Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

If Rich Americans Weren’t So Greedy, We Wouldn’t Need Obamacare

Donald Trump has yet to take the oath of office, but that hasn’t stopped the party of Christian values and pro-life ethic to already begin stripping healthcare away from the poor and vulnerable.

Because, you know, nothing says “We love pro-life values” as much as taking healthcare away from people who will die without it– but that’s a topic for a different post.

Conservatives will often tell me that providing for the poor and needy is the role of private charity, not government. While I certainly think that might be a wonderful ideal in theory, in our cultural context it is grossly impractical on a variety of levels.

First and foremost, if the idea of “voluntary charity instead of government programs” were to work, we would need the rich to give money to charity. But there’s just one problem with that:

They don’t.

In fact, studies have shown that the rich give on average only 1.3% of their income to charity. By comparison, the poorest Americans give more than double that amount.

As social anthropologists have tried to understand why the rich give so little, and why in comparison the poor give so much, the general theory is that the rich are simply so isolated from the rest of the world that they are rarely confronted with the realities of poverty, or challenged to have empathy that’s followed by generosity. If your entire life is lived in a bubble with people who have every last need and want met, you simply aren’t forced to recon with how the rest of the world lives– so your charitable giving reflects that.

As the Atlantic previously reported, studies from UC Berkeley and Indiana University School of Philanthropy show that low and middle income neighborhoods give proportionally more to charity than areas with a higher rate of financial affluence. In fact, the discovery that rich people who live in diverse neighborhoods give more to charity than the rich who live in affluent neighborhoods, seems to support the notion that when the upper class is detached from the rest of us, they give very little to charity.

The basic reality we have to contend with, for whatever reasons may be behind it, is the truth that the rich in America are significantly more greedy than low-income Americans. And one cannot expect low-income Americans to shoulder the burden of funding enough private charities to make sure that all the poor and sick in America have their basic needs met.

But I know where you’re going: 1.3%, when coming from the rich, is still a lot of money you say.

That may be true if one looks at dollar figures. But one must also consider who the rich give that 1.3% to— and it’s not the poor.

As also reported by the Atlantic:

“Wealth affects not only how much money is given but to whom it is given. The poor tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities, while the wealthy prefer to support colleges and universities, arts organizations, and museums. Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed. More gifts in this group went to elite prep schools (one, to the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York) than to any of our nation’s largest social-service organizations, including United Way, the Salvation Army, and Feeding America (which got, among them, zero).”

So let me summarize for you:

Conservatives say we should repeal Obamacare because it’s the role of “private charity” to take care of the poor, not the government. For that grandiose ideal to work however, one would need the rich to be generous givers to charity– and not just any charities, but ones that actually care for the poor and sick.

But in America that’s not happening. The poor not only give double what the rich give to charity, they’re essentially the only group of people giving to the types of charities that actually do serve the poor.

The rich? They give a measly 1.3% to charity– and what they do give is going to prep schools and art museums.

So tell me again how this plan works? How do we help the nation’s poor and sick by total reliance on private charity?

I’m genuinely curious to hear your plan– and don’t tell me it’s advantageous tax policies, because the rich already have those to such a degree that our mega-rich incoming president boastfully doesn’t pay taxes.

The reality in America is this: the rich are greedy, and the people who overwhelmingly give to the poor are the poor themselves.

Until that dynamic changes, we’ll continue to desperately need provisions such as the Affordable Care Act– and repealing it will be nothing less than violent assault on the least among us.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

Join the resistance: Subscribe for posts and updates from BLC!

