FFRF Wins Suit Over Parsonage Tax Break

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has won a lawsuit filed against the parsonage allowance given to churches but not to any other non-profit organization. A federal judge ruled that the law establishing that tax break for ministers did not have a secular purpose or effect and is an impermissible subsidy for churches.

One of the obvious signs of the exemption’s illegal religious purchase is that it doesn’t even apply to all religions, only to “ministers of the gospel.” It’s a very strong ruling based largely on the precedent of Texas Monthly v Bullock, a 1989 case that challenged a Texas law exempting religious publications from the state’s sales tax. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that this was an impermissible benefit to religious organizations. The same logic obviously applies to the parsonage exemption and the judge rightly ruled so.

With respect to the merits, I conclude that § 107(2) violates the establishment clause under the holding in Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock because the exemption provides a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise…

In concluding that § 107(2) violates the Constitution, I acknowledge the benefit that the exemption provides to many ministers (and the churches that employ them) and the loss that may be felt if the exemption is withdrawn. Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act of 2002, 148 Cong. Rec. H1299-01 (Apr. 16, 2002) (statement of Congressman Jim

Ramstad) (in 2002, estimating that § 107 would relieve ministers of $2.3 billion in taxes over next five years). However, the significance of the benefit simply underscores the problem with the law, which is that it violates the well-established principle under the First Amendment that “[a]bsent the most unusual circumstances, one’s religion ought not affect one’s legal rights or duties or benefits.” Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as

exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility.

It is important to remember that the establishment clause protects the religious and nonreligious alike. If a statute

imposed a tax solely against ministers (or granted an exemption to everyone except ministers) without a secular reason for doing so, that law would violate the Constitution just as § 107(2) does. Stated another way, if the government were free to grant discriminatory tax exemptions in favor of religion, then it would be free to impose discriminatory taxes against religion as well.

The IRS will almost certainly appeal this ruling, so the question is whether it will be upheld on appeal if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court. And that may be doubtful. Only two current justices were on the court in 1989 when Texas Monthly was decided, Scalia and Kennedy, and both were in dissent. Assuming they vote the same way this time, the addition of Thomas, Alito and Roberts would give them the five votes necessary to overturn this ruling. But those are only assumptions at this point. Alito and Roberts have had little opportunity to rule in cases involving church/state issues so we don’t really know where they might come down.

If the ruling stands, one can hear the howls of outrage from big money TV evangelist frauds, who don’t have to pay taxes on their multi-million mansions. You can read the full ruling here.

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  • Trebuchet

    Six of the nine justices are Catholic, the other three Jewish. It may depend on how much benefit their priests and rabbis get from the current setup. I suspect it mostly benefits Protestants.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Does the Church of Scientology avail itself of this exemption (I would suspect it does)?

    Of course, given the standing issues involved, it’s much harder to challenge this on a “remove the exemption” basis than it would be on a “include me too!” basis. So when do some of the atheist “churches” start claiming theirs? I’d love to see you and PZ get a tax break, too.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    This is a good thing. You shouldn’t subsidize my church. Now if only we can generalize and remove all deductions for all charities (and mortgage interest). We should not be subsidizing each other’s passionate causes, nor subsidizing housing for those who can buy a house.

  • Trebuchet

    @2, D.C. Sessions: According to The Digital Cuttlefish:

    This was the case where the best (perhaps only) argument the government had was to claim that the atheist co-presidents of the Freedom from Religion Foundation were… clergy, thus deserving of the tax break and in no position to sue.

  • tomh

    @ #4

    The court rejected that argument, of course, and allowed standing for the plaintiffs. Unfortunately, the court dismissed the challenge to the section of the IRS code that allows ministers who are furnished a home, instead of a housing allowance, to exclude the rental value of the home from income, since the plaintiffs conceded that they lacked standing to challenge it.

