Who Really Hates the Poor?

UPDATE:  My math is indeed incorrect. The average of 611 million in revenue DOES include revenue from non-private donations and the totals for the top 200 charities is 37.4 billion, not 122.2 as I stated, 89% of which came from private sources.

I regret the error. My thanks to the PoliPundit  and The Rio Norte Line readers who pointed it out.

The Forbes list is here.

I expected that my post on poverty would draw some fire from our leftist lurkers because, you know, conservatives are heartless and hate the poor – or something like that.

Well, here are a few little inconvenient factoids;

The fact remains that the US is the most generous country on the face of the earth and according to Arthur C. Brooks in his 2006 book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, political conservatives give more, despite having incomes that are on average 6 percent lower than liberals. He also found that there are three cultural values that best predict charitable giving: religious participation, political views, and family structure. He found that:

  • Ninety-one percent of people who identify themselves as religious are likely to give to charity, writes Brooks, as opposed to 66 percent of people who do not. The religious giving sector is just as likely to give to secular programs as it is to religious causes.
  • Those who think government should do more to redistribute income are less likely to give to charitable causes, and those who believe the government has less of a role to play in income redistribution tend to give more.
  • Finally, people who couple and raise children are more likely to give philanthropically than those who do not. The more children there are in a family, the more likely that a family will donate to charity.

John Stossel covered it in 2006, and Nick Kristof followed up in the New York Times in 2008. Kristof stated:

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

It occurs to me that the accusations that liberals level at conservatives about “not caring about the poor” are simple incidents of transference. Where they prefer taxes and a faceless interaction with people who need help, conservatives prefer direct giving and a more personal approach. One has to make a personal decision to donate to a charity – with taxes, it just gets anonymously deducted from your check.

Which approach is more caring?

2 thoughts on “Who Really Hates the Poor?

  1. The problem is that in practice, charity doesn’t really affect much — it doesn’t provide for immediate relief, nor does it provide for long-term support for individuals who genuinely want to claw their way out of a hole… at least, not in America.

    MOST of the charities that I’ve run into are overseas charities. And these are great, but they don’t do anything at all for us here in the homeland, and often many of them are scams, or the money gets misused as much if not more than government-directed social spending. The remaining ones are things like foodbanks, which have spotty support depending on where you are and may not service as large an area as they should. (I tend to see these thrive in high-income places, and sorely lack where they actually are needed.) Furthermore, there are actually laws that make “giving” more difficult than it should be — one thing I considered doing was donating the complete excess of my gardens as food, until I discovered that few places will actually take fresh produce, and you can’t give it away directly.

    Sometimes I think that American conservative culture has made it a shameful crime to ask for help — because if you’re asking for help, then obviously you’re a deadbeat and you deserve to be kicked while you’re down on the ground. There’s no question that there are folks out there that abuse “the system”, but it’s naive to think that the majority do. It infuriates me to hear popular conservative arguments that people just want free rides and handouts so they can be lazy — when in fact many social programs are intended to give people a way OUT and UP, so they can stand on their own two feet one day and contribute back into the system.

    As for the claims that conservatives like to take a more direct approach — I have never, not once, in my entire life met a far-right conservative who did not look at a homeless man like an animal. Granted, I grew up in Louisiana, so this may not be the case everywhere… but it is certainly the trend. As it was so eloquently explained to me, “That man is homeless because God put him there, so that is where he needs to stay.”

    If you’ve ever been trapped between the rocks and the sea, trying to get up, then you know what it feels like to be “poor.” It doesn’t matter that you want to live, you can’t escape it without a little help.

    • I actually have been “poor” – as a child and as an adult. In times of difficulty, we turned to family, not to government. I was “downsized” once and was out of work for over a year – I took any work doing anything (legally) that I could to make money for my family. I lost a house to foreclosure in the process. I never asked for government help.

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