Monday, March 23, 2009

House Passes GIVE Act

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a "human capital" stimulus bill for nonprofit organizations.  The GIVE (Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education") Act "would create an array of new volunteer projects" according to a recent Chronicle of Philantropy news report.  If you thought the tax code was full of complexity derived from simple ideas (take a look at Section 170, a provision intended to just give people a deduction for giving to charitable organizations), wait til you see this bill.  Not that I agree with all the naysayers and silly critics who claim the government is "usurping volunteerism."  But sheeesh, do we need all of this verbiage and over legislation to convey a simple notion?  I am just a bit frustrated that I can't really give an informed outline of the bill because it is so long and takes up so many pages and cross references just to say "we will give you college assistance and other benefits if you do something good for the community."  It would take days to read and comprehend this bill!  Here is just one gem -- a gem that actually has some relevance to the meaning of a "scientific research organization" for purposes of tax exemption (since it is sometimes the case that an issue arises over whether an organization is "scientific" or not):

The term ‘principles of scientific research’ means principles of research that—

‘‘(A) applies rigorous, systematic, and objective methodology to obtain reliable and valid knowledge relevant to education activities and programs;

‘‘(B) presents findings and makes claims that are appropriate to and supported by methods that have been employed; and

‘‘(C) includes, as appropriate to the research being conducted— N

‘‘(I) use of systematic, empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;

‘‘(ii) use of data analyses that are adequate to support the general findings;

 ‘‘(iii) reliance on measurements or observational methods that provide reliable and generalizable findings;

‘‘(iv) strong claims of causal relationships, only with research designs that eliminate plausible competing explanations for observed results, such as, but not limited to, random assignment experiments;

‘‘(v) presentation of studies and methods in sufficient detail and clarity to low for replication or, at a minimum, to offer the opportunity to build systematically on the findings of the research; 

‘‘(vi) acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal or critique by a panel of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective, and scientific review; and

‘‘(vii) consistency of findings across multiple studies or sites to support the generality of results and conclusions.

It just seems like something else is going on here, something other than just encouraging high school and college students to give back to the community.  It seems like an effort to bolster some other argument, perhaps relating to creationism or stem cell research or some other social argument.  I may or may not agree with the hidden agenda, but I can at least disagree with the hiding of the agenda.  Or maybe I am just being cynical.  Anyway, here is an audio report on the bill from NPR.


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