  • Trebuchet

    @5: That may be a good thing when it comes to the Supreme Court, since that’s the way the Catholic Church does it.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    heddle, your comment is so idiotic I’m considering it a joke. Not a good joke, mind you, but definitely not serious.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Actually, I find myself mostly agreeing with Heddle. I’m mark the calendar.

    “Mostly” because I would go along with a faint shadow of support for a different allowance for some programs. “Different” in that it would be a partial credit (instead of deduction) and “some” in that the only part of the contribution covered would be the amount that the allegedly social-benefit organization actually spends on enumerated social programs. Which means that the “charities” would have to be audited to see how much of the food banks’ income actually goes to providing food to the poor — something that all too many charities (yes, churches, I’m looking at you, too) talk more than walk.

  • John Hinkle

    Not seeing what is idiotic about heddle’s comment.

  • uzza

    Is there something in there to define what is a ‘minister’ or a parson or witch doctor or wev? Because it sounds like it singles out one (type?) of religion for special treatment.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @heddle #3 – Personally, I have no problem with donations to some entities being tax deductible, and I have no problem allowing some entities to operate as non-profit, non-taxed corporations. There are a great many such organizations — food banks, museums, consumer testing groups such as Underwriters’ Laboratories, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, the list goes on — who do fine work, and we should encourage them and the people who support them.

    However, I do not include churches in this category. Some religious groups, yes, but actual churches… no. My preference would be to remove religious institutions (and yes, non-religious institutions such as AA and AHA that exist primarily as non-religious institutions) from being part of IRS statute 501(c).

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @uzza #10 – “Is there something in there to define what is a ‘minister’ or a parson or witch doctor or wev? Because it sounds like it singles out one (type?) of religion for special treatment.”

    Which is pretty much what the court said.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Gregory in Seattle,

    However, I do not include churches in this category.

    (I assume you mean even for donations in the offering plate which are a different beast than the special housing tax-break that Ed is discussing.)

    Therein lies the problem. Who gets to decide what is a legitimate charity? Raging Bee? You? Ted Cruz? Whoever is in office at the moment? You mentioned groups that are likely to receive unanimous support, such as food banks. I suspect there might be some you (or anyone else) support that have less than unanimous backing. Suppose, for the sake of argument, you like Planned Parenthood and suppose I don’t. Why should I subsidize your contribution?

    Better that if I want to give money to x, I give to x, and don’t charge taxpayers 25% of of the cost. Likewise if you want to give to y then give to y without involving the US Treasury.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Who gets to decide what is a legitimate charity?

    The agency that receives and processes applications for tax-exempt status. Who else? Its not like no one has ever had to decide what is or is not a charitable activity before.

  • wscott

    Some might view a rule against preferential treatment as exhibiting hostility toward religion, but equality should never be mistaken for hostility.

    Quoted for awesome.

    .

    @ Raging Bee 14: Exactly; we already do this now.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    wscott,

    Raging Bee 14: Exactly; we already do this now.,

    Yes of course we do it now, the suggestion is 1) that we shouldn’t do it at all and 2) (not unrelated) there will always be questions of what constitutes a legitimate charity.

    It is also secondary–my primary point is that even if we agree in all instances as to what is a charity we should not be supporting each other’s voluntary contributions. Every time I give $1000 to a charity (perhaps my church) the taxpayers are paying ~$250 of it whether they want to or not. Same for you and your charities.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    …even if we agree in all instances as to what is a charity we should not be supporting each other’s voluntary contributions.

    If those contributions go to activities that enhance the common good in a provable way, then yes, we SHOULD support and encourage them. That a major part of what civil society has always done, and part of what civil society EXISTS to do: to encourage and enable voluntary individual actions for the common good. If you want to call this longstanding basic principle into question, heddle, then you might as well tape a big sign to your back that says “Ignore me, I’m a fucking idiot.”

  • corporal klinger

    Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I really don’t understand why the IRS should appeal the court decision. I mean, it’s their duty to collect (and I suppose to increase) the tax revenue of the nation, right? Shouldn’t they be happy that this will undoubtly increase the tax revenue of the U.S? The way I understand it, it should have been the IRS who filed the lawsuit in the first place. Is it that the influence of the religious is really so big that nobody dared?

