Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in the June 17th issue, reports on Giving USA for 2009.  According to another monitoring agency, Empty Tomb, “religion” last year raised 100.95 billion dollars, which means that it represents 33 percent of all charitable giving.  
The public knows that the financial crisis and recession have hit philanthropy hard.  The big givers held back most:  Gifts in the over-one-million-dollar class were down 63.6 percent!  Giving to colleges and universities was down 17.8 percent and to hospitals, down 11 percent.  On such a scale, religion held up well.  Analysis of 1,247 religious organizations in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability showed giving was down only 3.7 percent there, all according to the Giving USA  reckoning.  Empty Tomb found that overall giving to religion, after inflation, was down only 0.3 percent.  
The first question about statistics is:  How accurate are they?  One gets the impression from the numerous people quoted in the several Chronicle articles that a) they recognize the surveyors as conscientious, their methods ever-improving, their intentions good, b) but the results are not fully trustworthy.  Many observers think that the decline in most of the areas, including religion, the “least-declinist,” is more steep than reported.  It has certainly been steeper than that at St. Mark’s.

The analysts look at annual reports and balance sheets of religious organizations, most of which have had to cut back on personnel and projects because there are smaller funds with which to work.  They talk to development officers and financial stewards and draw the conclusion that almost across the board, there’s been a decline of more than 0.3 percent.  You might say that the professionals can “feel it in their bones,” trading anecdotes, looking in the mirror, and reading e-mails about unemployed relatives who, no matter where their heart is, cannot keep up with pledges or match those from earlier years. Again, our experience at St. Mark’s would confirm their intuitions.
Joblessness, market jitters, and other factors can take a spiritual toll.  It is also important to see where priorities are.  Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council, rightly says that “the impact of the recession has been spotty.  Rescue missions and child-sponsor groups in many cases have done well, while others are impacted more significantly.”  Favorite causes and those which have commanded loyalties over the years fare best.
In the Great Depression, many religious groups suffered a great depression, so in this Great Recession it is natural for many groups to experience some, if not great, recession.  But comparing international and local cultural trends, one can only conclude that great numbers of Americans, including many supporters of the mission and ministry of St. Mark’s, moved by their faith, can be counted on.
Marty Martin, June 21 “Sightings”. http://bit.ly/9GuzI6


Average Federal Tax Burden

The Heritage Foundation averages the federal tax burden as a percentage of GDP at 18.2% over the past 30 years. That would seem to be a reasonable target. The tax burden is presently 14.8%.

see http://www.heritage.org/budgetchartbook/current-tax-receipts

Federal Tax Revenue as a Percentage of GDP

I believe on of the best ways to gauge whether or not we are over-taxed is to look historically at federal tax revenue as a percentage of GDP. As you can see, according to this chart, we are below average and thus due for an increase.

The question that must be answered is how best to increase taxes. A net worth tax would be a progressive (as opposed to regressive) solution.

Time for a Net Worth Tax?

Two systemic problems in our current economic configuration: Some do not save enough. Some do not spend enough.

Saving more improves personal balance sheets, and makes more money available for investment. After a decade of over consumption for those of below average net worth, Americans are beginning to save more.

The downside to saving more, however is that consumer spending by this group will not be the robust engine of U.S. economic growth that it has been in the recent past.

Want to encourage consumption by those who can afford it (given the importance of consumer activity to the economy)? Want to encourage saving by those who don’t save? Tax net worth above the national average at a progressively higher rate. Those below the national average would pay no net worth tax and those above would pay progressively more. 50th percentile maybe 0.01% (marginal rates) of net worth, 75th percentile maybe 1% of net worth, 99th percentile maybe 2 percent of net worth.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Bishop's Consecration

 Recording of webcast available online

Those who were unable to view the webcast of Bishop Terry White's consecration as the bishop of Kentucky on Saturday because of Internet difficulties, and those who were there but just want to watch it again, you will find a recorded version posted online.  Kudos goes to Carlile Crutcher, our videographer, who worked into the wee hours of Sunday morning, to get the webcast recording up by Sunday afternoon.

The video quality at the start may be a bit rough, but it does improve as it progresses. Since its posting, so far 71 people have uploaded the video.

DVDs of service
Those with slow or no Internet connection may still be able to view the consecration in a few weeks. A polished, archival version is being produced by the diocese, and DVDs will be available for a small fee to cover the duplication cost. (The price will not exceed $10; it may cost slightly less, depending upon the total number requested).   If you wish to make arrangements to obtain a DVD, contact Mary Jane Cherry, Communications Director, Diocese of Kentucky, at maryjane@episcopalky.org or 502-584-7148.

Other places to visit online
Throughout the weekend, photographers took hundreds of photos during pre-consecration events on Friday, the consecration on Saturday, and the new bishop's seating on Sunday. If you go to the diocese's home page (www.episcopalky.org), you will find links to the photos as well as to copies of the consecration service bulletin, the sermon given by the Rev. Canon Susan Sommer, and photos, a story about Bishop White's seating at the cathedral on Sunday, Sept. 26, and a copy of his sermon, the first given in the Diocese of Kentucky.