Sunday, August 26, 2007

Time To Tax Columbia University & Other NYC "Non-Profit" Institutions?

New York City’s Plutocratic Mayor Bloomberg may claim his government doesn’t have money to provide: 1. high-wage jobs for the unemployed; 2. subsidies for workers’ co-ops; 3. tax relief for alternative businesspeople and small homeowners; 4. apartments for the homeless; 5. rent roll-backs for tenants; 6. fare reductions for subway and bus passengers; 7. a restoration of free tuition at CUNY for students; and 8. steady work for musicians, writers, artists and community activists. Yet the “non-profit” sector of New York City’s economy that includes Columbia University has been loaded with money for many years. As an early 1990s book by Robert Finch, The Assassination Of New York, observed long ago:

“The total budget of the city’s non-profit sector in 1989--$32 billion—well-exceeded the city budget. The non-profits, chiefly foundations, universities, voluntary hospitals, churches own about six percent of the city’s $400 billion property roll—yet they pay no taxes…Why have laws regulating political contributions at all, if by means of foundations, they can be easily evaded—just by calling them `philanthropy’? Why, for example, should the Rockefellers, through the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund be able to give unlimited amounts of money to city government and community organizations to promote their real estate interests?...What does `non-profit’ mean when the average non-profit executive director’s salary in New York is upwards of $175,000 [in 1989] …At a minimum, there should be a stiff wage tax on non-profit executives who make more than the mayor.” [unless the mayor happens to be a billionaire plutocrat from Massachusetts].
(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 1/8/97)

Besides making big money in the 1990s from its Manhattan real estate investments, Columbia University pocketed over $29 million in foundation welfare grants per year during the 1990s. Other top recipients of foundation grants in New York State in the mid-1990s were the following tax-exempt institutions: NYU ($18 million); Rockefeller University [$6.5 million); Ms. Foundation for Women ($5.8 million); WNET/Channel 13 ($5.8 million); Council on Foreign Relations ($5.4 million); Yeshiva University ($5.2 million); CUNY Research ($4.9 million); and Barnard College ($4.4 million).
(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 2/12/97)

The MacArthur Foundation also gave a grant of $175,000 to Columbia University’s Anthropology Department in 1992 to subsidize Columbia University’s Indonesian project when Indonesia was still under the control of the U.S.-backed Suharto dictatorship. Coincidentally, a Columbia University trustee at that time named Margaret Ellerbe Mahoney also sat on the board of directors of the MacArthur Foundation which approved the $175,000 philanthropic grant that was given to Columbia’s “needy” Anthropology Department.
(Downtown/Aquarian Weekly 1/8/97)

Next: “Non-Profit” Columbia University Teachers College’s Assets Increased By $12 Million In 2005