"It is beyond me . . . why are we so stingy, really," said U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, after the tsunami in southern Asia. " . . . Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become. . . . " And in a statement that might shock defeated presidential candidate John Kerry, Egeland said voters want their taxes increased. " . . . [I]n the United States, in the European Union, in Norway which is No. 1 in the world, we want to give more . . . as taxpayers. . . . [P]oliticians . . . belie[ve] that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much and the taxpayer wants to give less. That's not true. They want to give more."
Actually, Americans do want to give more -- with the emphasis on "give." Indeed, so far, Americans pledged over $200 million in tsunami aid. Normally, Catholic Relief Services' Web site receives $40,000 per month. Since the tsunami, online contributions are $100,000 per hour. The American Red Cross has received pledges over $100 million, with more pouring in daily. Yet on more than one occasion, former President Jimmy Carter sounded the America-is-cheap theme. On PBS television a few years ago, Carter said, "It's all very disturbing to me as a former president that this nation with generous people in it has become by far the stingiest nation on earth."
Here we go again.
Last year, American government provided 35 percent of worldwide relief aid. In private contributions, American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations gave over $240 billion to charitable causes in 2003, according to Giving USA Foundation. Privately, Americans give at least $34 billion overseas.
Josette Shiner, former Empower America president, points out that more than 80 percent of Americans belong to a "voluntary association," and 75 percent of households report charitable contributions. Shiner wrote in 1999, "Americans look even better compared to other leading nations. According to recent surveys, 73 percent of Americans made a charitable contribution in the previous 12 months, as compared to 44 percent of Germans, and 43 percent of French citizens. The average sum of donations over 12 months was $851 for Americans, $120 for Germans, and $96 for the French. In addition, 49 percent of Americans volunteered over the previous 12 months, as compared to 13 percent of Germans and 19 percent of the French."