Don Keelan: The coming tsunami of nonprofits

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This commentary is from Don Keelan, a retired public accountant and Arlington resident.

Bernie Sanders, US senator from Vermont and leading US socialist, reached his goal of 50 years in Washington, DC. Reconciliation bill.

The bill, in draft form, was passed by the House of Representatives in August on a vote of 220-212 and has yet to be passed by the US Senate. In his role as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Sanders is delighted and lets us all know it. He only needs 50 votes in the Senate to complete his five-decade odyssey of America’s conversion to socialism.

The BRB, if passed – and it appears to be – will provide hundreds of billions of dollars for programs such as universal kindergarten for 3 and 4 year olds; childcare for working families; community college tuition-free; funding for historically black colleges and universities; and an expansion of the Pell grant for higher education. According to NPR’s August 9 post, $ 726 billion will be allocated to such programs.

NPR says the bill will include an additional $ 107 billion to help “legal permanent status for skilled immigrants.” I thought the aforementioned $ 833 billion was more than enough, but it wasn’t.

An additional $ 332 billion will be allocated to housing and equity; $ 198 billion for the development of clean energy; and $ 135 billion to fight drought issues, forest fires and reduce carbon emissions. If you keep the score, that’s about $ 1,498 trillion, with an additional $ 2 trillion for other programs.

How much of the $ 3.5 trillion will go to Vermont? Billions, and that’s where the problem lies. Government agencies in the state of Vermont are unable to oversee the spending of such amounts. Thus, there is a need for a major expansion of Vermont’s existing nonprofit organizations and the creation of more partitions.

A brief diversion: In the early 1930s, the number of nonprofits in the United States was insignificant. Then two things happened: the New Deal and WWII changed the paradigm forever. Go forward 25 years to the mid-1960s, when there were about 600,000 registered nonprofits. Many were born of what was called the “Great Society”. Today, the number of associations is estimated between 1.5 and 1.7 million.

In Vermont, the list of nonprofit organizations registered with the Secretary of State’s office is approximately 6,000, not all of which are active or substantial in any way. But what is important is the sheer amount of state government work delegated to state not-for-profit corporations.

The State Housing Finance Agency, which represents nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, is a not-for-profit organization located in Burlington and managed by directors. Ditto for the state mental health delivery system, managed by 14 regional nonprofit mental health organizations. Bennington County’s $ 20 million agency is called United Counseling Services, and it also has a board of directors.

When Green Mountain Power charges you a percentage each month for energy efficiency, it does not send the funds to the state but to Efficiency Vermont, a nonprofit in Burlington.

Add the recent growth of several new, not-for-profit cottage industries. Experts in diversity, inclusion and equity are one, and law enforcement is looking at another. At least a dozen communities in Vermont currently have their policing policies reviewed by nonprofit organizations.

And don’t forget that there is a new generation of nonprofits that see themselves as experts on climate change and are ready to come forward to advise municipalities and businesses.

If this is the landscape today, where so many state government operations are delegated to nonprofits, imagine what will happen when the BRB funds are transferred to Vermont.

What status will the Vermont voter have when state spending is not made by state agencies, but by a seconded nonprofit?

Forget about a career in business, trades or the professions; nonprofits are the future. Just follow the money.


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