After dropping coins in the Red Kettles last week and driving past the "thermometer" tracking the donations to the United Way, I've come to the realization that I am going to miss charity. I'm not talking about those seasonal campaigns, but the overall role that charity has played in our society for centuries-- and a role that will be shrinking in the future.
2013 will be the final year of non-profits as we have known them for generations. Starting in 2014--with the Individual Mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act going into effect--we will no longer need free medical clinics, like the one at Father Carr's Place 2 B here in Oshkosh. All of those served at Saint Francis will now have health insurance (paid for with federal subsidies) that they can use at the same clinics, hospitals and pharmacies that the "more fortunate" of us have been using for decades. The Tri-County Dental Clinic can retire their almost-brand-new $250-thousand mobile clinic--as the ACA mandates dental coverage for those under the age of 21. Those kids currently being served by the charity program at school, can now get excused absences to go the dentist's office just like their other classmates.
The days of the food pantry are numbered as well. The expansion of the Food Stamps program included in the latest version of the Farm Bill will give more of those currently needing food donated to them Quest Cards they can use at the grocery store--just like the rest of us. And with more kids enrolling in the Free and Reduced School Lunch and Breakfast program (which is now being run during summer vacation as well in some districts), low-income families have less need to cook meals at home.
Toys for Tots and the annual Oshkosh Fire Department Toy Drive will eventually wind down--as free contraceptives and guaranteed access to abortions decrease the number of children born out of wedlock to single mothers and families that can't afford to buy Christmas gifts. That is if Christmas is even still being celebrated a couple of generations from now.
And the biggest blow to charities will come in the inevitable tax code reform needed to fund our growing Federal and State Governments. The charitable donation write off is one of the items on the table for elimination as we look to close "the loopholes that the rich and corporations use to avoid paying taxes". I know it might sound callous, but a tax write off serves as a motivator for making charitable donations--and without it, many will be inclined to give less. Of course, we will be able to rationalize it by pointing to all of the programs I mentioned before and saying "I gave at the office".