On Dec.14 our president cried, telling us of the tragedy that killed twenty-seven people in Newtown, Conn. Twenty were children. Many others also wept at the school. Some were parents, relatives and friends of the victims. Others were first responders or just people who were passing by. The aftermath of the scene was evil magnified.
Every time we look at documented statistics of the many mass shooting deaths in our country we are always given a body count. Especially noted are the victims who are children. It makes us feel grief from the depths of our souls. We all feel the shame that these children could not have been better protected by our society, our security systems and our laws. We also look at statistics of more than 50 million abortions committed in our country. These were also children. Breathing, heart-beating babies who received the right to life by our own government in our own Constitution of the United States. Where are all the tears for them?
Our present, past or future presidents will no doubt not shed a tear for them. They and our jurists on the Supreme Court will not shed a tear for them. So now we have more of that evil to deal with in our lives. It won't go away by hope alone. We have to change our ways. We must stop this killing of our children. In our schools and in our wombs. We must put a stop to our evil ways and protect all our children. It will take a change of hearts and minds for many of us. We can do this. We must do this or this type of severe evil will prevail and remain in us.
We need to give support with God's forgiveness to those who have made the wrong choice in the past and make it clear to them and all others that only life is the right choice now and in the future. Then goodness will prevail.
Locally and throughout Pennsylvania, charities and nonprofits are seeking the help of the state's Congressional delegation in maintaining the federal Charitable Tax Deduction. The deduction is critical to charitable initiatives that help the commonwealth's most vulnerable citizens.
As efforts are made to avoid the economic fiscal cliff, several proposals have been floated in Washington to impose a limit on charitable deductions as a potential short-term revenue solution.
The United Way is concerned about any proposal that may ultimately produce policies that disproportionately impact those least able to help themselves.
Research suggests that a cap on the charitable deduction could reduce charitable giving by as much as $7 billion a year. This would come on top of the nearly $20 billion decrease in giving since the economic downturn began in 2007. Nonprofits have been feeling the strain of reduced funding and increased human service need for many years.
In 2010, 1.9 million Pennsylvania residents (31 percent) filed itemized returns with over $5.8 billion in charitable deductions. The average contribution was $3,048.The charitable deduction is a powerful incentive and its relevance can be seen in the timing of when contributions are made.
It is well recognized that many people wait until the holiday season and the end of the year to donate. A 2011 year-end giving survey found that charitable groups on average receive 41 percent of annual contributions during the last few weeks of the year. Moreover, more than 22 percent of online donations between 2003 and 2009 were made on Dec. 30 and 31, underscoring the extent to which tax implications guide donor behavior.
Agencies in our community and non-profits across the Commonwealth rely heavily on charitable support to accomplish their mission. In light of continual federal and state budget cuts that have diminished the capacity of nonprofits to serve those in need, charitable support is incredibly and increasingly more important.The United Way urges Pennsylvania's Congressional delegation to avoid cuts in programs that help meet basic needs and preserve the charitable deduction's powerful incentive for giving.
We were shocked and saddened along with the rest of the nation by the shooting deaths of 20 school children and six adults in Newtown, CT. In recent years we have experienced similar collective pain, disbelief and outrage all too often following mass shootings in Aurora, Oak Creek, Tucson and Nickel Mines. However, in the past we have failed to take action to try to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
We recognize that there are no simple solutions. The social conditions that contribute to causing tragedies such as this are incredibly complex. Nevertheless, we agree with President Obama when he said We can't tolerate this anymore. But words are not enough. At the current rate, 48,000 Americans will be murdered by gunshot during the remainder of President Obama's term. Worse, in recent years, American children ages 5 to 14 are 13 times more likely to be murdered by gunshot, than in all other industrialized countries. That is shameful and simply intolerable!
The undersigned members of the Steering Committee and Supporters of the Interfaith Resource Center for Peace and Justice (The Peace and Justice Center) agree with the national Coalition of Mayors against Illegal Guns, the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, and the survivors and family members of victims of gun violence in demanding that our elected officials in Washington, D.C. take immediate and decisive action to reduce gun violence across the nation. We praise Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton for joining his fellow mayors in this quest.
We stand ready to support and participate in any comprehensive and decisive initiative that we believe can effectively reduce the gun violence that threatens the lives of all members of our society. At a minimum, we believe that access to Semi-Automatic and Assault Weapons must be drastically curtailed and restricted. We are also writing to Senators Casey and Toomey, and Representatives Barletta and Marino and Representative-elect Cartwright. We look forward to learning how they intend to provide leadership to protect their constituents.
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Dennis Shovlin Back Mountain Bill Jones President/CEO, United Way of Wyoming Valley The Steering Committee and Supporters of The Peace and Justice Center David Doty, Brad Kurlancheek, Margarita Rose, Elly Miller, Linda Puchalski, Rebecca Wolfe, Kathy Jenkins, Rodrigo Gereda, Rita Skechus, Diane Smith