The Pressing Immediacy for Change

By October 20th, 2013

Immediacy of Need for Change – Impact of Incompetence and Power of Greed – Redefining the Role of the Individual – Dangers In Delegating Decisions to Experts and Academics – Charitable Giving in U.S. – As Percentage of Income and As Percentage of GDP – Amount of U.S. Charitable Giving in Year 2011


by Mack W. Borgen

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The Pressing Immediacy for Change

There is a certain immediacy for change. There is a need for Americans to step up and step forward. Now. America cannot expect or await the arrival of a unifying force or a savior. For numerous reasons beyond the scope of this writing, the ages of the great presidents and the ages of the common (and easily identifiable) enemy (as seen during World War II and the Cold War) have long since passed.

The reasons for this pressing immediacy for our “stepping up and stepping forward– now”  can be easily  found in the last decade alone. The last decade has been especially brutish and destructive to both the tone and the substance of our political and economic lives. But the last decade has also been usefully instructive.

In numerous contexts the last decade has reminded us, once again, of the imprudence in relying blindly upon the statements, the exhortations and promises of others. We have all been reminded of the importance of carefully considering the wisdom, the motives, and the actions of our leaders and advisors. It has reminded us all of the impact of incompetence, the power of greed, and the danger of entrusting our finances, for example, to even the most well-meaning of our political or economic leaders.  For some, but not all, it has reminded us of the irresponsible rage and misguided anger which can emanate form the talking (and shouting) heads of radio or television. For too many Americans, it has reminded us of the proximity of fear and the stubborn, constant presence of evil.

The last decade has also reminded us of the risks and boundaries of delegation. It has reminded us of the risks attendant to simply assigning our problems to the professionals. While there is much to be learned from and critical roles to be played by experts and academics, the last decade has well-reminded us of the dangers of delegating our decision-making to the deep, but sometimes narrow and even conflicted, thinking of such experts or academics. Some changes need to be made.

Civility needs to be encouraged and must eventually be restored. Even in the context of deadly serious subjects, good will, graciousness, and sometimes even the lightness of humor, must be injected into our national conversation. They have all been too long sorely missed in our rushed, hectic, bottom-line, speed-driven, sober-faced, grumpy society. Above all, we must recognize the relevance of reason, and with purposeful commitment, we must individually reclaim our country — one informed vote at a time; one pay-it-forward, act of kindness at a time, one expression of caution or encouragement at a time; one display of wisdom, leadership and guidance to others at a time. These are tasks best taken by individuals, by families and by communities — and they cannot be and will never be adequately expressed or achieved by political parties, by legislative bodies or by distant associations.

Excerpted from Borgen, M. The Relevance of Reason – Business and Politics (2013), pp.16-17.

The Fact of the Day

Charitable Giving in the U.S. As Percentage of Disposable Income and GDP. 

The charitable giving percentage in the United States since 1971 has remained highly consistent at appr. 2% of disposable income, regardless of marginal tax rates, which during this period have varied form a low of 28% in 1989 to a high of 70% in 1974.  Similarly, charitable giving has remained at a steady appr. 2% (1.7% – 2.3%) as a percentage of GDP. Dennis, K., The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2012, citing data from Giving USA Foundation. But see, The Week, April 5, 2013, p. 16, citing The and Harper’s Index, Harper’s Magazine, June, 2013, p. 15, citing Chronicle of Philanthropy, a Washington, DC-based bi-weekly magazine that reports on matters of interest in and to nonprofit organizations and their leaders. According to these cites there is a variance of charitable giving as between people of varying marginal tax rates. As of 2011, the lowest 20% of Americans donated appr. 3.2% of their income to charity as compared with 1.3% (appr. 60% less) of high income individuals. While the percentages vary due to the definition of the compared income categories, this variance pattern parallels that as reported in Harper’s Index. Harper’s Index reported that Americans with annual incomes over $200,000 denoted appr. 4.2% of their income while Americans between $50,000 and $100,000 gave a substantially higher percentage — 6%. This 6.0% to 4.2% differentiation is 43% variance compared with the 60% variance as reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The total estimated charitable giving in the U.S in 2011 increased by 4% over CY 2010 to $298BB. Fowler, G., The Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2012, citing data of the Giving USA Foundation.

Borgen, M., The Relevance of Reason – Society and Culture (2013), p. 279.

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