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    If those contributions go to activities that enhance the common good in a provable way… If you want to call this longstanding basic principle into question, heddle, then you might as well tape a big sign to your back that says “Ignore me, I’m a fucking idiot.”

    I see from your method of arguing that you still haven’t gone through puberty during my absence.

    Funding “activities that enhance the common good in a provable way” (allowing, for the moment, that such things are provable, which I doubt) through normal taxes is the way it should be done. In that way, at least, I have the opportunity through voting to have a say as to where money goes.

    The charity deduction is a tax with no responsibility or accountability–there is no way for anyone to have any influence as to where that money is spent. It is tantamount to a tax on you where I decide where it goes. If you want to take the charitable deduction to its logical conclusion, then we should all just have the privilege of earmarking our taxes to whatever activities we want to sponsor.

  • uzza

    @gregory, #12

    Thank you. I should have read further before saying anything. I’m generally confused by all these pastors, minister, cantors, clergy, imams, poobahs, grand viziers, and judans.

  • eric

    Heddle:

    Therein lies the problem. Who gets to decide what is a legitimate charity?

    We do, through representative government, who passes legislation determining what counts as a legitimate charity. The issue with churches receiving this status is not that people will disagree with organization A or B getting it. It’s that one of our core constitutional principles is opposed to requiring people to fund other people’s worship.

    Funding “activities that enhance the common good in a provable way” (allowing, for the moment, that such things are provable, which I doubt) through normal taxes is the way it should be done. In that way, at least, I have the opportunity through voting to have a say as to where money goes.

    I don’t see the distinction. Congresscritter Alice ensures there’s a $20mil tax credit for charity A, while congresscritter Bob ensurs there’s a $20 appropriation for charity B. You have the exact same opportunity through voting to have a say as to where the money goes. At best, you can argue that Bob’s method is more transparent to you so that you are more likely to notice what’s going on. But you get the same input both ways. Secondly, how we fund charities is also a democratic decision. Sure, you get to give your input that tax-and-support it how it ought to be done. But that “ought” is your opinion, nothing more. It’s not a legal rule we have to follow or some objective political law, it’s just your preference. If most U.S. citizens want to fund charities via tax breaks, then democratically, that is the way we “ought” to do it.

    Gregory in Seattle:

    I do not include churches in this category. Some religious groups, yes, but actual churches

    I agree. I’ll go further; I have no problem with a church operating a normal secular charity, and that secular charity receiving tax breaks. If the RCC wants to run a soup kitchen, let them start Soup Kitchen LLC as a non-profit arm, with separate tax books and the whole deal, and have that LLC get tax breaks for what they do. There is simply no reason why religious organizations need to be included in charity tax breaks. Even if they do charity (which they absouletly have a right to do, and get tax breaks for), it is easy enough to for them keep the charity and woship/religious arms of their organizations separate. If they don’t want to do that, that says to me they probably want to move money between the two at will. In which case, there is no reason why joe taxpayer should be supporting you.

  • eric

    Err…my Alice/Bob example is milling a “mil” for Bob’s appropriation. Which is amusing, but I expect everyone can get the point regardless of the gaffe.

  • D. C. Sessions

    there will always be questions of what constitutes a legitimate charity.

    Let us distinguish between “a legitimate charity” and “beneficial charitable activities” to begin with. I have no particular love for the Catholic Church, but I’m just fine with their support for food banks. I don’t see why I should be forced to an all-or-nothing choice between supporting both feeding the poor and raping children or supporting neither.

    The same goes for Planned Parenthood: Pap smears and abortion? Admittedly a lot of people appear incapable of supporting (or opposing) action independently of those who perform them.