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  • I don’t think this is a conservative vs. liberal issue as a lot of liberals are the same way: holding their money or donating to charities that protect puppies (but that’s a topic for another comment). It’s ironic to despise rich people for being greedy, yet they are the one’s who can solve this problem. Maybe publicly bashing them isn’t the answer

    • The rich aren’t the ones who can solve the problem. They are the problem. Trickle-down is a lie, for one simple reason: the rich (shareholders/business owners, CEOs) invest their money elsewhere, as long as they can avoid tax. They are not tax-incentivised to create jobs or support specific causes that help the disempowered. They are incentivised to maximise profits, which means paying as few people as possible as little as possible, and showing shareholders “growth” — dividends which get invested in growth markets like China and India.

  • Everybody knows that liberals and assorted leftists are the most charitable and giving people around…They just do it with other people’s money by expanding the ever increasing power of government to redistribute wealth funded by higher taxes. Economists point out that the more the public sector expands, the private sector shrinks. The bigger percentage of GDP that the welfare state takes up, private charities are crowded out and decrease. Those poor that are giving more of their income to charity… Are themselves mostly conservative and Christian, and they give more than the richest liberals.

    • If the private sector is shrinking how do you explain the doubling of the stock market during Obama’s terms?

      • I should have clarified that the more government (the public sector) takes over the responsibility for the social welfare of the poor and the underclass through various entitlements…There is a decrease in giving and charitable dispensation in the private sector for those same issues that once relied on private altruistic endeavors. Economists refer to it as a crowding out phenomenon.

      • Donald, it’s great that the stock market has doubled during Obama’s tenure and that is a good thing in my view. Hopefully you understand that the stock market doesn’t measure actual wealth. It is a measurement of wealth potential. In other words, if everyone went out today and sold all of their shares, they would be practically worthless because there is not enough buyers or capital in the system who want to buy those shares.

        The only reason the stock market has doubled is because there is more people who want to buy the stocks than want to sell them. This occurs because of an economic phenomena that applies regardless of which political party is in power. That economic phenomena is that “capital always flows to the investment with the highest rate of return (risk adjusted)”. As long as there are more buyers than sellers then the stock market will go up and there is the appearance that wealth is being created. In reality, it all has to be carefully managed or it will collapse like dominos.

        Since banks pay practically zero interest on savings, the only place people can get a return is in the stock market. Thus capital is flowing into the stock market and it is going up up up.

        In this regard, a companies stock performance is often not a very good indicator of whether the company is doing well or not. It is the same with the economy in general. A healthy stock market is good but you can have a good stock market and a bad economy. Most people I know who look at the current labor participation rate would say that the economy is no where near as good as what the stock market would suggest it should be.

        Another point is that the stock market helps the rich almost exclusively. Obama has been very good at managing the stock market and making sure the rich get richer. What has he done for the poor and disadvantaged?

    • Thela, you wrote, “the private sector shrinks”. Are we talking the same private sector that administers and distributes insurance premiums for a profit while paying their CEO $400,000,000.00 a year?

      • I’m talking about private sector charitable giving in totality. Individual, religious, corporate, institutional, etc. What are you talking about? Your post is not clear.

  • I get why Evangelicals and theort GOP stooges HATE the LGBTQ and women ..because its ordained in the BIBLE, but why do the evangelicals and their GOP stooges HATE the poor….Is it because a poor kid picked on them or is it because they NEED more HATE to fuel theit lives???

  • This reminded me of something that came to mind recently while I was reading through Isaiah. There are within our religion certain individuals who insist that Christians (either as a whole, or just their own specific sect) have replaced Israel as God’s Chosen. And yet I’ve noticed so many of these same individuals acting and encouraging others to act just like Israel and Judah did when their actions caused God to become angry with them.

  • I am tired of the bald faced lies about conservatives.Conservatives have been proven over and over again to provide monies to charity unlike their liberal counterparts.Obamacare is a demonic monstrosity.It makes me a Christian conservative pay for the slaughter of the innocent.Barack Hussein Obama aka Bath house Barry Soetero and Obamacare are demonic entities. ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!

    • Everything you said is a bald-faced lie.

