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Charity in America
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5095

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 11:33 am    Post subject: Charity in America Reply with quote

Read an interesting op ed piece by Robert Reich yesterday. He gave figures from the Congressional Budget Office on charitable tax deductions for last year, at a total of $39 billion, with $33 billion of that coming from the top 20% income brackets. He incorrectly said that this amounted to $40 billion in Federal expenditures--in fact only about 30% of total charitable deductions are direct reductions in Federal income tax. But he put it in perspective by saying that $40 billion is more than all Federal government spending for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), school lunches for poor kids, and Head Start combined.

He made a second point, that much of the charitable deductions of the upper crust go to social organizations that enhance the status of the rich (opera membership, endowing seats at Harvard, etc.), with as little as 1/3 actually going to the poor. So let's take that figure, and see how much good charity does. There are 46.5 million people in poverty in this country, $13 billion amounts to about $280/person.

This relates directly to the right wing meme that we don't need government to care for the poor, charities and religions will take care of it--and assistance from the government creates a culture of dependency. The second aspect of this meme is that the rich are truly generous, and give directly so the government does not take most of it with their legendary inefficiency.

The facts seem to belie this legend. I hardly think that $280 per person is enough to keep the wolf from the door of my poor school kids, much less create a culture of dependency. And looking at all of the Federal programs identified by Reich, you only get another $1000 or so per person. Hardly enough to relax in the lap of luxury.

Let's look at the second part of the meme--the vaunted generosity of the rich, touted here by many right wingers. Stay with me for a minute. $33 billion in charitable giving comes from the upper 20% in income. (For consistency I am ignoring total wealth, which would slant things even more strongly to the stinginess of the wealthy.) There are 115 million households in the country, thus the top 20% account for 23 million households. The mean annual income for such households is $226,000 (both household number and income are 2010 census data), which means that the total income of those households is $5.2 trillion, and their generosity is less than 1%.

Now I understand that for those in the bubble, who ignore facts--especially if they come from a newspaper that has an editor that requires fact checking--the scale of these numbers makes their eyes glaze over. So I'll give you just one more fact to illustrate the point.

Hurricane Katrina was one of the largest disasters in history, and if climate change delivers more such storms, we will see even greater damage (Superstorm Sandy was about the same level of damage). Estimates of the direct damage range from $96 to 125 billion, with more than half uninsured. Total economic costs are greater, perhaps $250 billion. http://useconomy.about.com/od/grossdomesticproduct/f/katrina_damage.htm


According to Charity Navigator, $4.25 billion was donated by private individuals in response to Hurricane Katrina. That's right, about 3% of the actual damage. http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/katrina.facts.htm

So as you in the upper 50% of income bracket approach the end of the year, and are besieged by requests for donations, keep these facts in mind. Charitable donations are great, and support elements of our culture that support the arts, religion, education, and the environment. But consider giving generously, and particularly to true charities. Your richer brethren are not going to be making up the difference, either with taxes or with their own generous contributions.

Merry Christmas!
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keycocker



Joined: 10 Jul 2005
Posts: 3315

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac,
I think most charity is not included in those numbers.
Many good things are done through churches and others without putting them on your tax return.
Oue entire third world school is paid by contributions which are not deductible.
Grocery store contributions, invites for food to poor folks in your area on holidays.
The stores give everyone on Maui a turkey for Thanksgiving if you cant pay.
If you bring a can for the Food Bank at my favorite restaurant you get one meal free. Many folks bring a case.
It makes money for them because the locals stsrt being regulars, they dont need tourists as much.
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 14003

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have told many charities face to face, over the phone, and on paper that the public's obligation to private charity ended when Obama and the Democratic Party went insane with giving unlimited charity to buy votes using money taken by force from taxpayers. Free phones, food stamps, SS disability, corporate and mortgage and school loan bailouts, school lunches for EVERYONE, Ocare exemptions for millions of his supporters, and at least 50 more astounding examples of abusive, often illegal, blatant gifts never dreamed of by honest people from 1775 through 2008.

I now give to two charities: Wounded Warriors and animal rescue services. Everything else got crossed off my list when Obama lost his mind.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5095

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KC--I have no doubt that there is charity that does not get recorded as a tax deduction. But I think it is small in scale compared to the overall wealth of the country, the wealth of the upper 20%, and the overall needs. I also think that at the scale you are talking about--church collections, food, meals, etc,--it is largely coming from the middle class. Even if you double the contributions from the upper 20% it is a pittance compared to the reduction in taxes associated with the Bush tax cuts, the needs, and the rhetoric.

Mike Fick illustrates ample the kinds of rationalization that is involved in selfishness. I guess we are going to have to contribute for him as well as the mega-rich.
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windoggie



Joined: 22 Feb 2002
Posts: 2378

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a drag it must be to be you Mike. Merry Fucking Christmas
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reinerehlers



Joined: 25 Jul 2001
Posts: 941

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mac,
I don't think I would underestimate those types of giving too much. Based on your numbers no one could exist on that. Last week I witnessed that first hand. Everything and I mean everything at this homeless shelter was done with donations of time and / or money. This shelter was a prime peice of real estate in downtown Toronto sold for $1 to this charity. This is not that isolated an incident in my experience. I can think of a dozen similar just off the top of my head.
This place had three people on pay rolled staff. They fed 300 plus people that night and feed 200 average lunch and dinner everyday. You do the math.
I do agree with the observation of growing selfishness when it comes to charity though.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5095

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RR--that's the point of the post--I did the math. While it may be imperfect, what it shows is that the scale of the donations is about 1/10th of the need. That meme is at the heart of conservative rationale. In this country there simply isn't much in the way of large scale donations that don't show up as tax deductions. People who make too little to fill out a long form do sometimes give until it hurts, and give in the family. But since they make so little, and the need is so great, it doesn't really budget the dial.

All of us, myself included, are deluding ourselves more than a little, when we rationalize how generous we are.
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reinerehlers



Joined: 25 Jul 2001
Posts: 941

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it not part of people's selfishness and greed that they do not give? Why is attached to their politics. Both parties are not exempt of those lovely attributes. I would agree that there is a more self centered message coming from the right, it doesn't mean they are the only ones guilty of this.

Hey, I just dropped $2600 for a future trip to Punta San Carlos.....guilty as charged. Think of what or who I could have helped with that chunk of change.

It would be interesting to see who actually gave more....conservatives or liberals?
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isobars



Joined: 12 Dec 1999
Posts: 14003

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

reinerehlers wrote:
It would be interesting to see who actually gave more....conservatives or liberals?

The official numbers have been consistent for many years and posted here before. Conservatives earn 6% less than liberals but give 43% more.

As for my own giving, to whom I give is my own business. But percentage-wise, I give FAR more than the Gores, Obamas, or Bidens did before their stinginess made the world news cycle.
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mac



Joined: 07 Mar 1999
Posts: 5095

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RR--but it is politics when the right argues that we don't need government because charity will suffice. The rich don't give very much. Far more of the rich are Republicans. It is not a coincidence that most of the benefits of the Bush tax cuts went to the rich. How is that not political, and how is the impact of cutting services to the poor--with nonsense about their unwillingness to work--not politics?
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