And of course it doesn’t, we’re used to it by now and have more or less adjusted to the new status quo of plutocratic post-capitalist Amercia, so it’s tough to really bother getting worked up about it at this point. But still, sometimes we get mathematical confirmation of exactly how selfish so many rich people really are, and it is worthy of specific commentary. For example, today we learned that rich people donate to charity at around half the rate of poor people:
One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
No offense to Ken Stern (the author of this article) but it’s not terribly confounding to us. Remember that 2011 study that concluded rich people lack empathy in comparison to poor people?
Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.” They are, he continued, “more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” Colorful statements aside, Piff’s research on the giving habits of different social classes—while not directly refuting the asshole theory—suggests that other, more complex factors are at work.
Complex factors like the fact that Rich people never encounter Poors — they live in fancy neighborhoods with other rich people, send their kids to fancy schools where they hang out with the children of other rich people, go on vacations to resorts where they encounter other rich people, and even stand in separate lines in the airport populated only by rich people. So yeah, not super surprising that they don’t give to charity — they live in an echo chamber where everything is just fine and never will be anything other than just fine. Also, the American narrative is that hard work equals success; it is pretty easy to invert that narrative and decide that people who are successful must have worked hard, and by extension, people who aren’t successful must not have worked hard.
Also, when rich people DO give to philanthropic organizations or to charity, they don’t give to Poors so much as they give to cultural and social institutions:
Beverly Hills surgeon explains at home fix for crepey skin around the arms, legs, and stomach.
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).
We believe in reinforcing good behavior here at Wonkette so we won’t criticize the act of donating. Even if it is to Harvard which has a $30 billion dollar endowment. (Yes, this is a lot. UCLA, for example, has an endowment of $1.5 billion dollars and it serves eight times as many undergraduates.)
Whatever, rich people GIVE MONEY AWAY, so clearly there is no need to, say, tax them to build roads and bridges or public schools or public libraries. We’ll just let them decide who gets what — they probably send the housekeeper home with secondhand clothes once in a while, so we know she won’t be needing any further assistance — and if we are deemed worthy of their philanthropic good graces, we’ll just pay teacher salaries with Kickstarter.