Tuesday, April 1, 2008


It is a peculiar statistic that the social class known as the "Working Poor" give more to charity as a percentage of their income than either the middle class or the rich.

NRO has an article speculating about the rich, and why giving "as a percentage of income", is often so low. The two examples given are Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, and Dick and Lynn Cheney.

Ok. A little quiz: Given the public persona of these two couples, just guess who gives a whopping bunch more of their income than the other? The Obamas, or the Cheneys? You'd have to say Obama, of course.

But you'd be wrong. Until 2005, when his book sales took off, the Obamas were flunkies in the Charity class, according to their recently released tax records. OTOH, in 2006 the Cheneys gave a whopping 78% of their earnings, 6.9 million dollars. *

The NRO article is very fair and understanding of the Obamas. But what can you say of the Cheneys, who to my knowledge have been one of the classiest couples in modern day politics? Given the degree to which Dick Cheney has been lambasted in the press and among libs regarding his government service, who'd have guessed?

Here's my thought on all of this: When I think about getting rich--winning the lottery or inheriting fifty million from an aunt I clearly know nothing about--my daydreams center around giving it away: to my friends, to struggling organizations; to my favorite pastors; to the Voice of the Martyrs, etc. Well, yes, a few vacations do play into the scenario. But what the Cheneys do on an annual basis would play a large part in what would give me great satisfaction in being RICH!

The Cheney's made their money years ago. I know Dick made huge amounts bailing out Halliburton, and Lynn was doing very well for herself for many years as well. So it ought to be easy for them to direct large percentages of their current income to charity. The point is: they actually do it, unlike many of their fellow Riche. I think it is a great witness.

The most interesting and controversial point in the NRO article is the theory that liberals are so committed to charity as a function of law and government that they do not make personal giving a priority. It is some sort of disconnect for them. Why give in private dribs and drabs when we could have a system for giving in the form of government largesse? In contrast, the Cheneys hold that it is personal charity that makes the world go round. This is a bit too philosophical for my taste actually. I think giving charitably has to do with how you are raised. If the clear example hasn't been given, then it is harder to be oriented to giving away the money you earn.

The other interesting point is that the most charitable, as a percentage of income, are the working poor. Why the working poor? Is there a lowered sense of needing things--new things, shiny things, expensive shiny things? Is there a deeper awareness of need? Remember how invisible the poor are in America. Anyone can dress reasonably well without it costing much of anything. The poor know the poor; they socialize with the poor. So they are aware of real needs. Is awareness enough to explain their heightened level or charity? What else would motivate them more than other demographic groups?

*I'm taking the stats from the NRO article; they aren't fact-checked.

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