The famous Guggenheim Museum began as a private collection. (Blog 2/20/17) An admirer of the old masters, Solomon R. Guggenheim was weaned away from them by a friend who took him to see the work of Vasily Kandinsky. That was the beginning of a love affair with modern art and Guggenheim’s apartment was soon bursting with the works of Chagall, Picasso and Delaunay. In 1937, he created the foundation that would explode as benefactors added another 2,000 pieces to the inventory. (“The Givers,” by Leena Kim, Town&Country, March 2017, pg. 69.)
Charitable giving allows the wealthy to benefit both themselves and society, thanks to generous offsets to their taxes. That generosity exceeds $373 billion a year and represents 2% of the Gross National Product (GDP), according to writer, Richard Farley. In fact, the 400 highest earning Americans make 7% of all charitable gifts. (“The Party Crash,” by Richard Farley, Town&Country, March 2017, pg. 74.)
As Farley observes, that cozy relationship between charitable giving and taxes may soon hit a brick wall, if Donald Trump has his way. The President proposes to reduce the cap on charitable write-offs, which now stand at 50%, to $200,000 per couple. The change could represent a $17.6 billion reduction in giving annually. (Ibid, pg. 74.) C. Eugene Steuerle of the Center for Non-profits and Philanthropy at the Urban institute, states the obvious if that happened: “Caps of this type adversely affect charitable giving more than anything else.” (Ibid, pg. 74.)
Will Trump succeed where his predecessor, Barrack Obama failed? Farley predicts not. The charitable groups in DC are among the most the most vocal and well-organized. As Steuerle, a seasoned observer of the politics of charity remarks, it would be unwise to bet against the power of well-heeled do-gooders.