Skip to comments.Charity's Political Divide, Republicans give a bigger share to charity (Democrats Don't)
Posted on 12/27/2006 8:07:02 PM PST by Coleus
Republicans give a bigger share of their incomes to charity, says a prominent economist
It's been a tough month for conservatives, with the Republican Party losing control of both houses of Congress, but a new book being released this week may help brighten their spirits. In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books), Arthur C. Brooks finds that religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others. Some of his findings have been touched on elsewhere by other scholars, but Mr. Brooks, a professor of public administration at Syracuse University, breaks new ground in amassing information from 15 sets of data in a slim 184-page book (not including the appendix) that he proudly describes as "a polemic."
"If liberals persist in their antipathy to religion," Mr. Brooks writes, "the Democrats will become not only the party of secularism, but also the party of uncharity." Some scholars say Who Really Cares builds on the work of Robert D. Putnam's Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, which was published in 2000.
'Call to Action for the Left'
Mr. Brooks is Roman Catholic and politically independent, and has registered as both a Democrat and a Republican in the past decade. In an interview, he says he set out to write a book about values and philanthropy, with no hidden agenda. He believes liberal Democrats must ignore their leaders who sometimes disdain charity, and demonstrate that the Democratic Party is still welcoming to people of faith, if they hope to prove that they are, in fact, the more compassionate party. "This book is a call to action for the left, not a celebration of the right," Mr. Brooks says.
That's a claim that some liberals may have a tough time believing, given Mr. Brooks's withering criticism in the book of liberal icons like Ralph Nader, Mr. Brooks's work for The Wall Street Journal's famously conservative op-ed page, and a promotional tour for the book that reads like a conservative coming-out party. There's a keynote address at a Manhattan Institute for Policy Research dinner, a book signing at the American Enterprise Institute, and an interviews with John Stossel of ABC's 20/20 and radio talk-show host Michael Medved two people known for conservative views. Patrick Rooney, director of research at Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, says Mr. Brooks's inclusion of strongly worded personal opinions is "a doubled-edged blade." "He will certainly get more attention," Mr. Rooney says. "But at the same time, it might invite more criticism and skepticism." Mr. Brooks says he is ready to take the heat. "If I did my job, this will stimulate a whole bunch of new work," he says. "In five years, I'd be delighted to say that in certain ways, I was wrong."
Arts and Philanthropy
Mr. Brooks, 42, grew up in Seattle, the children of college professors, and after college worked as a professional French-horn player in orchestras in Annapolis, Md., and Spain. In 1998, he earned a Ph.D. in economics from the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, in Santa Monica, Calif. In his research, he has focused on the arts and charitable giving. Few economists have focused on philanthropy, he says, leaving plenty of "low-hanging fruit" for a young scholar. He kept his head down during the early years of his academic career, publishing the usual economics fare on philanthropy such as how tax rates and government spending affect giving.
"I made my academic career doing that stuff, but the whole time I knew I was missing something," he says. Mr. Brooks, now a full professor and director of nonprofit studies at Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, wanted to move beyond the financial incentives and deterrents to giving, and instead examine the values that underlie philanthropy. His initial research for Who Really Cares revealed that religion played a far more significant role in giving than he had previously believed. In 2000, religious people gave about three and a half times as much as secular people $2,210 versus $642. And even when religious giving is excluded from the numbers, Mr. Brooks found, religious people still give $88 more per year to nonreligious charities.
He writes that religious people are more likely than the nonreligious to volunteer for secular charitable activities, give blood, and return money when they are accidentally given too much change. "There is not one measurably significant way I have ever found in which religious people are not more charitable than nonreligious people," Mr. Brooks says. "The fact is, if it weren't for religious people in your community, the PTA would shut down." Byron R. Johnson, a sociology professor and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, says he recently gathered data that show similar results such as high levels of civic engagement among religious people while assembling a report on faith in America that was released in September.
