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