      The A.C.A. has saved thousands of lives – that’s demonic? No money goes to pay for abortion, what I assume you are referring to with your “slaughter of the innocent. Conservatives do not contribute more to charity if you back out tithing to churches, which is mostly used to pay for staff and facilities. Mr. Obama is a Christian, and your weird innuendo is just pathetic.

      I’m pretty sure everyone has had enough of you.

    • Ironic that you start with your tired of bald faced lies them call Obama a closeted gay man. Like that isn’t a bald faced lie. But please tell me how much you love Jesus and the ten commandments.

  • “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • I agree that the rich need to be more generous when it comes to helping the poor. I also believe that the poor need to be more generous when it comes to loving the rich. We live in a very tumultuous time in which there is a lot of stone throwing between competing ideologies. The truth is all sides have major strides to make if they are going to live the life Jesus modeled for us. I think that Jesus would probably be disappointed in how all of us are choosing to “make the world a better place” As I close this up I do not have all of the answers to our current situation…however I do think it starts with finding common ground and working from there instead of attacking each other.

  • The very rich must “believe in” Darwinian the will toEvolution. If we let those who can’t adapt to their environment pass their DNA on to the next generation. . . . Or maybe the will to accept welfare is a genetic adaption to the increasing lack of good 40 hour/week jobs.

  • I liked the direction of this article. Three quickie points: (1) Income inequality: Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet. And eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world (six of these are from the USA). The poor and needy must have given up on receiving help from rich Americans. (2) Christian benevolence: In one maga-church the average number that turn up on Sat mornings once per month to serve the disenfranchised is less than 5%. (3) Christian preaching: you can tell whats important to a mega-church by the number of sermon topics per year. In one I’m familiar with, it was only 2 sundays per year on the topic of serving others esp the demarginalized in USA and overseas. It’s just a token. I fear many Christian churches have become too introverted in their spiritual studies by comparison with Jesus’ life.

  • Well, American society and culture generally states that wealth is related to personal worth, character, and dignity– with the richer someone is, the closer they supposedly are to God. This is complete nonsense. However, the doctrine pervades the U.S. so much that we are like fish that swim in this water. It’s hard to see how to really turn the tide, but hopefully enough people are talking about making the national psychology more… well, healthy.

  • I agree that the greedy rich are a problem. Unfortunately you failed to make that case.

    The truly rich vote democrat, so I am not following that point about modifying the ACA.

    Christian conservatives don’t give to the Opera and the Museums or Harvard, they give to local community and social service organizations, so I don’t follow that point.

    Also, if the rich are giving to medical facilities, isn’t that going to help the poor with their medical care?

    The ACA, like any insurance scheme, doesn’t provide any health care to anyone. It just pays for it. So, John Doe who has a health care issue can still get care, he just gets stuck with the bill. If he is a middle income guy, that could wipe him out financially. He wants health care, he just doesn’t want to pay what it costs. He didn’t buy insurance before because it was expensive and he wanted to buy something else instead figuring he would be okay. But he lost that bet. In a sense, he was being greedy.

    As it is, he just doesn’t pay and the hospital passes the costs on to those who are insured. Hospitals are quite profitable, so we know they have mastered this art. The ACA as designed is a way for hospitals and insurers to be even more profitable by requiring everyone to buy an expensive product and having the government pay companies to insure qualifying lower income customers. However, it just didn’t work. Americans are not a very compliant bunch.

    But it all comes back to the ACA combining the worst of two systems. The single payer scheme taxes everyone and covers everyone but just doesn’t guarantee actual services someone might want or in a timely manner. The medical insurance scheme does better at delivering care but the cost is very very high.

    Everything in ACA could have been achieved by just expanding Medicaid to cover more people. Perhaps lawmakers didn’t want to go that route because no insurance company folks would be donating to their campaigns. Or maybe Medicaid doesn’t have that great a reputation.

    Still Medicare and Medicaid have lower admin costs because there is no profit and no executives getting eight figure compensation packages.

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