Editor's note: GAH. Of course, I would majorly screw up and misread the numbers. As Anon pointed out below, the US has 300 MILLION people, thus significantly raising the amount per person that is given charitably each year. However, the numbers on the GDP foreign aid percentages are still solid:
I just finished reading Ron Suskind's The Way of the World, and one of the book's main themes was how in the past decade or so, America has lost its moral authority in the world by giving in to the specific temptations that come with great power: deliberate deceptions, a lack of respect and understanding for both our allies and our enemies, and on and on. More than once he mentioned the Marshall Plan, the post-WWII aid program to help rebuild Europe, as an example of our last great exercise in giving and also as a model for how to rebuild our moral authority through sacrificial giving. During the four years following WWII, the equivalent of nearly 20% of a year's US GDP was given in aid. As compared to now, when today we give less than .2% of our GDP in foreign aid. That is 0.2%, folks. Zero point two percent.
So, if as Anonymous pointed out, we give significantly to charities as individuals, why is it that our foreign aid has dropped so starkly? I really want to know, actually. Because obviously my brain can't process this kind of thing.
According to the U.S. & World Population Clock
, there are more than 300
million people in the United States. According to The Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University, charitable giving rose this past year
to $280 billion (still down from 2007's all-time high of $310 billion). Those numbers combine donations to everything from the arts to social programs to churches to education.
While any number above 100 is staggering to little ol' math-challenged me—particularly when it comes to dollars—we're not actually giving very much at all in this country. Yep, many billions of dollars across the board. But nope, not even one dollar per person. Considering some of those recorded donations are large ones from corporations or uber-wealthy individuals, we're looking at a whole heckuva lot of people in this country who aren't being generous with their money. In fact, I'd call it downright stinginess.
I know what it's like living paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes still not even being able to make ends meet. But those numbers tell me that either a tremendous amount of people have literally zero extra dollars to give for the benefit of society in general and other people worse of specifically, or we're just rather tight-fisted. Or, the people with most of the money are way more tight-fisted than they can afford to be.
Regardless, it simply is not enough. We're the richest country in the world, and we give charitably less than one dollar per person per year .
The 2010 US census reported a little over 300 MILLION people in the United States. Charitable giving was around 280 billion. That's about 900 dollars per person in the US. The population figures include the infirm, infants, incarcerated, and many others that don't give at all. The charitable giving numbers don't include time donated, which the US beats every other country on earth in. We are a phenomenally giving nation in fact.
Of course I would totally misread the numbers. Ugh, I should just give up on reading anything about numbers at all.
You handled the correction with grace Erin--you know, liberal arts major to liberal arts major.
Thanks, Slam. It means a lot for folks not to point and laugh when you mess up like a ninny.
You did handle that mess up well, but I do have to say that your point remains that yes a great deal of that money does come from the upper classes. That means the rest of us should still look at our budgets and time and life to figure out where we can give. I mean, there are still kids in our country who only get food at school not home, for example. We may be a generous country, but we can go another mile or two extra.
Julia—Yes! I agree. The more I thought about it after I made the correction, the more I thought: if we are such a generous country, um why is it that so many people can barely afford groceries and who go without healthcare? Something is not adding up.
After your last comment here, I just had to make a point about people who continue to make poor decisions with their personal finances and want other working souls to fix it. Some don't want to buy healthcare and would rather put that money towards other worldly goods. US taxpayers support these people and their children with their paychecks and still give to charities, as well.
Anon—Do a lot of people abuse the welfare system? Yes. I know this very well, especially with Noah being a police officer and dealing with cases of fraud and shoplifting etc. etc. etc. But I have to insist that "poor decisions with personal finances" by no means covers and/or explains the situation this country is in. Noah and I are *incredibly* good with our finances, yet without the repeated generosity of our more established parents, we would have been financially sunk on a number of occasions.
Furthermore, I don't think we can count "support" out of our taxes as an act of charity or generosity. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid are expensive, yes, and abused, yes, but there are innumerable people who depend on these programs—such as my grandmother, who was diddled out of my grandfather's rightful pension because she couldn't afford to sue the company who bought out his old employer and rewrote the rules.
True charitable giving does not ask for an accounting of the gift after it has been given, because a gift freely given is about seeing a need and fulfilling it, it's not about creating indebtedness.
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