Thursday, September 18, 2008

No, YOU pay more

Noting that wealthier Americans would indeed pay more [taxes], Biden said: "It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."
--Douglass K. Daniel, Associated Press, on Biden's public words on contributing to the public good

The most surprising fact I learned yesterday:
Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Joe Biden released 10 years of tax returns Friday...The Bidens' joint gross income hovered between $215,000 and $320,000 a year during this period...The amount they gave to charity during this period never exceeded one-half of 1% of their annual income. The Bidens never gave more than $995 to charity in any of the tax years, and usually gave much less.(Source)
Compare Biden's behavior to that of a typical American:
The IRS reports that those who itemize deductions on their income tax returns have claimed, since 1975, that between 1.6 percent and 2.16 percent of their income went to charitable concerns. (Source)
This contrast is an example of a broader phenomenon:
conservatives who practice religion, live in traditional nuclear families and reject the notion that the government should engage in income redistribution are the most generous Americans, by any measure. Conversely, secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone's tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes. (Source)
If Biden's below-average charitable giving is typical of those with his political views, why am I surprised by it? Because this man has run for President more than once. He must have known there was a good chance that his tax returns would at some point be made public and undergo close scrutiny.
--Greg Mankiw on the disconnect between private actions and public policy stances


bchoi said...

But not all charities are created equal. I'd just be curious to know where these religious conservatives are throwing their charity money. If it's to fund a non-profit working on, say, creationist education or anti-abortion causes, they're effectively funding private interests not public interests.

James Choi said...

From the book "Gross National Happiness" by Arthur Brooks, who reported the findings cited:

"Religious people are 38 percent more likely than secularists to give money to charity and give about four times more money away each year (even holding incomes constant). They are 52 percent more likely than non-religious people to volunteer. Religious people are even 16 percent more likely than secularists to give money to explicitly _nonreligious_ charities, and 54 percent more likely to volunteer for these causes. In other words, your local PTA would not function were it not for religious people in your community. Religious people give 46 percent more money each year than secularists do to family and friends. They are far more likely to donate blood, give food or money to a homeless person on the street, or even return change mistakenly given them by a cashier."

On conservatives as a whole vs. liberals:

"Volunteering levels are virtually the same between conservatives and liberals, but in most other nonmonetary ways, conservatives outpace their liberal and moderate counterparts. For example, if liberals and moderates gave blood like conservatives do, the blood supply in the United States would increase by nearly half."