Do taxes make Americans less charitable?
By Joe Jarvis - November 28, 2018

Americans spent over $6 billion on Black Friday. They spent almost $8 billion on Cyber Monday.

Yesterday was “Giving Tuesday.” And Americans gave $117 million to charity.

This was an increase from 2017, but just 8% of what Americans spent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

It’s not that Americans aren’t generous, they are. They gave $410 billion to charities last year.

But fewer Americans are giving… 55% give to charity now, versus 68% of Americans in 2002.

Americans probably paid more than $117 million in taxes on their Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases, when you factor in sales taxes, corporate taxes, and gas taxes for shipping.

Are more and more people relying on the bloated government to do good in their stead? Or perhaps ever growing tax burdens and debt leaves more people unable to afford to give to charity.

Unfortunately, the government really, really terrible at helping people.

What better cause is there right now than helping the people of Puerto Rico, ravaged last year, and still reeling, from hurricane Maria?

The US government agency FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has poured $120 billion into Puerto Rico for recovery efforts.

And how is the money being spent? On contractors charging:

  • $700 charged for each $50 door
  • $5,000 for four feet of cabinets and velcro attached smoke detectors
  • $3,700 for generators that retail at $800 each
  • $82 each to fit 122,000 homes with smoke detectors ($6.99 each in bulk from Ace hardware on the island)
  • And FEMA apparently contracted with Satan, paying $666 per $260 sink.

“Fifty-eight percent is being taken off the top as overhead and profit from the two contractors above us,” said Brandon Padgett, owner of BVP Construction in Houston, which conducted repairs on 52 houses under the program. “Is there 58 percent overhead and profit needed to implement this? No, because we are doing 90 percent of the work.”

The generous American taxpayer is being fleeced. Corrupt friends of DC bureaucrats and politicians are cashing in, while the people of Puerto Rico are left high and dry.

The majority of FEMA funds are squandered on the succession of contractors skimming, skimming, skimming off the top until there is nothing left.

And you have to careful of this same corruption when you give to charity.

It is best to use a website that rates charities on their efficiency, like Charity Watch or Charity Navigator. Give Well takes it a step further and researches the highest impact programs, and suggests charities that efficiently implement these.

The difference between government agencies and charities though, is that charities have to answer to the public.

These watchdog groups expose bad charities.

And there are media sites that expose bad government agencies. But there isn’t a thing we can do about them.

But bad charities mean they get defunded by an angry or disappointed public.

We can’t simply defund FEMA because of the terrible job they do. Meanwhile, they claim to be helping Puerto Ricans, which means fewer Americans feel the need to donate voluntarily to a cause which the government is allegedly handling.

And even if we wanted to, we don’t have the money! The government took it to make their friends rich.

As we can see, FEMA is not running a charity, they are running a scam.

And the same goes for welfare agencies. $458 billion is spent by local, state, and the US government on welfare each year, NOT counting Social Security or Medicare.

That’s $11,450 per person in poverty. And the poverty line is $12,140 for an individual.

But most people in poverty don’t earn $0. And many are part of households, which means less needs to be spent per person to bring them out of poverty.

So if the governments were actually efficient with welfare, they could eliminate poverty in America.

Meanwhile, people assume it is the government’s responsibility to help the poor.

But if FEMA’s efficiency (or the US military spending we recently discussed) is any indicator, then this money is being used to enrich politicians and their cronies, not help the poor.

Americans give to causes that they care about, that are close to them, that they have researched. And they could give even more if they weren’t taxed so the government could squander the money on inefficiency and corruption.

Some evidence suggests that people from more conservative states give more overall to charity than people from more liberal states.

I don’t think Republican or Democrat really corresponds to how charitable you are. Rather I think those with certain values are ushered into voting for one political party or the other.

These may hardly match the values–I don’t think Republican politicians really support small government and individual rights, and I don’t think Democrat politicians really support helping the poor and marginalized.

But with nowhere else to turn in a two-party system, you get some general data about populations.

And it seems to me that people who believe in individual responsibility don’t shirk their responsibility when left to their own devices.

But collectivists on the other hand… poverty and disease are problems for society to solve, not the individual!

This is the same phenomenon we discussed when it came to the environment.

Turns out people who do NOT believe that humans necessarily caused climate change are actually more environmentally conscious and friendly than those who think the government should step in to regulate carbon emissions.

All this suggests to me that if people believe it is their individual responsibility to help the poor, reduce pollution, or solve any other societal problem, then the results are better. But when people think it is the collective that must act, efficiency goes out the window, and corruption takes its place.

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