Sunday :: Jan 4, 2004

How the Media Spins a Charity Report


by Mary

Posted by Mary
New Year's Day the NY Times had an article titled The Very Rich, It Now Appears, Give Their Share and Even More.

Wow, the filthy rich are generous with their money (giving 6.9% of their income on average according to the article). And those that might think a wee bit more redistribution of income could be good for our society would be doing the ultra-wealthy a grave disservice as well as engaging in class warfare. Doesn't that warm the cockles of your heart?

Yet, it seems that the report that this article was based on was saying that the very well-to-do could easily give more and that they should. One section from the report was A Small Group That Could Make A Huge Difference which made the point "Half of all additional giving in 2003 could come from the nation’s top 190,000 U.S. income tax filers, earning adjusted gross income (AGI) of $1 million or more, who represent less than one fifth of one percent of all individual U.S. income tax filers." Another section was titled Tripling Donations by High End is Comfortably Affordable.

I wonder how the authors of this report felt seeing the NY Times article which basically congratulated the very wealthy for their charitable giving and implied that, gee, you guys are doing enough. One message from the NY Times article was the very wealthy are doing much more than their share, especially since the rest of the taxpayers are so cheap. I guess that quarter of American families that make $18,000 and less should be ashamed they aren't as generous (portionally) as Bill Gates. My gosh, if they aren't willing to put up their fair share, then why should the very wealthy get dinged?

One question remaining was: what are the very wealthy funding with their charitable contributions? As the NY Times asked:

Mr. Feldstein agreed that it would be important to know where gifts by the wealthiest Americans were directed.

"For an organization to qualify as charitable doesn't mean it benefits the poor," he said. "People tend to care the most about institutions they are personally connected to, and those that benefit tend to be those connected to people of means like land charities, museums, colleges and hospitals.''

For my part, one other thing to consider comes from the Toronto Star (thanks Magpie!) where they discussed why social programs are not the equivalent of charity:

Charity, through no fault of its own, establishes a divide between the haves and the have-nots in our society, between those who give to charity and those who must accept it.

Social programs, for all their faults, are different. They are paid for by everyone through our taxes — and we all pay taxes, whether sales tax or income tax — and made available to all in times of need. They have an inherent equality to them that charity, for all its wonder, cannot match.

There will always be a place for charity. Any social safety net will have holes that are best filled by community groups able to respond faster to local needs.

But no amount of charity can make up for society, as a whole, willing to pledge its resources to ensuring no one goes hungry at any time of the year.

So, is the world unfair to the very wealthy? Perhaps we'll be seeing articles and reports that the "flat tithing" the only fair thing to do, just like the "flat tax"? And perhaps we should stop quoting "for whom much has been given, much will be expected" because now we know they give more than expected?

Mary :: 7:47 AM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!