Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I can tell you exactly why poor people are more charitable

Yeah, I'm surfing the internet today.

I found this NYT article: The Charitable-Giving Divide. It addresses Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy and how those cuts will expire soon if the Obama administration doesn't renew them.

Obama's opponents, of course, are trying to turn the issue into another reason to oppose Obama. They say these tax cuts are for YOU. Don't let Obama take away YOUR tax cuts!

Me? Really? Tax cuts for households earning $250,000 or more will affect me... how exactly? Ha ha ha. I guess the government's definition of 'wealthy' is a lot higher than mine. I consider my family wealthy, and our income doesn't even begin to approach $250,000. $250,000 laughs in our income's face. And gives it noogies. Then it pushes our income backward into the mud and saunters off.

But we're still wealthy. Why do I believe this? Because we've been poor, and let me tell you, we're not poor anymore.

And the reason poor people are more charitable than wealthy people? It's because all our friends are poor too. When we give give give, we're keeping our friends and neighbors afloat in a palpable way.

And you know, those statistics don't account for all the unofficial acts of charity poor people perform. Paying the rent for your friend the single mom because she can't... bringing groceries over to a neighbor for free... letting a buddy crash on your couch for a week or a month because otherwise he'd be sleeping on the street.... we've done all that. That was everyday life. You prop your friends up, even if they can't reciprocate, because that's what life is like on the poor side of town.

Wealthy people don't do that, because they don't have to. They don't have friends who need rescuing on a regular basis. If a wealthy person's buddy asks to crash on the couch, the wealthy person has a handy litany of reasons to say no. It puts the kids at risk, it's disruptive, the buddy might steal something, it's too much responsibility.

The poor person doesn't go through all that. Steal something? Um... okay... knock yourself out, I guess. And the kids may be enriched by having the chance to hang out with this interesting new person.

(Plus, free babysitting! Wooo!)

When you live your life like that, it's no problem to extend your sense of charity to organizations that assist the kinds of people that include your friends. Plus churches. And animal rescue leagues. Poor people love rescued animals. Coming home to a cat in your apartment to de-stress with after a long day at a miserable job... yeah... some poor people save up for years for that opportunity.

I knew a guy who took in everyone's abandoned cats and filled his apartment with them, and his family was well below the poverty line. Poor people have callings, too.

Also, wealthy people often have the bulk of their money tied up in investments. So when the next fundraiser comes around and they go to write a check, they're not taking their investments into account. Poor people have no such thing. They look at their last paycheck to see what they can spare.

So the numbers - 2.7% of wealthy families' incomes going to charity vs. 4.2% of poor families' - are a little misleading there. I know this because, as wealthy people, we invest money directly out of our paychecks and don't consider it when looking at our available income.

And we haven't been asked to borrow crash space in years. Well, we did have a guy stay awhile last year, but that wasn't an emergency.

We said yes anyway, though, because, in fact, we kinda missed the old lifestyle.

So. Now that we under-$250,000 folks know that the Bush tax cuts won't affect our tax bills either way, I have to wonder whether the over-$250,000 crowd might consider government-mandated charity a good thing. And perhaps willingly part with their own money, like Jon Stewart famously claimed he was willing to do. (I'd link to the clip from the Daily Show where he says it, but I can't access YouTube videos on this computer.)

Does some of that money go to Early Intervention? Because, as wealthy people, we don't benefit from very many state-run programs (aside from the usual ones that maintain the town), but I've been extremely pleased with Early Intervention. I'd pay for resources like that one, if they were for sale. If the other wealthy people stopped paying for it, I'd hire JoJo privately, except that private commissions are not allowed.

And if I knew any poor families who also needed her services, I might contribute for them, too. But I don't anymore.


  1. I sure do like how you think! So glad I found your blog!!

  2. As always a very wise woman! Seriously $250,000 is wealthy!!!??? thats like £165500 here which is HUGE money!!!! There is something about power that makes people in power suddenly forget what is realistic and normal!

    Well said as always x

  3. Are you hunkering down for Earl? We're supposed to get remnants here in Connecticut, but still a significant amount of wind and rain (more Tropical storm stuff). Best wishes riding it out.

  4. Thanks! Yeah, we're preparing for a Cat 3 hurricane just in case, but I think we're inland enough to be pretty safe. I'm all excited! Good luck to you too!