This time of year it’s common for progressives to view Republicans as a bunch of Scrooges. But when it comes to charity, this simply is not true. Republicans are more generous in their charity giving than either Democrats in the United States or Europeans at large. Further evidence was gathered in a January, 2016 Occasional Planet survey of Americans.
As EthicsDaily.com reports, “Red states – Republican-voting states – are more generous than blue states – Democratic-voting states.” Many conservatives are aware of this disparity and like to crow about it – as if they are the truly compassionate ones. The problem with this contention is that it assumes that all compassion is shown through charity. Many Democrats, who well may contribute less to charities than conservatives do, look at compassion as being more than charity. For most democrats, helping those in need is one of several fundamental roles of government. They contend that government should have primary responsibility for redistributing incomes (and isn’t that in essence is what charity is) should best be done by the federal government because it is the most efficient, effectively targeted, and fair way to help others.
Republicans donate to charity at a higher level than Democrats and the strength of that giving by the GOP propels the U.S. to much higher figures that European Nations. As Investor’s Business Daily reports:
In no European economy are the people more generous with their own money than the people of the U.S. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, which have been thoughtfully assembled by Cato scholar Dan Mitchell, the total of Americans’ voluntary social spending reached 10.2% of GDP in 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available.
The only country that is remotely close in its generosity is the Netherlands, where the total was 6% of the nation’s economy. Only two other nations, Canada and the United Kingdom, exceeded 5%. The U.K. totaled 5.3% of GDP, Canada 5.1%.
Republicans have historically promoted more in the way of charitable giving. Their support of large charitable organizations such as traditional religious organizations and welfare organizations like the Red Cross reflect their commitment to trying to help those in need. But truth be told, what they offer to large charitable organization is often less than ten percent of what the federal government provides to address these issues. Most illustrative is an interview by St. Louis Public Radio’s Don Marsh and Congressman Todd Akin when he was running for reelection in 2010.
Akin talks about charity being the solution to providing adequate healthcare for the uninsured. He says, “You can’t cheat mathematics” as the undergirding of his argument. Unfortunately for him it appears that his facts are just not correct; not correct by a factor of 18.
Writing in Forbes Magazine, “Is Charity the Answer To Healthcare?” Carolyn McClanahan points out that in 2010 (the year in which Akin was interviewed), Americans gave a total of $22.83 billion in charity to healthcare. She goes on to state:
To provide coverage for the 50 million uninsured people in our country, based on our latest OECD rate of $7,960 per year, we would need about $398 billion. For charity to fund this, we would have to stop all other charitable pursuits, plus increase our charitable donations by another $108 billion per year.
The $398 billion is over 18 times the $23 billion that Mr. Akin thinks will provide health care for all the uninsured. And Mr. Akin said, “You can’t cheat mathematics.” He is by trade an engineer. I would say if he wanted to succeed in that field, he would have to use real numbers rather than the ones that many Republicans create to make often-invalid political arguments.
Can we say that, in reality, Democrats are eighteen times as charitable as Republicans; or that Europeans are eighteen times as charitable as Americans? That would clearly be a stretch. So while Republicans may give twice as much to charity as Democrats or Europeans, their math is fuzzy. Many of the “welfare states” in Western Europe address problems of poverty, education, and health care by giving the government primary responsibility for providing appropriate remedies. So, while many Americans may think that it is admirable of the country to give a great deal to charity; they might think twice about how much it really addresses fundamental needs. Fortunately there are other approaches, and they are available on a planet near you.