Stingy liberal, exhibit A: Joe Biden

From Jeff Jacoby’s column today “Stingy Liberals“:

Liberals, popular stereotypes notwithstanding, are not more generous and compassionate than conservatives. To an outsider it might seem plausible that Americans whose political rhetoric emphasizes “fairness” and “social justice” would be more charitably inclined than those who stress economic liberty and individual autonomy. But reams of evidence contradict that presumption, as Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks demonstrated in his landmark 2006 book, Who Really Cares.

However durable the myth, wrote Brooks (who now heads the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank), there is no getting around the data. For years, academic research and comprehensive national studies have confirmed that Americans who lean to the left politically tend to be much less charitable than those who tilt rightward. The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s new report is only the latest in a long series of studies corroborating that fact.

The Chronicle’s new study, which is based on IRS records from 2008 (most recent available), accounts for regional differences in the cost of living. It calculates charitable giving only from discretionary income — the dollars left over after paying for taxes, housing, and food. But the economic differences are not nearly as significant as cultural differences. In parts of the country where conservative values dominate, charity tends to be high. Where liberalism holds sway, charity falls. “Red states are more generous than blue states,” the Chronicle concludes. The eight states that ranked the highest in charitable giving all voted for John McCain in 2008. The seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.

Of course this doesn’t mean that there aren’t generous philanthropists in New England. It doesn’t mean selfishness is unknown on the right. What it does mean is that where people are encouraged to think that solving society’s ills is primarily a job for government, charity tends to evaporate. The politics of “compassion” isn’t the same as compassionate behavior. America’s generosity divide separates those who understand the difference from those who don’t.

MP: Joe Biden’s charitable giving, at least until his vice-presidential candidacy in 2008, provides a case in point of being a “stingy liberal.”  When nobody was watching or scrutinizing the Bidens’ tax returns, they gave less than $200 to charity in 1998, which was less than 1/10 of one percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI) that year of more than $215,000 (see table above).  According to income tax data available at Forbes, Americans earning the same AGI as the Bidens that year gave more than $5,000 to charity.  The Bidens got a little more charitable over the years, but their gifts were never more than 1% of their income until Biden became Vice-President.

And even now that the Bidens have “found religion” when it comes to charity (knowing that their tax records are now public), they are still only giving about half of the average amount of charitable giving for their income group. Joe Biden’s stinginess demonstrates Jeff Jacoby’s point that the politics of compassion and charity are often much different than compassionate and charitable behavior.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Mark J.
Perry

What's new on AEI

Rebuilding American defense: A speech by Governor Bobby Jindal
image Smelling liberal, thinking conservative
image Stopping Ebola before it turns into a pandemic
image All too many reasons for pessimism about Europe
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 20
    MON
  • 21
    TUE
  • 22
    WED
  • 23
    THU
  • 24
    FRI
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Warfare beneath the waves: The undersea domain in Asia

We welcome you to join us for a panel discussion of the undersea military competition occurring in Asia and what it means for the United States and its allies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 | 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
AEI Election Watch 2014: What will happen and why it matters

AEI’s Election Watch is back! Please join us for two sessions of the longest-running election program in Washington, DC. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
What now for the Common Core?

We welcome you to join us at AEI for a discussion of what’s next for the Common Core.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 | 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Brazil’s presidential election: Real challenges, real choices

Please join AEI for a discussion examining each candidate’s platform and prospects for victory and the impact that a possible shift toward free-market policies in Brazil might have on South America as a whole.

No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.