Compassion for others is at the heart of many faiths. We’re blessed to be a blessing to others, but there’s no compassion in “giving” when the money comes from a government taxing others to provide the funds to do the “giving?” Charity is a personal value and should be made from our own resources.
Should not the successful and rich give more? In my opinion, they have the resources and the moral obligation to do so. When much is given, much is expected. But it should be a personal choice, not the result of raising further the government sanctioned taxes on high-income Americans.
America was built on individual opportunity and freedom coupled with a commitment to the commons. We all want our version of the “American Dream,” but we encourage others to do the same. Self-reliance is a traditional American value, but so is our shared compassion for our neighbor. Neighbor helping neighbor is a blessing for all, cementing a strong common bond in our local communities.
There will always be some who are poor. In a free society built on free enterprise and capitalism, companies succeed and companies fail. People become rich. When companies fail, jobs are lost and owners and workers alike can become temporarily poor. The “Bootstrap Studies” suggest that over decades, the poor of today can still bounce back to become the wealthy of the future. But so can a successful entrepreneur be the toast of the town one year and bankrupt in a decade. Why? America is built on equal opportunity, not equal results. Yet our tumultuous free-enterprise economy has served America well in becoming the most prosperous and powerful country in the world.
We’re also a giving country. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America is number one with over 10% of our GDP going to voluntary social spending. But, in terms of number of families giving money to charity, the U.S. population ranked 13th in the 2013 World Giving Index, with only 62 percent of Americans reporting having made a financial donation in the previous month. Thankfully, America snagged the top spot for helping a stranger in need of assistance (at 77 percent), and it ranked third for volunteering (at 45 percent).
But which Americans give more? When it comes to giving to charity, those in Republican states are more generous than those in Democratic states by a wide margin. In GOP states like Utah and Mississippi, families donate more than seven percent of their income to charity. In liberal New England states like Massachusetts, the number is less than half that. The nation’s 50 biggest metropolitan areas average less than 3 percent while smaller cities in the Western and Southern regions give more than 7 percent.
It’s clear that one’s political philosophy can make a difference in our inclination to give to those in need? Liberal Americans might assert that its government’s job to care for the poor. Personal philanthropy takes a back seat to electing leaders willing to raise taxes on the rich and increase entitlements to do their “caring.
To conservatives, trapping people into dependency on government entitlements is not caring. Conservatives want lower taxes, smaller government, fewer entitlements, and the opportunity of citizens to keep more of their own money so they can support charities that provide a helping hand instead of a debilitating dependence.
Charity is appreciated. Government entitlements come to be expected. It’s not greed to work hard to earn, to save, and to benefit from one’s labor. It’s greed to expect government to take from successful citizens to meet your needs that you could earn yourself.
Ben Carson, the new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, understands the problem and warns against government support making people “too comfortable:” "We have some people who are mentally ill. We have some elderly and disabled people. We can't expect in many cases those people to do a great deal to take care of themselves. There is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them."
Let’s support our local charities for temporary support and save government relief for the truly disabled poor. If you can’t make a living wage in your current job, develop your skills, go to college to get a desired degree with job opportunities, start your own small business, but don’t expect others to give you more pay than a job is worth or to support endless unemployment payments. It’s time we expect more from our citizens and to challenge and incentivize them to take responsibility for their own lives.