Compassion At The Point of A Gun

by on December 29th, 2004

Writing for the Pacific News Sevice San Francisco lawyer Robert S. Rivkin has come up with a plan in answer to the comments from United Nations humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland that rich countries are stingy when it comes to international disaster relief. His plan starts with agreeing with Egeland and building from there.

Considering that hundreds of billions of dollars will be needed over the next 10 or 20 years to rebuild the infrastructure in the 12 suffering nations, as well as the survivors’ lives, the $35 million in immediate disaster relief is merely a drop in an ocean of need. The private relief agencies cannot alone calm the waters of this ocean.

Why hasn’t the Bush administration shown some imagination in convincing the world that Americans really care and are prepared to make a small sacrifice to help victims of this astonishingly destructive natural calamity.

Mr. Rivkin thinks Americans should be more compassionate, and that if we are not willing enough to do it on our own, then we should be made to by the full force of the U.S. Government.

For example, the president could propose a flat $50 surtax applicable to every American tax return with an adjusted gross income of between $25,000 and $40,000; a flat $75 surtax on every tax return with an adjusted gross income between $40,000 and $80,000; $100 for incomes over $80,000, and so on. This small assessment for two years would produce many billions of dollars, which could be placed into a fund which would support infrastructure repair and development over a period of at least 10 years in the stricken countries.

Leaving aside the unlikelihood of a temporary tax, Mr. Rivkin seems to have forgotten that old bit of wisdom that charity begins at home. Charity does not begin with the prosecutorial authority of the IRS.

As of 10:00 pm EST, the Red Cross via has received 56,107 donations totaling $3,272,919.06. This is one source of funds going to one charity, and undoubtedly not the only avenue through which the Red Cross in receiving donations. The Command Post has an extensive list of organizations collecting donations for disaster relief.

Compassion and charity are individual values and individual choices. If Mr. Rivkin doesn’t think people are doing enough then he should try to convince them to give more. Beyond that he should open his checkbook and dig deeper. But keep the IRS out of it.

Stephen Macklin