Monday, June 30, 2008

The generosity of Americans.

This all started two weekends ago while at breakfast with two friends who boldly stated that America is such a bad place - we do not care about the public welfare etc....I remarked that this was not true that in fact Americans are the most generous people on the planet.
Of course I was challenged - which started my research you will find here.

Let me preface by saying I am so sick of hearing what a bad, hostile, warmongering, fearful place America is.
The mainstream media in this country is so anti "Bush" they will stop at nothing to get Obama elected. 
The Democrats are also so bent out of shape that they are espousing the usual "we care more" to try and win.
I only hope the American public is smart enough to see through this rouse - for in my opinion electing Barack Obama will only lead to 
  •  huge tax increases
  •  less private giving of money and time
  •  not to mention innovation and entrepreneurial-ship suffering
  •  lead to the same sort of  socialism that exists in Europe.
There are of course so many other issues to speak to Healthcare, Energy, Immigration,etc.
First let's talk American Generosity.
I started with the National Philanthropic Trust and followed the threads from there including "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism" by Arthur C Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University.

Here are the facts:

Last year 89% of all American households donated money:  On average $1,620
In 2006 that sum reached  295 BILLION dollars and in 2007 the sum has gone over 300 billion dollars.
83% of those who donated money said they felt it was important to give some thing back to society.
In 2006 Corporate Foundation donated 4.2 BILLION dollars.(Do you think this number will remain so high should corporate taxes double?)

There are 1,o10,400 charitable organizations in America.

55% of all Americans volunteer.
This represents approximately 83.9 million Americans who gave time equalling 9 million full time jobs at a value of over 239 BILLION dollars.

No developed country in the world approaches American giving.
For example:
  • Americans gave 3.5 times more than the French
  • Americans gave 7 times more than the Germans
  • Americans gave 14 times more than the Italians
  • Americans volunteer 15% more than the Dutch
  • Americans volunteer 21% more than the Swiss
  • Americans volunteer 32% more than the Germans
Statistics show:
Europeans who are subject to high taxes and much more socialization overwhelmingly believe the government should cover what Americans GIVE of themselves.

It turns out donations are not just done for the tax break either. It's true that the total amount of taxes not paid because of donations is huge: in fact it represents the single largest government matching grant program ever created.
Still tax deductibility is largely irrelevant for most people.
The IRS record shows that only about a third of all people file itemized tax returns with donations - which translates to most Americans(particularly middle-lower income groups) do not take advantage of their legal entitlement. 
Of households who earn $120k or more only 40% itemize their donations.

Other interesting related attitudes:
People who gave time and money are 2 times more likely to donate blood.
They are 3 times more likely to give food or money to the homeless.
They are 3 times more likely to give up their seat on the bus or subway.

I wondered who are these generous Americans? 
How do they break down in terms of our society or culture?
Is it an economic factor or perhaps religious?
The answers will surprise you - I was very surprised at what I found.

The statistics I found are from 2000:

"Religious people" make up 33% of our population attend a house of worship at least once a week or more are 25 percentage points more likely to donate to charity than a "secularist" who are 27% of the population and attend a house of worship only a few times a year or have no religion at all.
The same goes for the volunteer rate.
But what does this really mean?
It means "religious people" gave FOUR times more dollars than "secularists":
$2,210 vs $642 (very poor showing for liberals but I am getting ahead of myself)
"Religious people" volunteer TWO times as often as "secularists" or 12 times a year vs 5.8 times per year.

Also in 2000:
  • Families who earned 20k or less gave on average $450
  • Families who earned 100k or more gave on average a little more than $3000
  • The top 10% (those evil rich) households gave 25% of all the donations made.
I still was not satisfied with what I had found and the next logical thread was to see what role values play in all this and BINGO it was like striking gold. 
What do guess that would be but of course:
This is were it gets really good. 
Remember this is has to do with generosity not political issues per say.

Conservatives vs Liberals:

The stereotype that  "liberals" -  the caring; want to help the disadvantaged; the suffering; the poor; elevate the public welfare in FACT donate less TIME and less MONEY than "conservatives".

"self described conservatives" in America in fact are more likely to donate money than "self described liberals".

"Conservatives" gave on average 30% more than "Liberals".
This is not an artifact of income difference because on average liberals earn 6% more than conservatives.
This attitude pervades other areas as we saw before.
In 2002 blood donations:
Conservatives are more likely to give blood yearly and did so more than liberals.
In fact the "Extreme Conservatives" (religious right?) who are one fifth of our population donated 25% of the total blood supply. 
Image that!!!!
Politically speaking it is interesting to muse that if liberals and moderates in this country donated as much blood as conservatives the entire blood supply would increase by over a half and no longer be a social problem.

This lead me to the idea of Private giving vs Taxation.

It is a fact look it up that $1 privately given tends to increase the GDP by about $15 which is an excellent rate of return.

80% of self described liberals think the government should "do more" to reduce income inequality compared with 27% of self described conservatives.

I would submit that this is the reason besides religion why conservatives give more than liberals.

In 1996 conservatives gave 4 to 1 over liberals.
Wait a minute weren't those the golden years of prosperity under Bubba - where were all the liberals then ?
Over taxed? Maybe? 

This stat is unbelievable:
In 2002 people who stated the government was spending "to little" on the public welfare were less likely than those who stated that the government is "spending to much" on the public welfare to give food or money to a homeless person.
Go figure - what is going on here?

So should our government expand to cover current private giving through taxation as is done in Europe?

  1. the evidence states that giving makes people feel GOOD-Happy it is a chemical reaction which occurs in the brain.
  2. more importantly - private giving is implicated in ECONOMIC GROWTH. (remember Regan's trickle down effect) 
Per-capita charity and per-capita GDP move together and has been plotted overs the years.
Analysis shows a 10% increase in the GDP per person would lead to a 9% rise in charitable giving.
Likewise a 10% increase in giving per person will provoke a 3% increase in the GDP.
Again ONE dollar privately given increases the GDP by about FIFTEEN dollars.

Finally to sum up:

If we substitute our private our charitable giving for government redistribution programs we will pay in terms of Economic Growth; Personal Prosperity; and even HAPPINESS.
Think about it?
Do you know any HAPPY Europeans?
I lived there for six years and the only happy Europeans I know are the RICH ones.
So much for the European model.
In short our country is the MOST generous country in the world and I am really tried of the bad rap we receive from abroad but more so from our own citizens.
Stop complaining and bitching and as an INDIVIDUAL get off your ass VOLUNTEER give your time and money that is how we solve social problems.
Therefore I would propose that if all the liberals in this country would donate as much TIME and MONEY as conservatives we could solve a lot of our social ills.

Closing Facts:  
                donate money- volunteer-donate non-religious-volunteer non-religious

conservatives        91%                 68%                    71%                  65%
liberals                   66%                44%                    61%                   39%