Tuesday, February 18, 2020

They just want to share

A good friend of mine said something in an email recently that at first I thought was amusing, and I initially assumed he was making a joke.

Through time, I gave it more thought and realized that he was not only correct in his observation, but the tragedy was that the people he was referring to are actually being sold a skewed view of life.

The list of reasons for why this can happen to an intelligent, thoughtful person in 2020 is a long one, and a bit complex, but I can deliver the main concept for consideration.

The people being spoken of here are younger people in the United States, a group comprised mostly of Millennials and Generation Z. It has become way too common to single them out for criticism, but that's not the focus of this essay.

My friend's full statement on the matter was:

"They just want to share. Capitalists don't share."

So, what's the skewed view of life I'm referring to?

It's a set of ideas that congregate into a disturbing ball of gloom, principally populated with the following mantra:

The rich and the Right only care about money, and they don't care about helping the poor nor the environment.

Although I could, I'm not going to digress at this time into comparing the real-world data supplied by the NOAA to the habitually overstated dangers of our collective future on this planet, as indicated by the conveniently tweaked algorithms of sea-level and climate predictive models.

Instead, I'm only going to talk about one thing.

Charities.

I suppose it may seem like a great idea for us to vote a candidate into office who believes heavy taxation for the massive redistribution of private liquid assets is the answer to all our problems. Who can argue with the altruistic concept of everyone being somewhat economically equal, and forcing selfish humans to share with the less fortunate?

I can, actually.

First of all, it's a basic aspect of human nature that many are called but few are chosen. In this case, I'm referring to the harsh reality that pretty much every rational, tax-paying adult understands: there are people in the world who don't have much, and many of them need assistance, at least for some period of time.

But does the government truly need to become a source of more relief than it already is?

Let's start by looking at the WGI, or World Giving Index. The most recent data is from 2015, as the results are gathered over multiple years and are not published every year. They poll 1000 people from each of 140 countries, and in some cases they  poll 2000, as with large countries like China.

Out of 140 countries, the United States is at number 2. The criteria for measurement include the following three questions:
1) In the past month, have you helped a stranger?
2) In the past month, have you donated money to a charity?
3) In the past month, have you volunteered your time to an organization?

That's an anomaly, you might say. You might still want to insist that Western Civilization is fraught with selfish capitalism, so of course the United States could somehow impossibly be an exception due to the way the poll was conducted.

Wrong.

Of the top 10 countries, 60 percent are English speaking and considered a part of Western Civilization.

So what, you might say. Just because people in the United States answer poll questions doesn't mean they actually help anyone.

Wrong again.

The top 100 largest charities in the United States alone, according to Forbes, received a total of approximately $156,303,000,000 in donations in 2019. That's 156 billion. However, that's not even scratching the surface.

In 2018, according to Giving USA, Americans gave a total of $427.71 billion dollars to charities. Since there are approximately 329 million people in the United States, and 18.62% of them are ages 0-14, that leaves approximately 268 million.

Now divide that 427.71 billion dollars by 268 million people, and you arrive at the follow average dollar amount given per person:

$1,595.00.

Think about that for a moment.

No one's forcing any of those people to give that money. They're not compelled by the government through taxes, nor coerced by a representative from a crime syndicate. The monies donated are personal liquid assets that private individuals elected to part with, to help others.

Subtract out the persons who don't have spare money to give, and you have even less people to spread that 427 billion between. The Center for Poverty Research reports that the 2017 Census indicates approximately  39.7 million people live in poverty in the United States. 18.5 million people live in what's referred to as "deep poverty," which means they are barely getting by with a household income that's less than 50% of the 2017 poverty threshold.

Correctly assuming that poor people often still give some amount to charity, subtract the 18.5 million from the 268 potential givers mentioned earlier. You arrive at 249.5 million people who donated $427 billion dollars, or approximately

$1,714.00.

There appear to be two different ways to view the situation.

VIEW #1:
One may observe that divided by twelve, it only amounts to $142 each month. Barely a dent in the debt that beleaguers many of the poor. The government needs to get involved, because it's stingy to only devote $142 of your own money every month to help the poor.

That view focuses on how much each individual is giving, based on the national average.


VIEW #2:
This view prefers to focus on how much the poor are currently receiving as a result of existing charitable contributions from adults in the United States.

One may observe that the donated money, after taking care of the overhead necessary in non-profit organizations (around 10%), still amounts to approximately $384,939,000,000 available for distribution as food, goods and services to the poor.

Only poor people actually need assistance, so including not only the portion of the population suffering from deep poverty, but also the entire demographic (even working poor), you arrive back at the 39.7 million number of people living in some form of what's considered poverty in the United States.

Take that 384.939 billion dollars and divide it by the 39.7 million people who need it.

You arrive at this figure per person (including children and babies):

$9,696.19 per person.

Multiply that number by the average amount of people per family in the United States in 2019 (3.14), and you arrive at this average dollar amount per poor household:

$30,446.03.

That's $2,537.17 per month.

In View number Two, the rest of the logic goes like this:

Why in the heck would I want to pay more in taxes to help the poor when they have access to a potential 30K of assistance per year via the money I'm already donating to various charities?

While of course the $384 billion dollars of donations in 2018 didn't translate to handy awards of cash presented to every poor person in the country, they did manifest themselves in a very real and practical way, as food and goods and services available to anyone who needed them. The United States still offers the most opportunity for those who aspire to abandon their participation in the poverty cycle.

Don't kid yourself. All that money that's being donated to charities in this country isn't coming only from the poor, the middle class and democrats. A lot of rich people and republicans and conservative independents are giving their substantial share as well.

The final point I'd like to make is this:

If you ever feel the urge to embrace the insidious envy-based Marxist ethic of blaming the wealth of the rich for the poverty of the poorest members of society, you might want to pause and consider that the real world is not that binary.

Even in this allegedly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and greedy capitalistic country, thanks to the generosity of elective giving by people across all classes, this is still the best place on Earth to be poor.





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