    I also posit to you that there exist “beneficial charitable activities” which are, in fact, directly related to existing public policy (e.g. childhood education, medical care for the poor, etc.) and which, for budgetary reasons, the State draws the line. In other words, we’ve accepted that they are worth spending tax dollars if only they could be gotten at less tax expense. In that case, providing a (let’s say) 50% tax credit for private contributions which provide the same services that the State cannot afford at the margin is an all-around win.

    Admittedly, that last is open to debate — but much of that debate (e.g. education and health care) is well-settled and all that we’re arguing about now is price.

  • pita

    I’m interested to know who, if anyone, would have standing to challenge 26 U.S.C. 107(1). It seems similar to Section 107(2) in that you can’t challenge it on establishment clause grounds if you apply for the exemption and are denied (because there would be no possible remedy), and it also doesn’t seem like it could be challenged by someone who already lives in employer-mandated housing because they would likely be eligible for a similar exemption under 26 U.S.C. 119.

    I wonder if it would be susceptible to a challenge by one of the ministers from the less wealthy religions the opinion references who must take a housing allowance instead of employer-provided housing. Or maybe someone who lived in employer-provided housing that wasn’t mandatory and was therefore taxable could have a claim, but I can’t envision someone like that unless the situation was purposefully engineered to create a challenge to 107(1). Plus the court would probably just point to 119 and say, “there’s your secular equivalent.” I dunno, I’m not great shakes at standing.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Eric,

    I don’t see the distinction.

    I think the distinction is rather obvious.

    If the treasury is partially funding my charity by normal taxes you can vote for representatives who vow to stop the funding and remove my charity from the budget.

    On the other hand, if my charity files paperwork and is designated a non-profit by unelected officials, then there is nothing you can do about funding my charity–or at the very least your influence is far more remote.

    I agree. I’ll go further; I have no problem with a church operating a normal secular charity, and that secular charity receiving tax breaks. If the RCC wants to run a soup kitchen, let them start Soup Kitchen LLC as a non-profit arm, with separate tax books and the whole deal, and have that LLC get tax breaks for what they do.

    Again, here is the problem in my opinion.

    I give $1000 to my church. Some fraction goes to the pastor’s salary and the building, some fraction goes to feeding the poor. All $1000 is deductible.

    You give $1000 to Planned Parenthood (I am just using them as an example.) Some fraction goes to salaries, some to infrastructure, and some fraction to the services that are presumably what you actually want to fund. But all $1000 is deductible.

    Does your suggestion (if I follow) that the only the fraction of my $1000 that ends up as food be deductible extend to Planned Parenthood? Would only the fraction that actually makes it to health care services be deductible, and not the fraction that pays salaries or keeps their offices open and the heat on?

    It is just much cleaner if I give $1000 to my church and you contribute nothing, and you give $1000 to your charity and I contribute nothing. Anything where we are both compelled to contribute (such as national defense or funding entitlement programs) should be clearly stated budget items and funded by taxes for which our representatives are accountable.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    @heddle #13 – I would define a “legitimate charity” as one that provides a discernible benefit to the community. That is largely the definition used by the Internal Revenue Service. The problem I have is that religious organizations are considered provide a “discernible benefit” when no one is able to actually support that claim with facts. It enrages me that several non-profits I am involved in must meet elaborate requirements to prove that they are fulfilling their mission, while any charlatan can hang out a shingle that says “Religion” and be exempt from all that.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Gregory in Seattle

    while any charlatan can hang out a shingle that says “Religion” and be exempt from all that.

    That is indeed part of problem I want to see get fixed–I would only point out that non-profit charlatanism is not the sole purview of the religious. There are certainly secular groups that have gamed the system too. That’s one reason why would shouldn’t have this system in the first place.

    But it is more insidious than the question of “charlatans.” It is (at least in many cases– granted we probably all agree that food banks are good) a subjective values question. Let’s stipulate that charities A and B are run by decent people who try to superintend their contributions with strong ethics and best-practice accounting. It may simply be that I value what A does and not B, while you have the reverse opinion. Why should whichever of us who can contribute more and is in a higher tax bracket take money from the one who can contribute less–which is what t amounts to?

