Smashing the Charity Stereotypes
The New York Times asked, “Are we cheap?” Liberals give their opinions on that.
“Yes,” they say. Former President Carter recently said the rich states “don’t give a damn” about people in poor countries. And when it comes to helping the needy in poor countries, U2 singer Bono says, “It’s the crumbs off our tables that we offer these countries.”
Crumbs because many other countries, such as Norway, Portugal and Japan, give a larger share of their wealth to needy countries.
The United States gave out $20 billion in foreign aid last year, but as a percentage of our wealth, we rank 21st out of the 22 major donor countries.
Actress Angelina Jolie is horrified by it.
“It’s disgusting. It really is disgusting,” she said. “I think most American people, you know, really do think we give more. And I know that they would if they could understand how little they give and how much more we can afford to give, absolutely, without even noticing it.”
But what these folks are ignoring is that America is one of the most generous countries in the world when you look at how we take personal responsibility for our charity. As much as the general consensus has inched more and more towards the idea that it’s the government’s job, a very large segment of our population understands that “rugged individualism” not only means being personally independent but also means taking personal responsibility for the needy, and not shoving it off onto some other group or institution. Predictably however, those who do gauge things by institutional or governmental charity are blind to the reality of the generous America.
Carol Adelman at the Hudson Institute has studied how much Americans give privately in foreign aid. She says it’s a myth that Americans are stingy.
“We’re one of the most generous people in the world, and that’s because of our private philanthropy,” she said.
Adelman published her findings in the institute’s “Index of Global Philanthropy,” which found that while the U.S. government gave about $20 billion in foreign aid in 2004, privately, Americans gave $24.2 billion.
On top of that, immigrants in America send about $47 billion abroad to family members and home towns. That’s anything but stingy.
After the tsunami two years ago, the U.S. government pledged approximately $900 million to relief efforts, but American individuals gave $2 billion in food, clothing and cash.
So America’s individuals send out more than three times cash that the government does, and continue to give when tragedy strikes. This is not a portrait of a stingy country; that is, if you see the whole picture. And of course, there’s more to charity than just cash.
The fact that most of America’s charitable gifts come from volunteers, not government, demonstrates that Americans are different from people in every other country.
“No other country comes close,” said Arthur Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University. Brooks studies charitable giving and has a new book, “Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide.”
“The fact is that Americans give more than the citizens of any other country. … They also volunteer more,” Brooks said. “Americans per capita individually give about three and a half times more money per year, than the French per capita. … Seven times more than the Germans and 14 times more than the Italians.”
“Now, you might notice that these other countries have different average incomes or different tax systems,” he said. “But even when you take that into account, Americans give 10 times more than the Italians. The fact is, that Americans give on a different scale than anybody else in the world.”
The problem with America’s reputation comes from its a self-appointed “ambassadors”, like Carter, Bono and Jolie, who complain that we don’t funnel enough money through a government that siphons off 75 cents off of each “charitable” tax dollar. In the meantime, while Hollywood and the Left trash them, the average American continues to give to charities with a much better value for dollar given. But this generosity isn’t even on the radar for those whom the government is the answer to every problem, and who disdained private solutions while supporting public waste.
And who’s doing this giving? The aforementioned book by Brooks shatters all the stereotypes and puts those charity ambassadors in a different light. According to Brooks,
- 24 of the top 25 states where people give an above average percent of their income were red states in the previous presidential election.
- Conservatives give about 30 percent more than liberals, even though on average conservative-headed families make slightly less money.
- People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.
- People at the lower end of the income scale give almost 30 percent more of their income than do those who make $1 million or more.
- Religion is the single biggest predictor as to whether someone will be charitable. Religious people give to four times as much to charity, and not just to their own church but also to outside organizations and even explicitly non-religious charities.
Seems like it’s not so far off the mark that the more you expect government to do the job of charity, the less likely you are to get involved in local need issues. It looks like what is needed is for these charity “ambassadors” to get more in touch with their ideological brethren. In the meantime, they could stop bad-mouthing the American people, including the allegedly “greedy” right-wing Republican churchgoers. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
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