May 26, 1961

Page 9130


Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, all of us, as citizens of a free society, deplore the callous attitude of Fidel Castro and his Government toward human life. We are revolted by his offer to exchange human life for tractors. There are many ways in which we, as American citizens, may respond to this situation. One appropriate means is through the voluntary contribution program which has been undertaken under private sponsorship. The President, displaying his usual humanitarian concern, has urged Americans to contribute to this fund.

I join the President in endorsing this humanitarian approach to a very difficult and harsh problem.

At the same time, there is one point on which I must disagree with him. This disagreement is on the question of providing a tax deduction for such contributions. While such a policy may be defended as recognizing a charitable contribution, it has certain basic weaknesses.

First, the granting of a tax deduction amounts to a subsidy for the fund and immediately makes the Government a party to the program. This tends to muddy the waters as it would detract from humanitarian interests promoting such a program.

Second, the tax deduction dilutes the concept of a charitable and humanitarian contribution by making such a contribution a vehicle for reducing individual tax costs. The motives of contributors may then be treated as suspect by propagandists in other areas of the world.

Finally, since such a tax deduction would involve the Government officially, it subjects the Government to the criticism of submitting to blackmail by Castro. This is not desirable as national policy and it is not helpful in terms of world reaction. There can be no objection to the individual unselfish acts of those who wish to contribute to the saving of human lives. There can be objection to the payment of ransom by the state.

As a voluntary program, the contributions for purchase of tractors is in the best tradition of our Nation. As an official Government policy, it would be an unfortunate move, no matter how noble the motives which inspired it.