The Poor Are More Generous Than Wealthy Folks: What This Means – Part Two

Continued from part one here

Which brings us to one last element that should be addressed here: what does this mean for the believers of the failed theory of trickle-down economics?  The rich having the bulk of the money and wealth is a good thing for the believers of this ridiculous theory because everything will trickle on down to the lower classes and everybody will be living in a utopia.  Except it hasn’t and the inequality only continues to get worse.  But the argument always goes further by saying if the rich had to pay less taxes, they would give more money to charity and that would make its way down.  Also not true as the article states:

Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.

Yep. They are laughing at you, not with you.

In other words, when given the chance to give away their money, the wealthy are doing it in a way that only breeds more inequality by giving it to institutions that do not actually help the poor.

We claim to be a Christian nation and some even argue we should have a Christian government.  But the way we would do that is by actually taking care of the poor and making sure they have the resources they need to truly pull themselves up, such as a livable minimum wage, better childcare programs, and better access to a college education.

And it is clear by the actions of the wealthy in how they donate their money these needed changes will not happen by talk of cutting social spending (or foreign aid, because that’s not what Jesus would do, is it?).  The government is also at fault by not providing assistance on a level truly needed by the poor. But it is very capable of doing just that and we should be pushing for improvements in this area.

We can claim all we want to be a nation shaped and driven by Christ.  But our actions do not reflect that and every call for a cut to the poor is a scream of hypocrisy by the alleged followers of Jesus.

The Poor Are More Generous Than Wealthy Folks: What This Means – Part One

An article on the Atlantic’s site this week is summed up in one simple line: “The wealthiest Americans donate 1.3 percent of their income; the poorest, 3.2 percent.”  The percentage difference is relatively small but certainly significant enough to warrant examination and the implications growing out of this are rather interesting when considering these facts along with some typical debate points.

Three key factors should be addressed:

  • Why is there such a difference?
  • What does this mean in relation to how the U.S. government gives in foreign aid?
  • What does this mean in relation to social policy and economic arguments?

    Know how the Bible says the rich man gets into heaven? Not this way.

Two of the key reasons for the difference are pointed out in the article.  The first is no surprise: the rich are greedy and prefer to hold on to more of their money.  But the second reason is a little more significant and should be considered further: economic segregation.  From the article:

Notably, though, when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical…greater exposure to and identification with the challenges of meeting basic needs may create “higher empathy” among lower-income donors…researchers analyzed giving habits across all American ZIP codes. Consistent with previous studies, they found that less affluent ZIP codes gave relatively more.

The fact that ZIP codes can determine how generous an area can be is a big part of many problems arising in political debates.  For example, many people on the right (usually wealthy pundits and politicians) make the argument social services aren’t needed and the poor just need to pick themselves up by their own boot straps.  This argument sounds reasonable until you realize the rich likely have no idea what the poor are truly up against in their areas of town and in their personal lives since they generally spend little to no time in poorer areas.

The reality is they do not see the conditions and do not understand the obstacles as our cities become more and more segregated along economic lines.  And if they do not get this part of the debate, what does their argument even mean other than useless rhetoric?  What are they backing this “boots straps” idea up with?  The answer is: nothing, other than their own experiences which does not typically mimic that of the poor given the lack of economic mobility in the U.S.

Another argument that rages on, especially now as the government looks for ways to shrink the budget, is foreign aid.  The wealthy giving less than the poor in terms of percent given is similar to the reality the U.S. gives less than many other countries around the world as a percent in foreign aid.  Whether it’s calculated with percent of GDP or GNI, the United States gives fives times or more less than the most generous countries around the world.

An analogy should be used when showing this difference.  Pretend you have two people who go to church each week, Patriot Jesus and Actual Jesus.  Actual Jesus brings home $100 a week and gives $10 to the church (the usual expectation of Christians in terms of percentage, by the way).  Patriot brings home $1000 a week and gives $20.  Who is more generous?  The guy who gives ten percent of what he makes or the guy who gives two percent?  The answer should be obvious.

Guess which one the United States is in this scenario.