Monday, September 15, 2008

Three-tenths of one percent?!

One thing I'm aware of about myself is the propensity to become overly proud of having done the right thing; this in turn taints the original, good reason for having done it and makes others (and sometimes even myself) wonder if I didn't just do it to be able to pat myself on the back later on. Case in point: charitable giving. MM and I feel very strongly that we should be generous with our time and money, especially to our parish. We believe, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it in paragraph #2243, "...The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities." (Thanks to American Papist for this citation.) But we generally don't talk a whole lot about how big a percentage of our income we give and whatnot; one, because I so easily get prideful about it and two, because both sets of our parents already think we're a step away from the poorhouse as it is and the idea of us giving money away would worry them unnecessarily.

The news that Joe Biden (who, like us, professes to be a devout Catholic) only averaged $369 of charitable giving per year over the past 10 years has me sputtering, though, and I can't help but compare our two situations. The Bidens reported earning $319,853 last year--not that much compared to many of his colleagues in the Senate, but plenty by most reasonable standards--yet donated only $995 to charitable organizations. That's three-tenths of one percent of his income to charity. And that was the most he had donated in the past ten years. By a lot.

This year, we'll probably earn between 10 and 15 percent of what the Bidens reported last year, but--as of today, with two and a half months to go in the year--we've already given more than double what they did last year. By the end of the year, we should pretty easily have given six times their average annual donations over the past ten years.

I'm not trying to show how high and mighty we are, or even how bad a Catholic Joe Biden is (even though that is obviously a little bit of an obsession for me recently). To be fair, the Bidens claim they gave more every year but just did not report it on their taxes. This could be true but, if so, their accountant should be fired because they're paying more taxes than they need to be. The point is, this is a man who really does not share the same values I do...and, for somebody who claims to be a big champion of "the working poor," he just doesn't seem to put his money where his mouth is.

By the way, you may notice later on in the story that John McCain is described as giving away about a quarter of what he personally earns per year (his wife's income is much higher, and we don't know how much charitable giving she does--though she does have a long history of philanthropic work around the world). This has served to renew my interest in a book that came out a couple of years ago called Who Really Cares, by Arthur C. Brooks. The premise, as I understand it, is that conservatives--especially religious ones--tend to view it as their responsibility to care for the poor, while liberals--especially secular ones--view it as the government's responsibility; in fact, they consider working to redistribute income as a form of charity in itself, with the main difference being that it's not their money they're giving away. Convenient, huh?

1 comment:

Christine said...

Thank you for an revealing and thought-provoking post. Also I forgot to mention before, I love the new banner!