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Tuesday, Jan 8, 2008, 8:29 am

Taxes vs. Charity

By Adam Doster
Exhibit A on why charity can't be substituted for progressive taxation.
The shift from public money to private wealth in shaping the nation’s cities is evident in national data. Government outlays on physical infrastructure have declined to 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product, from 3.6 percent in the 1960s. Philanthropic giving, in contrast, has jumped to nearly 2.5 percent of G.D.P., from 1.5 percent in 1995 and 2 percent in the ’60s.

And why does this matter?

Philanthropic spending adds mainly to the nation’s stock of hospitals, libraries, museums, parks, university buildings, theaters and concert halls. Public infrastructure — highways, bridges, rail systems, water works, public schools, port facilities, sewers, airports, energy grids, tunnels, dams and levees — depends mostly on tax dollars. It is hugely expensive and the money available, while still substantial, has shrunk as a share of the national economy.

Adam Doster, a contributing editor at In These Times, is a Chicago-based freelance writer and former reporter-blogger for Progress Illinois.

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