"It was not surprising to me that the lil ol' farmer in South Dakota outgave people in San Francisco," Mr. Johnson says. "But I think to the everyday citizen, this might strike them as counterintuitive." The first draft of the book focused mostly on religion. Lara Heimert, Mr. Brooks's editor at Basic Books, told him there was "an elephant in the room" his failure to grapple with the connections between politics and giving. Mr. Brooks agreed that he needed to tackle politics. He writes that households headed by a conservative give roughly 30 percent more to charity each year than households headed by a liberal, despite the fact that the liberal families on average earn slightly more. The book includes a "charity map" of the United States that closely resembles the now-famous electoral map showing blue and red states. Of the 25 states that donated a portion of household income above the national average in 2001, Mr. Brooks writes, 24 gave a majority of votes to President Bush three years later.
Most of the difference in giving among conservatives and liberals gets back to religion. Religious liberals give nearly as much as religious conservatives, Mr. Brooks found. And secular conservatives are even less generous than secular liberals. At the outset of his research, Mr. Brooks had assumed that those who favor a large role for government would be most likely to give to charity. But in fact, the opposite is true. Several times throughout the book, Mr. Brooks quotes Mr. Nader, the political activist, who said during his 2000 presidential campaign: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." Mr. Brooks calls it a "bitter irony" that those favoring income redistribution are not doing much redistributing from their own bank accounts and he blames liberal leaders like Mr. Nader for letting liberals off the hook.
"In essence, for many Americans, political opinions are a substitute for personal checks," Mr. Brooks writes. In an interview, Mr. Nader, who had not seen an advance copy of Who Really Cares, says he has a tough time believing that Mr. Brooks's conclusions about weak giving among liberals are accurate. "If you look at the liberal environmental and antipoverty groups, you don't see counterparts on the right wing," he says. "Everyone could be giving more to charity," Mr. Nader says. "I don't think liberals give enough, and I don't think conservatives give enough." Alan J. Abramson, director of the nonprofit-research program at the Aspen Institute, a Washington think tank, questions whether Mr. Brooks is putting too much stock in data on giving, which Mr. Abramson describes as "mushy." He notes that surveys on giving put the percentage of American households who give to charity at between 50 percent and 80 percent an incredibly wide range.
"If somebody called you up and asked you how much you gave last year, God knows what number you would pull out of the air," he says. Mr. Brooks writes in the appendix that he tried to overcome this problem by using 15 sets of data, based on surveys conducted with individuals in person, over the phone, or through the mail. Every survey led to the same conclusions. "While individual surveys and populations might produce inaccuracies and biases, a large body of evidence is more trustworthy," he writes. Mr. Abramson also argues that scholars will need to examine the data more closely to determine whether conservative and religious donors are more compassionate which doesn't necessarily follow from giving more.
Much religious giving is akin to paying dues at a club; it goes for such things as paying salaries and keeping the lights on. And in their secular giving, Mr. Abramson says, it is conceivable that conservative and religious people may be more likely than liberal donors to give to charities like colleges and hospitals, which do not focus mainly on serving the poor. "Even if conservatives or religious people are more generous in that they give more, it doesn't necessarily follow that they're giving redistributively," Mr. Abramson says. Mr. Brooks says the data show that religious people, on average, give 54 percent more per year than secular people to human-welfare charities. Some of those charities may be religiously affiliated, but their work is focused on charity and not religion, he says.
Giving by the Poor
In his book, Mr. Brooks examines giving among the poor. When looking at households with equivalent income, the working poor give three times as much as welfare recipients. Mr. Brooks writes that the very act of receiving welfare may make recipients more liberal and hence less likely to give. But other differences between the working poor and those on welfare may explain the giving gap, says Paul G. Schervish, director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College. Research shows that welfare recipients are less involved in their communities than the working poor. "What causes giving is associations," he says. "The people on welfare may be more isolated in terms of their networks." As he builds his statistical case, Mr. Brooks occasionally unleashes free-market rhetoric. He calls giving as "a bucket with no leaks" meaning that it helps both the giver and the receiver and at times seems to argue that all government spending on social programs is suspect, given its potential to "crowd out" private giving.
