Altar Ego

You know the guy I’m talking about. The one who is the first to get up and implore, cajole and nudge others to give to a worthy cause. He doesn’t give much himself but agrees to use his good name as an endorsement. I say that this type of hornswaggler has an Altar Ego.

A non-profit organization gets desperate to make ends meet. They use the Altar Egotist who employs a catchphrase such as ”Give until it hurts!” to ring your emotional chime. Except that I can quote economic scripture, too, and my favorite verse is “Charity begins at home”. I’m not saying that all these fundraisers are dirty rotten scoundrels. What I am saying is that it is not right to put people into a tough money-spending decision-making quandary. I’ve noticed that well-intentioned souls leave millions of dollars for medical research or for a new study program at a university. That’s very nice, indeed. But how many people would have been clothed and fed if the donor had given a million less for their name on a building or wall and to soup kitchens instead?

Some people are quick to give big bucks for a new fancy place of worship rather than make do with a lesser facility. Sure, everyone wants to pray in a nice place and to brag to their friends, relatives and acquaintances how they helped make it so. But, at what price glory?

My feeling is that Mr. Altar Ego should put up his own money AND shut up. The rest of us can measure guilt feelings on our own and act accordingly.

As long as we are at it, it is not just the private sector sticking out the feeding hand and pushing the never-ending request for dough. I heard on the radio that a state university has announced that they are raising tuition another six hundred and fifty dollars for next year. The cavalier announcement treats families with college age kids as if with the snap of the finger it is easy for the parents to come up with an extra six hundred dollars or so after taxes. Or to make them feel like two cents (before taxes) because they have to beg for a larger scholarship. And where does the scholarship money come from? The answer- mostly state government appropriations. And where does that come from? I presume taxes. How about we lower the taxes so that parents with college students will have extra money burning a hole in their pockets and then they don’t need such a large scholarship.

I realize I am oversimplifying the situation and that I have benefited from monetary handouts, as well. During my freshman year in college starting in Fall, 1970, tuition was $97.50 a trimester. It was expected I go two trimesters a school year or if I wanted to finish college sooner, I could go to all three. In today’s world, less than one hundred dollars tuition sounds like chicken feed but I was paying my own way because there were three other kids in the house going to private school. Dad took the attitude that he was only obligated up to a certain age to pay for our schooling. As it turned out, years later my kid brother, fourteen years my junior, was the last to leave the nest and he was spoiled and received my parent’s largesse. C’est La Vie.

Luckily, a good neighbor friend from across the street pointed out to Ma that I could apply for a State Scholarship Grant that had nothing to do with grades but financial need. Usually Dad was reluctant to tell strangers about his economic status, but this time he fully cooperated. And I received the Grant for the final three years at school. By the time I officially graduated in April of 1974, tuition had jumped to over two hundred dollars a trimester, or double in four years.

More than thirty five years later, tuition is probably at least fifteen times what I paid then, if not more. It is outrageous that hikes in costs are not parallel to the typical annual take-home salary for even two working spouses. By my calculation, the average breadwinner is making five times what one made in the early 1970s. A State University should not charge more than fifteen hundred dollars a year.

What’s the use, huh? Well I’ll tell you- The State of Illinois is now going to enforce a law that has been on the books since 1955, the collection of Use Tax, which is 6.25%. When an Illinoisan purchases something over the Internet from out of state, even though he doesn’t pay sales tax on it, he is supposed to pay Use Tax. The State Government is even thinking of automatically charging everyone here a presumed Use Tax to cover anything that typically would be purchased out of state based on a person’s income bracket.

The State Government is full of Altar Ego people who like to take our money for the sake of good causes that they deem important. Yep, it sure is full of it.

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