From time to time, when I post a statement online that refers to the Republican Party as the party that exploits Americans for the sake of the greedy, a Republican will fire back that my statement is incorrect, because Republicans give more to charity than Democrats do. Of course, they miss the point of what I’m saying, which is that the Republican politicians pass legislation and make court rulings that serve the wealthy and hurt the working class. My point was never directed toward Republican-registered voters and what they do in their personal lives. I tend to focus on what “we the people” can affect, which is political outcomes and legislation, not personal choices regarding our disposable incomes. So, in short, I just answered for you the question that serves as the title of this article. That answer is, “No, what voters do personally does not make the Republican Party’s pundits and politicians more righteous. Also, when it comes to personal giving, most charitable giving in the United States goes not to meeting people’s needs, but to churches, education, the arts, disease research, and special interests. Giving to your own church or to your Alma matter that puts your name on a donors’ wall isn’t really charity, since the donor benefits somewhat from donating.”
When I mentioned to Charles Toy of “The Christian Left” (a Facebook community, in case you are unfamiliar with them) how frequently I receive this conservative argument, he responded that it comes from a popular conservative Christian book called, “Who Really Cares,” by Arthur C Brooks. Naturally, as a person who cherishes hearing opposing points of view, I couldn’t help but read the book. It turned out the book was nothing more than “Republican Brainwashing Propaganda Disguised as a Charity Book”, so that’s exactly how I titled my review on Amazon. Rather than go on about the topic as I have been thus far, I have posted my Amazon reader review below, in which I make the rest of my points regarding the charity argument:
This review is from the book: “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism — America’s Charity Divide–Who Gives, Who Doesn’t”
The part of this book that’s supposed to be newsworthy is that the supposedly greedy Republicans are actually more generous than the caring liberals. But once the author uses surveys and statistics to reveal that religion is the cause of conservative generosity, that liberal Christians give almost as much as conservative Christians (who have a lot more money), and that non-religious conservatives are actually the least compassionate and generous group, the surprise is ruined, because it’s really not much of a surprise that religious people give more than non-religious people (unless you’re a staunch atheist who thinks religious people are evil). So I think we can conclude that Republicans give more, because Republicans have managed to recruit most Christians to their party over the last several decades.
What makes this such a bad book, however, is that once the author establishes that religion is what makes most people charitable, he then spends much of the rest of the book trying to blame democratic ideology, taxes, and welfare for making people uncharitable, which runs contrary to his statistics on religion and giving. This book is simply a republican propaganda tool.
For example, in comparing America to Europe’s supposedly “socialist” economies (they are actually capitalist with higher taxes and social spending, but the author has no idea of the definition of socialism, which is “the government ownership of the means of production and control over the allocation of resources” – a fancy way of saying that the government owns all businesses), the author deceives readers with economic numbers, as Republican tend to do, by saying U.S. GDP was higher than the EU from 2000 to 2004. That’s a pretty small window, time-wise. In my most recent book, I cover 1979-2010 – a much longer period that reflects how far we’ve fallen compared to most European countries since the Reagan Revolution began. Then the author says that if taxes were to increase charity would decrease, making the country poorer, as if taxes take money out of the economy. The truth is the tax money would go back into the economy, in the form of pay to government employees, contractors’ employees, or people in need; it’s not like it goes into orbit around Pluto. Arthur Brook’s economic understanding is laughable and renders him unqualified to write much of this book.
Worse yet, this book has a faulty premise. It assumes that the amount people give to charity is more important than meeting the needs of the needy. The author condemns government assistance programs funded by taxes, because they decrease the amount of money that people could give to charity. What he fails to do, however, is give even a single example of a nation, past or present, in which a charity-only solution to poverty has worked anywhere near as well as national, mandatory programs have worked throughout Western Europe, North America, and so on. The fact is that charity-only solutions to poverty have failed in American history, as well as in modern Mexico, which is still an every man/woman/child for itself nation. When God created His own nation of ancient Israel, He created a national, mandatory income redistribution system (called a tithe) that forced those who had land upon which to grow food to share with those who lacked it. He didn’t rely on charity, because charity fails.
In the end, this book focuses too much on judging who is charitable, which is the wrong priority to have. The Bible’s message isn’t that we should do what’s right in order to prove to God how wonderful we are; it’s that we should protect and rescue one another from the harmful effects of our sins. It says “our righteous works are filthy rags” that do not justify us, “so that we may not boast;” the law exists so we may “love our neighbors as ourselves” so we “do not devour one another.” Arthur Brooks totally misses this point. He seems to think that charity is about proving the wonderfulness of the giver (who is often financially well off), not meeting the needs of the needy. And that’s exactly what we should expect from a writer who incessantly promotes the politics of the wealthy.
And one final note, the book contains some outright lies, like the statement that, unlike government wealth redistribution, which is a “leaky bucket” due to “bureaucratic waste,” “private charity is a bucket with no leaks, and without tradeoffs;” and that “charity, by contrast only has upside.” Keep that in mind the next time you go through your junk mail to find various mailers and envelopes from charities filled with costly address labels, little calendars, cards for you to give out at Christmas, and of course, letters asking you for donations. Many charities spend a significant percentage of your donations on advertising, something government programs need not do. There’s a big leak in charity’s bucket, too. I’m not saying not to give, but do your homework before you do.