Potomac Fever is the blog of the Hamilton College Semester in Washington Program.
This is not an attack. I was provoked by Patrick's cartoon.
Hey, I'm happy religious people give so strongly to charity. Alas, those amounts have never reached levels sufficient enough to reduce more than a fraction of the hardship people experience.
Btw, one thing that has always fascinated me in my Bible study is just how RADICAL Jesus was. It's quite clear in his teachings that his call to be a servant of all stretches nearly infinitely. I have always read the Gospels to show that Jesus is truly calling for his followers to make this level of commitment: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=163504303703414¬if_t=event_invite It's unfortunate that consumerism and concerns over the material world have prevented many Christians from realizing the Gospel's true message (or so I would argue). Figured I'd see if I could start a theological debate with you Megan ;)
"Q. How much do Americans give? Is the amount we give going up?A. In 2006, Americans gave about $295 billion to charity. This was up 4.2 percent over 2005 levels, and charitable giving has generally risen faster than the growth of the American economy for more than half a century. Correcting for inflation and population changes, GDP per person in America has risen over the past 50 years by about 150 percent, while charitable giving per person has risen by about 190 percent. That is, the average American family has gotten much richer in real terms over the past half century, and charitable giving has more than kept pace with this trend."http://www.american.com/archive/2008/march-april-magazine-contents/a-nation-of-givers(thanks Julia!) According to The Budget for Fiscal Year 2008, Historical Tables, total outlays for Means Tested Entitlements in 2006 were $354.3 billion. This was 2.7% of GDP andIncludes Medicaid, food stamps, family support assistance (AFDC), supplemental security income (SSI), child nutrition programs, refundable portions of earned income tax credits (EITC and HITC) and child tax credit, welfare contingency fund, child care entitlement to States, temporary assistance to needy families, foster care and adoption assistance, State children's health insurance and veterans pensions.So 295 billion vs. 354 billion. Seems like private giving could exceed public giving if liberals gave more. (and who knows how much private giving would increase if there were less taxes)I've always interpreted the Jesus' message that each individual has a responsibility to give to his fellow man, not to make the government force others to give. Mother Theresa did not try to enact governmental change, instead she personally took it upon herself to serve the poor. I would like to think that Jesus' message does not mean we all have to give up our Macbooks and go live in the woods, and that he would be happy with a family that works hard and gives to the poor. Perhaps Jesus wouldn't be happy with today's materialism, but Jesus' best friends were materialistic sinners (yes- they then gave up everything and went to serve the poor). Don't really know where I'm going with this, but I wasn't really arguing that Conservatives are good Chrisitians, just that they give more to the poor than liberals. I was really trying to combat the money hungry, selfish vision of conservatives that people seem to have (I know you don't and I'm not saying people in this class do, but lots of people on the left do or seem to). Just as you find it refreshing that rich people are trying to get taxes increased (even though it would ultimately harm them-I think you said that one time, maybe it was PBM) I find it refreshing that tea party members- many who don't pay much in income taxes and could benefit enormously from more government spending- are trying to cut government spending. Anyway, I think Jesus loves liberals and conservatives and independents and the green party.
and the Rent is too Damn High Party!
For a second Megan, I thought you had stumped me. But then I did a little thinking and a little digging a realized a few thingsBasically, you're charitable figure significantly overestimates how much is used for hardship relief (the type of spending which you're comparing with your selection of government programs). At the same time, you significantly underestimate the federal government's spending on hardship relief and you forget to include state and local spending. When you take these factors into account, government spending for the poor and near-poor dramatically dwarfs the level of similar charitable giving engaged in by Americans. The charitable giving figure is based on giving to any charity, which might include a food bank, a homeless shelter, private job training...or the American Cancer Society, an art museum charging $50 admission prices, the Anne Casey Foundation, or the Charles G. Koch foundation (I'm not picking on them in particular- they're just a well-known example of what might qualify under this charitable definition). The cited figure includes all giving to charitable groups. I know its a different year from your report (though I doubt category distribution has changed dramatically in three years), but in 2009 9% of charitable giving in Giving Foundation report (cited in the AEI study) went to categories which clearly don’t qualify as hardship alleviation domestically- the government spending category you’re comparing to. These categories include: arts, cultures, and humanities (4%), international assistance efforts (3%, since we’re only looking at domestic hardship), environmental/animal-related groups (2%). The charitable figure also includes donations to religious groups (33%- only some of which goes to hardship alleviation). It also includes Education (13% of all funds, only some of which could be assisting in hardship relief- but if we bring any of this then we should arguably bring in all government education spending). Some goes to public-society benefit organizations (8%- once again, only some funds would qualify); and grantmaking foundations (10%, some of which goes to foundations that fund CBPP, the Heritage Foundation, etc- so once again, not all of this could be attributed to hardship relief).
9% is completely unrelated, and if we are generous and say 2/3 of giving to religious groups goes to domestic hardship- then we lose another 11% and we're already at 20% of the original figure being non-comparable). Basically large portions of the charitable giving aren’t comparable to the government hardship figures you cite.In addition, the figures you cite ignore federal spending on government programs like Medicare and Social Security- even though significant portions of these programs go to the most disadvantaged and impoverished Americans. For instance, Social Security has moved millions of elderly Americans out of poverty, helping to explain why the U.S. actually has an unusually low elderly poverty rate compared to other countries (before Social Security we actually had an unusually high elderly poverty rate). Your figures also ignore state and local spending on various programs like Medicaid and CHIP ($140 billion in 2008) or TANF (another $13 billion). So clearly government spending is significantly greater than comparable private spending on poverty and hardship relief. You're right to point out that if we cut taxes that are used to pay for these programs, then some of that money would be used by private citizens towards the same purposes. The key word being SOME- I doubt you'd be willing to argue that 100% of the increased incomes resulting from tax reductions (derived from cutting government spending on these programs)would be put towards the same purposes. And on the Jesus front- I wasn't arguing that the Gospel justifies government spending for social justice. I was arguing that Christianity calls for far more self-sacrificing and "servitude" towards others than most modern Christians practice. I think Christians have allowed themselves to believe that the Gospel doesn’t call for “would like to think that Jesus' message does not mean we all have to give up our Macbooks and go live in the woods.” But if you look at his example and what he calls for and emphasizes, I think it’s quite clear that he expects A LOT of service and giving aid- as much as you possibly can- to others. To put it coarsely, my reading leads me to believe that the Islamic 2.5% figure or Old Testament tithing of 10% are low-ball figures for what Jesus would want.
Man, I almost stumped Patrick Landers. But yeah I don't think we are disagreeing virtually anywhere here. I think the government has a duty to provide a safety net to its people, and a duty to allocate funds to low income people less randomly than they would be if we just relied on private spending (I'm kind of a lame libertarian). And we both love Jesus. Right now I'm kinda wishing I took you up on that very Jesus-like offer of yours to help me with my hearing reports tonight. (but really I'm kidding. I'm a Republican so I'm all about self-reliance. But I actually am kidding. My bosses would probably have been a little weirded out when they realized the quality of my writing had improved 110%) Sorry I'm a little delusional right now, and I'm thinking that giving up my Macbook and going to live in the forest sounds very tempting.
Also, are we allowed to talk about Christianity on a political blog? Seems like it might be crossing the separation of church and state boundaries.
Praise the lord and pass the rhetorical ammunition.
Megan, you and I both need to get more sleep... and not post on the blog or have to cover so many congressional hearings.
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