Budget blues

Budget blues

Choose your cliché: Money, as the song from “Cabaret” maintains, makes the world go around. And the lack of it can stop you in your tracks. Everyone is feeling the pinch, tightening belts, in the tank.

People have lost jobs, homes, hope, and courage. And the charitable world, dependent on donations, is increasingly being called upon to ameliorate the misery with money it does not have. (See this week’s cover story, beginning on page 6.)

Some fear that things will get even harder if the government’s plan to reduce tax write-offs for charitable donations goes forward.

But we were reassured by a report in The Chronicle for Philanthropy that, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the proposal “would cause giving to decline [only] by an estimated 1.3 percent a year … [and] other proposals in the budget further minimized the effects of the tax changes.”

According to that analysis, “Overall, the effect of the budget proposals on charities is probably a very small negative at worst – and quite likely a net positive….”

We were dismayed, on the other hand, by reports about the 9,000 earmarks – some of them seemingly meshuga – in the $410 billion spending bill, and we commend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for calling them to our attention. Some do reek of pork, and are truly treif. But we can see the logic of others; the $2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York, for example, may ultimately bring consumers tastier table grapes and finer wine, boost agriculture and jobs in that state, and increase tax revenues. Meanwhile, it’s good to have someone as outspoken as McCain in the loyal opposition.

We also commend Wisconsin’s Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan for joining McCain to introduce line-item-veto legislation in Congress. It is unfortunate that such legislation, if passed, could not be retroactive.

“This bill is about the need to stop wasteful earmarks especially in this time of economic crisis,” Feingold said at a press conference on Wednesday. “If Congress won’t restrain itself,” he continued, “the president should be able to try.”

On a lighter note, Purim’s waiting in the wings, with costumes, groggers, and merry-making all around. We wish our readers a happy Purim, with our customary caution against underage drinking and every-age abuse of alcohol.