Throughout Donald Trump’s almost miraculous campaign trail for the 2016 election, the former real estate mogul attracted evangelicals. On the surface, this support doesn’t make much sense. Seemingly everything that Christians stand for, Trump doesn’t espouse in real life. You can look at the gawdy, perhaps arrogant architecture, his unlimited well of self-confidence, and the myriad “intimate” trysts.
But one of the biggest issues driving evangelicals is the pro-life movement. With the Democrats and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supporting abortion, that left Christians with little choice. In a theology framed in stark black and white contrasts (sin versus salvation), believers had to do something almost abhorrent: compromise their morals for the seemingly greater good.
However, once in office, President Trump really hasn’t made good on the issues for which Christians care deeply. All this talk about repealing Roe v. Wade hasn’t directly amounted to much. The closest that evangelicals have received is Trump’s conservative Supreme Court Justice appointments.
Still, that hasn’t stopped many Christians from pledging their support to Trump. Likely, this is because the President on the surface supports Christian interests. Yet the devil is in the details. While Trump may publicly endorse the Christian faith, his policies – such as the controversial tax cut – hurts components like charitable giving.
At a time when charitable giving has declined precipitously, Trump’s net impact toward the faith isn’t positive; instead, he’s gutting them from the inside out.
Under New Tax Law, Charitable Giving Has no Benefit
Prior to the tax law changes from the Trump administration, everyday workers had an incentive to give. This was especially true if the charitable giving was consistent and large, or if the taxpayer had other deductions; for most professionals, this would be real estate.
Every year, taxpayers would list their deductions – including charitable giving – in their Schedule A form. Typically, with other deductions in the picture, this would add up to a significant amount. Later, the taxpayer can take this total deduction and reduce their income exposure to taxation.
But with Trump’s new tax laws, the standard deduction has ramped up dramatically: it’s now $12,000 for single taxpayers, and $24,000 for married couples. Unless a family has an outsized mortgage or other massive deductions, it’s often better just to take the standard deduction.
Unfortunately, that disincentivizes charitable giving. Prior to the new tax law, the standard deduction was too low for many families; thus, they had an incentive to give to their church to reduce their taxable income later. But now, there’s no tax incentive; just a spiritual one.
Now, we all like to think that giving as an act of faith is crucial to most American Christians. But that’s just not true. And with the new changes in our tax code, Christians will probably give less, hurting the church even more.