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L.E. Brown / February 11, 2015

Proposed Legislation Before Congress Is Seldom as It Is Advertised

The most often talked about at present is The Affordable Care Act. Since its implementation began ordinary citizens have been progressively learning that the impact of the legislation is not as advertised during the time leading up to its passage by Democrats, with the quiet acquiescence of Republicans.

Americans didn’t know, and most still don’t, that The Affordable Care Act actually refers to two separate pieces of legislation – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

They do remember that the promise was that the legislation would put consumers back in charge of their health care. But I digress.

Among the least talked about legislation is the America Gives More Act, passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in July 2014. It never passed the Senate.

While the ACA was billed as cheap and providing freedom from want, the AGMA was sold as, and continues to be sold as, a measure that would put food on the table, for free, for millions of “poor and ‘hard working’ Americans.”

In reality, it would allow good, charitable fellows like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to keep more of their hard-earned money, avoiding taxes they pass on to ordinary citizens, the little people.

Indirectly, passage of the act would allow people like Gates and Buffett to dine more elegantly, perhaps allowing for prime steak more often than once a month.

Supporters of the act maintain that it would eliminate uncertainty and frustration for donors by making permanent deductions for IRA charitable rollovers, contributions of conservations easements, as well as donations of food inventory. They don’t speak about sops for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

The AGMA would tinker with the U.S. Tax Code, a favorite pastime of Congress, which likes to reward its favorite constituents, influence voters, and stick it to enemies.

It would make three major charitable-giving incentives “permanent and reliable,” Alan Briggs was quoted as saying in the Raleigh, N.C. News and Observer November 28 of last year, when the push to pass the bill was at full-throttle during the lameduck session of Congress.

Briggs, executive director of the N.C. Association of Food Banks, and others were pushing the Senate to pass the bill in the name of helping farmers, restaurants, retailers and food manufacturers to donate more “excess food to those in need.”

He never once mentioned Gates or Buffett, to whom the term “excess” means more money than they know what to do with, except to give some to charity, in exchange for avoiding taxes, leaving little people to take up the slack. And, forcing them to subsidize agendas they view with disdain.

Briggs’ company operates in a state where the state legislature will pass almost any measure that can be couched as “heping the chirrun.” At the federal level, it seems that “heping the poor and hungry” can be just as persuasive.

“Heping” Bill and Warren along the way is merely incidental.

If you want an good example of bipartisanship in Congress the push for passage of AGMA is it. Lawmakers who call themselves Republicans, Democrats, moderate, conservative, tea partiers or progressives are equally rabid to help rich individuals and nonprofits.

And as an aside, fatten campaign coffers and their own personal pockets.

The current charitable-giving policy has, over the years, created huge conglomerates, including companies whose business is to help fund raising; others whose business is lobbying for more favors for Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

A few nervous nellies think that the charitable deduction has been under attack, including by those who want to see many tax breaks of all kinds wiped out to make the tax code simpler.

Not to worry.

Not on the watches of people like Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner.

None would dare court with legislation that would eliminate tax breaks for charitable-giving, and use the resulting money to balance the federal debt, while at the same time easing the tax burden on little people.

Maybe, though they would take the small step of mandating that the IRS make public, online and in print, the tax returns of all filers.

It would satisfy the natural curiosity of people, and make little people mad as hell to see others making them pay more taxes.


L.E. Brown, Jr. is a columnist based in Magnolia, N.C. Email him at [email protected]

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