The Undying Myth

The Undying Myth

One of the many exit polls following President Obama’s re-election asked Obama supporters why they rejected Mitt Romney. There were several reasons given, but two of them I found particularly revealing. A large percentage felt that Romney was only concerned about helping wealthy people. The second reason, and one directly connected to the first, was that Romney did not care about middle-class or poor people. So the Democrat plan to paint Romney and, by extension, all Republicans/conservatives as insensitive elitists was apparently quite successful. The problem is that this characterization is a myth. Any serious comparison between liberals and conservatives will find that conservatives are far more charitable.

In 2006, libertarian commentator John Stossel wrote, “But the idea that liberals give more is a myth. Of the top 25 states where people give an above average percentage, all but one (Maryland) were red–conservative–states in the last [2004] presidential election.” Professor Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University, author of the 2007 book Who Really Cares, wrote,“When you look at the data, it turns out that conservatives give about 30 percent more. And incidentally, conservative-headed families make slightly less money.”  Brooks added, “The people who give one thing tend to be the people who give everything in America. You find that people who believe it’s the government’s job to make incomes more equal, are far less likely to give their money away.” Referring to a different kind of giving covered by Brooks, Stossel noted, “Conservatives are even 18 percent more likely to give blood.”

Another part of the myth is that the richest people give the most to charity. Although the rich give more in total dollars, low-income people give a greater percentage (30%) of their income. Brooks writes, “The most charitable people in America today are the working poor.” Stossel points out that the key words from the above quote are working poor. This is an important distinction because people on welfare who have the same income as the working poor rarely give money to charitable causes. One exit poll shows that 63% of people who make less than $30,000 voted for Obama.

Brooks also highlights the religious factor in giving. He notes that religious people are more likely to give to charity, and when they do, they give four times as much as non-religious people. Brooks writes, “Religious Americans are more likely to give to every kind of cause and charity, including explicitly nonreligious charities. Religious people give more blood, religious people give more to homeless people on the street.” This fact becomes more significant when we look at the exit polls from this past election. According to Pew research, Obama captured 62% of the electorate that never attends church and 56% of those who attend only a few times each year. In contrast, 58% of those who attend church once a week voted for Romney and 63% who attend more than once a week voted for Romney. If Brooks is correct about the giving habits of religious people, then it is fair to conclude that religious conservatives are far more generous than their liberal counterparts.

Let’s now leave the general and move on to the specific. Remember that Obama supporters believed that Romney cared only for the rich. So let’s look at the charitable giving of both presidential candidates. From 2000 to 2011, the Obamas gave less than 7% of their income to charities. To be fair, once Obama became president, his contributions increased significantly, cresting at 22% in 2011. But during the last twenty years, Romney has averaged giving 13.34% of his income to charities. In 2011, his donation of 13.45% came to $3 million. So, if we just look at 2000-2011, Romney has clearly been the most generous. As for the vice-presidential candidates, Biden and his wife averaged giving 1.47% to charity over the past two years, while Ryan and his wife averaged 2.6%. (For those who want to check out the Bidens’ charitable giving over the last decade, the information is not hard to find. For a man who so easily condemns Republicans/conservatives for not caring about the poor, you will discover that he is a hypocrite of the highest order.)

What, then, can we conclude? At a bare minimum, an honest observer would have to admit that over the last eleven years, Romney has given a greater percentage of his income to charity than Obama. Of course, the numbers do not prove that Obama is Scrooge. But the numbers do show that the belief that Romney cares only for the rich is propaganda for the gullible.

Stossel concludes his article by reporting the results of an experiment conducted by ABC’s “20/20.” The network asked the Salvation Army to set up a bucket at the busiest corner in San Francisco and another at the busiest corner in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Everyone knows that San Francisco is one of the most liberal cities in America. Sioux Falls is much more conservative and easily more religious. The results?  Stossel writes, “ . . . even though people in Sioux Falls make, on average, half as much money as people in San Francisco, and even though the San Francisco location was much busier–three times as many people were within reach of the bucket–by the end of the second day, the Sioux Falls bucket held twice as much money.”

The “Republicans/conservatives are heartless ogres” myth is like a zombie–it’s very hard to kill. But until someone comes up with a means to dispatch it, the Democrats will continue to exploit it to their advantage and to the detriment of the country.

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Written by
Thomas Addis