  • Matthew Harris

    Just a small correction, Ed. The lawsuit was about only part of the parsonage exemption, the one dealing with household expenses, not the housing itself. To get standing to challenge the law the FFRF gave both Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker $15,000 for their living expenses and then filed suit against the IRS for not allowing them to deduct that income on their taxes since they weren’t “ministers of the gospel”. To challenge the whole thing, FFRF would have had to buy them both a house as well, which they didn’t do. So the mega-church pastors get to keep their mansions tax-free but they can no longer deduct on their taxes the money they pay on a mortgage, interest, utilities, cable tv, phone, internet, etc.

    -Matt

  • Childermass

    corporal klinger:

    Sorry if this is a stupid question, but I really don’t understand why the IRS should appeal the court decision. I mean, it’s their duty to collect (and I suppose to increase) the tax revenue of the nation, right? Shouldn’t they be happy that this will undoubtly increase the tax revenue of the U.S? The way I understand it, it should have been the IRS who filed the lawsuit in the first place. Is it that the influence of the religious is really so big that nobody dared?

    No. No. No.

    The job of the IRS is not to increase tax revenue. That agency, like all agencies, exists serve the public and to uphold the laws passed by Congress. If that means getting less revenue, so be it. Their job is to get taxes collected correctly. If someone thinks some aspect of the tax law is unconstitutional, then if they have standing they can take it to court and the courts will decide. In such cases, government (or at least some part of it) will serve as defendant.

    —–

    As for this particular tax break. If it is only offered to religious organizations then it is clearly unconstitutional. That constitutional problem goes away if all nonprofits regardless of their nature can do it. Indeed, that might have been the best way to sue in this case: find some nonprofit that does provide housing or would like to but is denied tax benefits because they are not a church. Is there such a group? They would have standing.

  • tomh

    pita wrote:

    I’m not great shakes at standing

    No one is, not even the courts. I would think an employee who is furnished lodging as part of his salary, but who does not fall under 26 USC § 119, might have standing to challenge the exemption. 26 USC § 119 is rather specific – meals and lodging must be furnished for the convenience of the employer, and, “in the case of lodging, the employee is required to accept such lodging on the business premises of his employer as a condition of his employment. ” I would think there must be employees who don’t fulfill those requirements and therefore don’t qualify for the exemption. Seems like they could have standing.

  • colnago80

    Re Raging Bee @ #17

    Given the viciousness of the Fairfax flounder’ s attack, one might think that Heddle is a libertarian.

  • pita

    @tomh, #30

    I thought that something like that might work, but it feels like if a challenge of that nature came up, a court might read the requirements of 119 into 107, especially if the defense were to argue that the purpose of parsonages is to make sure that pastors have a place to host congregants after church hours during late-night spiritual crises or to make sure that pastors are available at all times in case of emergencies (both of which are valid arguments, I think). If a court were to find that 107(1) was meant to be read with the same requirements as 119, then it’s hard to see how someone could claim that they were in a similar enough situation to be harmed by not getting an exemption under 107 while not qualifying for an exemption under 119. And I think a court would follow that by saying it’s not an injury to have to use a different provision to authorize your exemption unless there was a real difference in how they were administered.

    That’s not to say that 107(1) is proper, but I just don’t see how it could be challenged.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Back in the mists of antiquity, when I was in college, I had a summer job that included room and board.

    I was TAXED for that room and board as if I had been paid enough to buy the food and room.

    Why should anyone be exempt just because they are preaching at a congregation instead of the far harder work of cleaning motel rooms or waiting tables?

  • eric

    Heddle @25:

    On the other hand, if my charity files paperwork and is designated a non-profit by unelected officials,…

    …then you have the exact same ability to petition your congresscritter to change the law or elect some new congresscritter to do it for you.

    You can’t seriously think that such designations are beyond the scope of the legislature’s authority, can you?

    I give $1000 to my church. Some fraction goes to the pastor’s salary and the building, some fraction goes to feeding the poor. All $1000 is deductible.