"Some people will always say that government spending (based on taxes) is necessary to pay for things that private charity will not," he writes. "This may be true. But we must remember that taxation has some very destructive consequences for communities and for the nation as a whole. Charity, in contrast, has only the upside." Rev. Jim Wallis, a Christian writer and political activist, says such comments betray a naïveté about how antipoverty programs are supported. Both philanthropy and government spending are important, he says, but the spending by government on welfare and social-service programs dwarfs the money that donors and foundations bring to the table. "Religious people who are generous can be used by the political right to justify government not playing its rightful role," Mr. Wallis says. "The right should not use our generosity to justify their irresponsibility."
Near the end of the book, Mr. Brooks lays out the case that philanthropy is as good for the donor as for the receiver, citing data showing that giving makes one happier and healthier. Fund raisers should take heart in such data, he argues. Their appeals are putting potential donors on the path to a better life. "This is one of the most noble things that you can do," Mr. Brooks says. Such findings have affected the way he and his wife approach their own giving, which he calls "our duty and our privilege." The couple has set up a donor-advised fund at the Central New York Community Foundation to become more systematic about their philanthropy. "I'm tithing my royalties assiduously," Mr. Brooks says.
HOW POLITICS AND CHARITABLE GIVING MIX
Charitable Giving Trends in 2001 Voting Patterns in 2004
The Generosity Index is compiled by The Catalogue For Philanthropy. It is computed by taking each state's average income and average charitable contribution, then subtracting the second rank from the first to get a single number for each state.
Democrats are thieves. Thieves don't give, they take.
Part of being a liberal is being a hypocrite.
I'll never forget, in my hippie phase, how nimbly and eagerly the Leftists (who loooooooooooooooooove everybody) were to get their greedy fingers into everybody's pockets (if for no other reason, because the Great Spirit Gdflgragradu, or some such, whom they channeled, told them to).
One charming couple sent me a chain letter asking for $10,000, saying that if I didn't comply I was into negativity and contracture. I replied: "I'm into negativity and contracture."
What do you mean.....democrats are all for giving -- YOUR TAX DOLLARS!
As the old saying goes, "A liberal's compassion is limited ONLY by the size of YOUR wallet"!
Most liberals would disagree with the article. After all, aren't they the champions of the welfare system ???
It shouldn't be surprising. Leftists are only generous with other people's money.
it would be nice if this book could get some traction; so far, it doesn't seem much is happening. This review leaves out one of the most telling arguments, as far as I'm concerned-- namely that we already know where the selfish trend of leftists leads-- look at Europe, where charitable giving is practically unknown, people are too self-absorbed to have children (conservatives in US have 40% more children) and Sharia law is the wave of the future. Plus, in my quick read, the review also leaves out the stats on blood donation, which are astonishingly illustrative of the leftists' selfishness.
Democrats are hypocrites.
Let's see the media run with this story lol.
There is absolutely nothing about this story that is surprising. Liberals are a bunch of hypocrites.
Remember the year Al Gore gave a whopping $353 to charity on a salary of about $200,000? Again, no big surprise here. Democrats are all talk and the number one requirement to be a Democrat voter is to be gullible. The idiots voting for these liars actually believe that Democrats care more about "the little guy".
I think that this is an issue of personal responsibility. I have a friend who is a die hard liberal and she was horrified when she found out I was a conservative. Whe asked me how I could be one when I am the most generous person she knows. I explained to her that I don't mind helping out my fellow man, I just don't want the government to tell me how, when and where to give. I see this attitude over and over where liberals don't trust the individual to make decisions (gun control, campaign reform, social services and giving) and conservatives don't trust the government to make the decisions. I think it has to do with laziness and low self esteem. The wouldn't make the right choice so neither would anyone else.
A very responsible private charity will use no more than 10-20% of donations for overhead and the rest goes to beneficiaries.
Liberals might claim that they view the government as a charity and that's why they support higher taxes and more government programs, yet with government programs, the reverse of the above is more likely with 80-90% going for overhead and only 10-20% going to recipients. That's pitiful fiscal stewardship
The reason liberals like the money going to Washington, is so they can use it to spread around and buy votes.