Thursday, December 8, 2011


Christmas is around the corner and the U.S. government is handing out borrowed money like candy, with you as collateral. Some people do think government is Santa Claus, and bureaucrats are all to happy to perpetuate that myth. The United States government today is forcing you, the tax payer, to pick up the tab for the wealthy in ways the Founders never imagined.

Redistribution of wealth supposedly takes from the wealthy and hands it over to the poor. But our government is redistributing in strange and mysterious ways, hardly living up to the Robin Hood mythology Obama likes to conjure up. In fact, the concept is turned completely on its head in today's upsidedown world.

Recently, a very well-off local Dr. purchased 71 acres of land in our county. This Dr. sits on the board of a lands conservancy group. Well, what do you know? He then donates the land to the conservancy group and lands a nice, big fat, tax deduction for his generous donation. What is never brought to light is that you picked up the bill. He just moved the property tax burden to the remainder of the county citizens for all of the rest of land still being assessed taxes. Non-profit lands conservancy groups do not pay property taxes. Not only that, the land in question is taken out of any possible use for "perpetuity." Yes. That means "forever." So what happened to the availability of land for private use? It just became 71 acres more scarce. The theory of supply and demand tells you that the price of land just went up due to this scarcity. And you financed the whole transaction. How? By allowing this Dr. to transfer some of his tax burdens over to the rest of the population....and raise the property tax values at the same time, so you can pay more.

The tax deductions offered for this sort of transaction are many. Some are for property taxes, some for income taxes at different levels, locally, state, and federal. And here we are, in Gastonia and Gaston County paying some pretty stiff property taxes. And wondering why. Those of us still paying property taxes are making up the difference for guys like the doctor cited.

But it gets even better. We've gone from tax exempt status for non-profits to granting them lots of money. And when you hear about public / private partnerships, you might want to look into how many corporations have set up non-profit foundations in order to jump in on the tax benefits for the latest cause celeb. They are greasing all sides of the skids by taking donations and giving donations, AND soaking the taxpayer by getting government grant money. Nice work if you can get it, eh? And even better, our government is colluding with them.

Another curious example happened this past year involving the Carolina Thread Trail and the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. DSBG is owned by a private foundation and is supported by donations, as well as various activities DSBG sells, such as wedding receptions, groups tours, a gift shop, etc. The land owned by DSBG, and incorporated into the Garden, was not targeted for any kind of other development that I could find in research. The DSBG Foundation is a non-profit and already is afforded tax exempt status. Donations to DSBG are tax deductible. The land is contained by the Foundation that owns it. Yet, DSBG was all too happy to sell off part of its land to the Carolina Thread Trail to supposedly turn 2.3 miles of it into a "nature trail." This was a transfer of land from one non-profit to another. And what does that have to do with you? You paid $1.5 million dollars to purchase this "nature trail" from DSBG to hand over to the Carolina Thread Trail. And that amounts to $652,000.00 per mile you paid for a little walk through the woods. I'm not sure you can even access this trail without paying admission to the Garden. The $1.5 million grant came from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, supposedly to "protect" the water from development. But again, this land was not targeted for development anyway. ( Caveat here: I am a founding member of DSBG and I thought is was going to be continually a privately owned Foundation, separate from government funding. As a private foundation, and as a destination to enhance our county, I thought this would be a good thing, never dreaming our taxes would be confiscated to support it. And, I did not join DSBG for the purpose of tax deductions.) If that amount of money were not enough, there were posts with names of donors at the beginning of the trail when I walked it this past summer....donors who all took tax deductions for their contributions. I have no idea how much money they donated, but I recognized the names of several of them as locals known to have lots of money. And when you figure into the rest, that abstract unknown amount of money they took off their income taxes, you can add that to the pool of revenue going into this little venture.

Ducky! Well, speaking of ducky, I have another one for you in Mt. Holly. This one is called the Catawba River Greenway, previously known as the Mt. Holly Riverwalk. The city of Mt. Holly has secured $800,000.00 from the State Transportation Improvement Program for this little gem. Catawba River Views I don't know about you, but when I think of Transportation Improvements, I think of filling pot holes or widening roads. After all, the transportation budget gets money from our gas taxes. So one would think that, if the users pay for roads, then the gas taxes would go to roads. Instead, our gas taxes are being siphoned off for walking trails. Hmmmm...I guess walking is transportation, especially in high density inner cities where you really can't afford to park a car. In fact the Smart Growth and Sustainable Development crowd have made it mandatory that certain percentages of transportation money go to walking trails, bike trails and lanes, and light rail, which is so expensive that no one can afford it.

The greenway people are very clever. They have managed to put greenways in several different categories so they can draw grants from many different departments of government. First they say it is for protection of the environment, so that brings in EPA money. Then they say it protects the water, so that comes under the State Clean Water Management Fund. Then they say the trails are for recreation, so next they can get money from Parks and Recreation funds. And then, if that weren't enough, they figured out if they call these trails "transportation corridors," they can tap into the transportation money at the state and federal levels. I haven't found this yet, but why not put these trails under health and welfare, too? Might as well...and they probably will.

The non-profits supporting these tax breaks are closely related to the wealth management industry. Wonder why that is?? In fact, the last two directors of the Carolina Thread Trail came straight out of the banking industry to take the job with Carolina Thread Trail. The guy that is the CEO for The Nature Conservancy came straight from Goldman Sachs.

"Mark Tercek, President and CEO: Before joining The Nature Conservancy, Mark was a managing director at Goldman Sachs, where he played a key role in developing the firm’s environmental strategy. He headed the firm’s Environmental Strategy Group and Center for Environmental Markets, which worked to develop and promote market-based solutions to environmental challenges."

It is not a far stretch these days from non-profit wealth management to protecting that Christmas stocking fund for the rich. So Merry Christmas to the well-heeled! We paid a lot of green for their new walking shoes and tax shelters and .....fa la la!


  1. Meanwhile the Feds are taking over millions of acres. The CBS program "Sunday Morning" at the end of the year, has a segment, "Gifts we gave ourselves". The gifts usually are the inability to develop and use our natural resources. Quite some gift.

  2. You are right on target, Bunker. The grab is bigger than anything we've seen in the past. I am very sad to see this happening...mostly because unless there is some new homestead act, that land is going to be gone. They are doing this to get hold of natural resources, just as you are saying.... at monumental levels. Awful.