    You give $1000 to Planned Parenthood (I am just using them as an example.) Some fraction goes to salaries, some to infrastructure, and some fraction to the services that are presumably what you actually want to fund. But all $1000 is deductible.

    Does your suggestion (if I follow) that the only the fraction of my $1000 that ends up as food be deductible extend to Planned Parenthood?

    My suggestion is that your church has a separate nonprofit that it runs, which conducts all the poor-feeding. You write one check to your church (“First Calvinist” or whatever) in whatever amount you want. You write a second check to the Church’s nonprofit (“First Calvinist Soup Kitchen”), in whatever amount you want. The second is fully tax deductible, but not the first.

    Note that many many churches already operate like this, because they think it is moral and ethically proper to separate their charitable work from the upkeep associated with their parish and their pastor’s salary. My solution is not new at all; it’s merely a suggestion that the fed adopt as a standard legal practice what might currently be considered a voluntary best practice.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    If the treasury is partially funding my charity by normal taxes you can vote for representatives who vow to stop the funding and remove my charity from the budget.

    Only by changing the laws that govern the process — which means a public debate in which you and your charity’s supporters would be able to participate. (Any specific legislative attempt to shaft a particular organization would be a “bill of attainder” and thus unconstitutional.)

    On the other hand, if my charity files paperwork and is designated a non-profit by unelected officials, then there is nothing you can do about funding my charity–or at the very least your influence is far more remote.

    Again, the unelected officials would be working according to a process described by a law. And we’d all have the ability to influence the legislative process; and to hold said officials accountable for following or not following the law.

    Does your suggestion (if I follow) that the only the fraction of my $1000 that ends up as food be deductible extend to Planned Parenthood? Would only the fraction that actually makes it to health care services be deductible, and not the fraction that pays salaries or keeps their offices open and the heat on?

    No, all of the money that goes to the beneficial activity, directly (buying food or condoms) and indirectly (admin salaries, buildings, other support), would be deductible. There would, of course, have to be serious auditing in place to ensure that deductible donations are properly spent.

    …I would only point out that non-profit charlatanism is not the sole purview of the religious.

    Again, that’s what auditors are for — rooting out the frauds and fuckups. Which would have the added benefit of helping donors decide where best to give.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Actually, SLColnago, heddle’s lame-assed objections to charitable tax deductions are standard libertarian anti-government bullshit: government might do something less than perfectly, therefore we can’t bear to let it do it at all. It’s a standard reactionary objection that can be reflexively applied to ANY proposed policy.

  • tomh

    @ #33

    Why should anyone be exempt just because they are preaching at a congregation instead of the far harder work of cleaning motel rooms or waiting tables?

    Because in America, religion and those who preach it are privileged beyond all reason.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    heddle’s lame-assed objections to charitable tax deductions are standard libertarian anti-government bullshit: government might do something less than perfectly, therefore we can’t bear to let it do it at all.

    Really? I have never known objections to tax deductions (and not to taxes per se) to be “standard libertarian anti-government bullshit. That’s a new one.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    I agree with heddle AND Raging Bee (and several others).

    The problem is that everyone has a piece of it right.

    Churches AND NFP’s AND the rest of the business community should not be able pay their help or give them bennies which are untaxed–end of story.

    The problem with disallowing deductions or tax credits for charitable giving of ALL types is that the U.S. has a demonstrable lack of concern for it’s least well off residents/citizens–that is not a debatable issue.

    Every time I go shopping or to engage in debate at one of the local Drink’N’Debate venues in my area I am asked verbally or by flyers if I would like to help the homeless, poor children or those with medical/ancillary expenses resulting from uninsured healthcare costs. When that stuff is being covered by tax dollars (at least to a large extent) then we can look at not allowing people to donate with the. I’m photographing an event tomorrow evening that is a fund raiser for a young man’s family to help them defray uncovered medical/ancillary costs of his treatments for leukemia–and I’m told that his family has what is considered pretty decent healthcare insurance.

