Bad tax code change would reduce surging philanthropic...

Letters to the Editor

June 18, 1998

Bad tax code change would reduce surging philanthropic activity

As was aptly portrayed in Eric Siegel's article "Foundations see holdings swell in booming market" (June 9), the assets of Maryland's foundations have greatly increased in past years. The result has been increased support for the nonprofit sector through new and additional resources for innovative projects, operating costs and emergency needs.

The bull market of the 1980s and 1990s has also been a boon to foundations because of growth in personal wealth among those with large amounts of highly appreciated, publicly traded stock. Those individuals, as a result, have a greater capacity to give and more interest in giving to public causes.

Unfortunately, a looming change in the tax code may dramatically slow their willingness to become the philanthropists of today and tomorrow.

By providing a strong tax incentive for lifetime gifts of such stock to private foundations, a section in the tax code encourages thousands of these individuals to dedicate a substantial portion of their wealth to public rather than private purposes by creating endowed, grant-making, philanthropic organizations. The expiration of this provision will discourage further gifts and result in fewer grants reaching charitable organizations.

While extension of this provision is helpful, the on-again, off-again pattern of expiring provisions makes long-range planning for charitable giving difficult. It is important that the incentive be permanently restored to the IRS code. Our congressmen, Benjamin Cardin and Elijah Cummings, have been leaders of the effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to address this issue, sponsoring legislation to make that provision permanent.

As government support for a broad range of public programs is sharply curtailed, it is more important than ever to encourage private philanthropy.

Betsy S. Nelson


The writer is executive director, Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.

Jasper killing shows need for action on race relations

Once again the nation is seemingly appalled to learn of a heinous crime committed solely because of the color of the victim's skin. And once again, this feigned indignation will be followed by the obligatory calls for greater understanding. And yet once again, before the body of James Byrd Jr. is cold in the ground, this nation will comfortably ease back to its sedated state of surface tranquility.

This nation has to face in a direct way the fact that race does still matter, in spite of how difficult it may be, the pain it may cause or the changes it may bring. Whatever the dynamics that have brought us to this point, we have a more difficult time confronting in a substantive, honest way the issues of race, respect and equality than we had 20 or 30 years ago. Today it appears that we spew hate or offer up tired platitudes.

There has to be a sense of urgency and commitment on all our parts, and especially on the parts of those of us in positions of leadership to end discrimination, isolation and victimization because of race. There is a need for dialogue and a need to act -- now.

The time has come, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, for us all to be "divinely dissatisfied" with the state of race relations in this nation. Let each of us commit today in a manner of our own choosing to make a positive, substantive contribution in making equality and opportunity a reality for all people of this nation.

Alvin O. Gillard


The writer is director of the Baltimore Community Relations Commission.

Americans need better diets for trimmer, healthier lives

Americans have received two powerful wake-up calls about how diet affects health and well-being. After a three-year review of medical reports, the National Institutes of Health determined that 54 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese ("More than half of U.S. adults are deemed overweight," May 29).

Two days earlier, the American Heart Association elevated obesity from a "contributing factor" in heart disease to a "major risk factor," along with smoking, high blood cholesterol and lack of exercise.

A 27-year study of Harvard University alumni found that the slimmest men had a 60 percent lower risk of dying of heart disease and a 40 percent lower risk of dying from all causes than did the heaviest men.

Obesity has become a major U.S. public health threat, contributing to the incidence of stroke, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The leading cause of obesity is high consumption of fat-laden meat and dairy products and inadequate exercise, particularly during our formative years. These early lifestyle flaws become deeply ingrained lifelong habits.

The only effective long-term solution is to act on the recommendations of leading health authorities by replacing meat, dairy and other fatty foods with wholesome grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits.

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