Don't malign tax-free charitable giving [Letter]

December 24, 2013

Robert B. Reich was one of my outstanding professors at law school, so it was particularly disheartening to see one of my academic heroes get it all wrong in his recent commentary ("Charity begins at home (particularly at wealthy homes)," Dec. 18).

First, he questions the tax status of colleges and universities, some of the very ones where he attended, taught or wrote his most notable books. He wrongly criticized the tax status of museums and other cultural institutions, many of which now fill a growing gap in our educational system and are vital to helping ensure students succeed.

Professor Reich's assertion is wrong that some charities are worthier than others. Charitable giving should remain an independent investment — free of politics or favoritism.

Perhaps most upsetting is his diatribe against the charitable giving by the "rich." Many organizations, including those that provide crucial social services to the most vulnerable among us, rely on the generosity of wealthy donors. Many social service and religious organizations operate under a "90-10 rule" and receive 90 percent or more of their total funds from less than 10 percent of their most wealthy donors.

America is still recovering from an economic downturn and our charitable organizations are being asked to do more with less. Let's stop bashing those who choose to give to causes about which they care deeply.

Professor Reich was a great teacher. I can't remember the grade he gave me in law school, but I'd have to give him an "F" for his take on charitable giving.

Steven Woolf, Washington, D.C.

The writer is senior tax counsel for The Jewish Federations of North America.

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