    The way we deal with our least well off is a sin, if you believe in the concept; if you don’t believe in sin, you probably believe in the benefit of delivering goods and services in the most efficient way possible–unregulated private charity is not usually the best in that regard.

  • eric

    [Bee]

    heddle’s lame-assed objections to charitable tax deductions are standard libertarian anti-government bullshit: government might do something less than perfectly, therefore we can’t bear to let it do it at all.

    [Heddle] Really?

    I’m not sure your source is libertarian specifically, but it’s definitely right-leaning. So yes, really. You don’t hear mainstream news sources blaming “unelected bureaucrats” for problems – that’s a catchphrase used by right-wing pundits and libs. Who did you hear that argument from? Rush? Beck?

    And you certainly don’t hear the mainstream claiming that Alice-the-corporate-tax-agent has some magical ability to not be accountable to Congress when adjudicating which 501(c)(3) doesn’t have to pay taxes, while Bob-the-personal-tax-agent is far more accountable to Congress when adjudicating which of your 501(c)(3) donations should be deductible. That’s crazy. Whether the money gets to them via deductions of their own taxes or deductions on your donations, the accountability structure is exactly the same: Congress delegates authority to the executive branch to implement the law, and intervenes when they think the executive branch is doing it wrong. Your input in both cases is through election of the legislative overseers.

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    Who did you hear that argument from? Rush? Beck?

    No, most often from my generally ultra liberal faculty colleagues. They will say, for example, ” I have a grant, I want to buy a computer. The paperwork worked its way up to Richmond where is was denied for for some trivial technicality by some yahoo.” Or, a real story, a faculty of mine who was driving around to local schools tutoring minority students on a small grant. She was told that she was not allowed to claim milage at 0.25/mile because the drives were less than 20 miles. So she could not charge what amounted to about $5 dollars. She could however, she was told rent a car for ~30$ each time (3 times a week, charged to her small grant, which would have been a big dent) each time. If you think liberals don’t scream about unelected bureaucrats (fairly or not) then you never had to see them deal with many.

    And what kind of argument is that? Who did you you hear that from? name some demon. Really? Since I never, ever listen to either one thing is certain: you listen to each at least as much as I do, and I’m betting more. What a really, really weak comeback.

    But go ahead. Along with RB, keep making the argument that my objection to the Pastor’s housing tax break and charitable donations including church contributions is right-wing lunacy. I’m sure you can sell that one.

  • eric

    And what kind of argument is that? Who did you you hear that from? name some demon. Really? Since I never, ever listen to either one thing is certain: you listen to each at least as much as I do,

    I don’t use phrases like “unelected bureaucrats.” You did. I suspect this is a point where we must disagree, as I think your claim that you picked up that phrase from your liberal fiends is ludicrous, while you think it’s ludicrous I would attribute that phrase to right-wing or libertarian sources. That’s fine; I’m okay with all tthe various lurkers and posters deciding which is more likely.

    keep making the argument that my objection to the Pastor’s housing tax break and charitable donations including church contributions is right-wing lunacy.

    IMO it is lunacy to think that Congress has little or no power over which charities qualify for tax breaks. It is lunacy to say that you, as a citizen, have “more say” in deciding how tax monies are spent as direct appropriations than you do in deciding on how tax deductions are qualified.

    Whether that lunacy is right-wing, left-wing, or so libertarian that you wrap around the back of the spectrum, I don’t care. You have yet to address this point. You have yet to give a cogent reason why you think that you, as a citizen, have more democratic control over tax expenditures than you do over tax deductions.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    They will say, for example…

    heddle, none of your examples are at all related to the right-wing bullshit talking-points you recited earlier. If you don’t want to answer eric’s question about where you got those blither-points, then don’t. Just don’t try to pretend you’re answering a question, because it’s just a waste of keystrokes — you’re not fooling anyone.

  • Wylann

    Matthew Harris@28:

    Baby steps (I hope that they target that one next).