Friday, February 16, 2007

 

The Other War at Home

I don’t normally read the Baltimore Sun (even occasional readers of the Sun can probably guess why) but this morning I inexplicably went there…and am predictably none the wiser for the experience.

In what can only be described as a blow to Goucher College’s efforts to raise their national profile in a positive way, “political scientist and France-Merrick professor of service learning” Robert Koulish writes that Conservatives [are] waging war on nonprofits:

“The Bush administration's proposed 2008 budget, which threatens elimination of 141 programs, is a reminder of another war - the one against nonprofits.”

(and no, I don’t know what a “professor of service learning” teaches either )

Apparently this has been going on for some time:

“The seeds for the war on nonprofits lay in the 1971 "Powell Memo" penned by corporate lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell. The memo instructed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to confront nonprofit critics of the business community, personified by Ralph Nader and the American Civil Liberties Union. It urged forming right-wing think tanks and philanthropies, hiring intellectuals and confronting progressives.”

(Ed. Note: I never knew about this “Powell Memo”. I now admit to a new respect for the late Justice.)

Well, from my side of the aisle, the organizations he cites as examples of the victims of this "war” DESERVE enemy status. The ACLU, Greenpeace and even Ralph Nader are not misunderstood do-gooders; they are instead well-funded, agenda-driven voices for a liberal ideology. They are simply not acting in my public interest (although I continue to honor Ralph Nader's efforts in the 2000 election).

Ominously, Mr. Koulish reports that there is no shortage of dirty tricks this government will resort to:

“According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, audits of 501(c)3's engaged in social programming have risen sharply, with Greenpeace, …and the National Endowment for the Arts enduring such politically inspired harassment.”

Have to wonder if the good professor and/or the Chronicle of Philanthropy knows what a (c)(3) is. Certainly I’m glad that a leftist finally admits what many of us have long suspected: that the NEA isn’t merely a funder of arts but is also actively engaged in attempts at social programming. As to the audits, however, they will probably continue as the NEA is NOT a 501(c)(3) but instead was “[e]stablished by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government” National Endowment for the Arts….oh and Greenpeace is a 501( c)(4).


Typical of thinking from the other side of the aisle, the Professor concludes:

“Congress must be urged to reverse the damage to the nonprofit sector and establish a new progressive agenda that supports local associational life and a government committed to the things the private sector cannot do.”

Yep – turn to the government to accomplish what you can’t on the “battlefield” of ideas.
Nonprofits such as The Salvation Army aren’t in any conservative crosshairs that I’m aware of (and I would have gotten the memo) but I’ll gladly enlist in any army being raised to take on the likes of Greenpeace.

Comments:
I am not sure how a libertarian could support the federal government eliminating non-profit programs. If libertarians ever wish to see a lessening of government entitlement programs, non-profits will have to be there to pick up the slack.

Though you may disagree with the partisan motives of some non-profits, there are certainly just as many partisan right-wing non-profits. Several of them played a major part in the money laundering activites of Jack Abramhoff.

Non-profits who do such illegal things deserve to be shut down. However, no non-profit deserves to be shut down because they happen to be critical of the policies of the current administration. To do so would be anti-speech, and I dare say, rather Un-American.
 
Who is talking about shutting anyone down? I just think it's silly to chicken-little this supposed war on nonprofits.

And if a nonprofit depends on the federal government for funding, then I don't think I'm betraying my libertarian inclinations to (a) not support such funding or (b)not bemoan their loss should such funding disappear.

I stand by my theme - beyond allowing for the nonprofit organization, the Federal government normally has little responsibility to ensure an organization's eventual success.
 
I can understand how an attack on the National Endowment for the Arts would be seen by some as an attack on 501(c)(3) organizations since it funds some such organizations. In my mind, it is not truly an attack, just a defunding. It would be an attack if the 501(c)(3) status of such recipient organizations (or other organizations) were to be subjected to IRS challenge in bad faith or without probable cause.

Andrew makes, in my opinion, a good general point that is beyond the scope of the article, but worth repeating. That which cannot sustain itself (presumably through operating profits, interest or other yield from an endowment, etc.) must either get sustained by others, enagge in predation (crime, fraud, etc.) or shrink down towards or the point of disappearance.

Sometimes this self-sustinance requirement is a good fact, culling and discouraging stupidity and inefficiency; othertimes, not good but quite tolerable and still other times unacceptable to decent people.
 
After a full reading of the article, I feel that I must agree with it's premise.

The increased audits of specifically progressive non-profits is troubling and appears to be an underhanded way to avoid necessary debate on important issues.

I would be more likely to discount such audits as coincidence, but we need look no farther than the Plame Outing too see how far this administration will go to silence it's critics.

If the Bush administration wants to combat the ideas of liberal non-profits, they should do it openly and with competing facts. They should not, out of fear, use the power of the audit to silence those who would disagree with their policies.
 
1)The Plame outing??? that was, as has been re-counted numerous times, inadvertently done by Administration critic Richard Armitage...continuing to claim otherwise doesn't make it so.

2)A Federal Audit of a Federal Agency isn't harrasment. And stating that other audits were undertaken because of the political slants of the auditee doesn't make it so either. He did not state what kind of audits were performed, who required the audits and what the results were.

An Audit provides third party verification of representations by a person or organization. Federal law requires audits of organizations receiving over $500,000 in Federal funds (which can be a loan guarantee). Participation in the Combined Federal Campaign triggers an audit if proceeds from it hit $100,000. Those rules weren't put in place just to catch a few liberal agenda orgs.

The professor's thesis is seemingly that our Federal dollars are not doing enough to advance the so-called progressive agenda - from my viewpoint we're spending way too much on same.
 
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