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March 31, 2015 / 11 Nisan, 5775
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What is More Virtuous: Paying Taxes or Giving Charity?

Being forced to pay taxes does not make us more virtuous people. If it did, our founding fathers would have thanked George III for his coercion.
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And please, hold the arguments that more money in education means a better education. In my hometown of Englewood the school board spends approximately $23,000 per student, which is about double what the Jewish day schools in the area charge per child. Yet the failure rate in the public schools is much higher than the private schools.

I would much rather see philanthropists like the Adelsons, or Democratic mega-donors like George Soros, have a lower, fairer tax bill and give more money to education, medical research, and private initiatives to support the families of our troops. Charities usually spend their funds a lot more carefully than government and I salute the efforts that President Bush made to create greater synergy between government and faith-based initiatives.

Say what you want about George Soros (whom Axelrod neglected to mention would likewise save a bundle on lower taxes)  but he has donated hundreds of millions to Eastern European nations struggling to birth new democracies. Likewise, the Adelsons biggest critics never fail to acknowledge the hundreds of millions they have invested in holocaust education, medical research, Jewish education, and support for a tiny fledgling democracy called Israel which just happens to be America’s most stalwart ally in a region where America is increasingly despised and loathed.

Why David Axelrod would feel it’s such a mitzvah to pay higher and higher taxes is beyond me. The goal is to make taxes fair, equitable, and effective in addressing the nation’s needs. And that means controlling spending, not just raising taxes.

And here in America we have an incredibly proud and quite frankly humbling history of massive charitable giving. A few names, I am sure come quickly to your mind as they did me. Andrew Carnegie, for example founded an internationally respected institution of higher learning – Carnegie Mellon University. He set up at least four entities of giving that are still operating today – the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY); The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP); the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching(CFAT); The Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs (CCEIA). This was a man who’s giving was so monumental and historic that a prehistoric dinosaur was actually named after him – Diplodocus carnegiei.

J.D. Rockefeller gave countless dollars to promote education at all levels and for all people. He provided major founding to the Spelman College in Atlanta for African-American women in 1884.  He created the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913 giving  nearly $250 million to the foundation – truly a staggering amount of money for the times – which focused on public health, medical training, and the arts. It helped to create Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. It also reinforced and expanded the Peking Union Medical College in China into a credible institution of note.

As this is not a history lesson I will only mention a few more captains of industry that have left their mark on history and gave selflessly to better the world for all; Simon Guggenheim, and more recently Bill and Melinda Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Great philanthropy is what we should require of the super-rich rather than confiscatory taxation like the estate tax. This is just a short list of amazing giving and great men and women, but the list of people whose lives have been changed is beyond doubt countless.

Those who want to pay more taxes are welcome to. It’s a free country. But all of us need to push ourselves to give a lot more charity. Being forced to pay taxes does not make us more virtuous people. If it did, our founding fathers would have thanked George III for his coercion. But voluntarily giving more charity makes us more righteous, more noble, more caring, and more generous.

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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One Response to “What is More Virtuous: Paying Taxes or Giving Charity?”

  1. Edward Lobel says:

    Make no mistake about it, Rabbi shmuley is only interested in Rabbi shmuley! He is rich and still wants you to pay for educating his children in a private school.

    He is runnng for congress and is in favor of violating the U.S. Constitution's separetion of Church and State.

    The Rabbi seems to forget that one of the things that heled make this country as great as it is, is that it provides apublic school education to all it's citizens, paid with tax dollars. He also seems to forget that there is no tax collect from church's regardless of what religion the church participates in. Now he wants to destroy this very foundation by allowing public tax dollars to be used for private religious schools.

    He says that religious schools can educate children for a lot less than religious schools and while that may be true now, it would not be true if everyone sent their children to religious schools at public expense. Religous school teachers do not earn anywhere near what public school teachers earn and do not have to meet the standards od public school teachers. Many Catholic school teachers are nuns and literally work for free (not a bad thing, but when you try to compare costs, something that must be considered.) Are there really enough qualified teachers for religious schools?

    There is nothing wrong with a religious education but does the Catholic Church, the Muslim and Jewish schools teach the same kind of education? The Catholic schools will teach the new testimate which is far different from the Jewish old testimate, which is different from the koran. Will any of these schools teach the same history or science or perhaps bend them in the way that they want.

    Having the public pay for private religious school goes against everything this country stands for. I firmly believe that if the Rabbi wants to send his children to a Jewish day school, excellent idea, do I want to pay for it, NO!

    Did the Rabbi tell you he has accepted a very large political donation from shelly adelson? He mentions george soros as a larg contributor to politicians, but does not mention that shelly adelson can buy and sell george soros several times over.

    Yes both adelson and soros contribute large amounts of money to Jewish causes, and this is good, but right now only adelson is contributing obscene amounts of money to select people running for office and I would question why? He is not backing politicians based soley on their strong support of Israel as he contributes NO money to any democrat and there are many more democrats who are strong supportors of Israel, so you need to look further. He is under federal investigation for commercial bribery, a feloney, which if he ios found quilty, he will go to jail.

    He is hoping that if the repubs win they will stop the investigation, and this is not right. At least the hated koch brothers are honest (I think) in what they are trying to buy, by supporting repubs and tea baggers.

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