Obama channels UN’s Egeland in sneering at American charity

posted at 5:25 pm on August 20, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

As if Barack Obama didn’t do enough damage with his “above my pay grade” response on abortion at the Saddleback Church presidential forum on Saturday, Jay Ambrose finds another revealing nugget in a different answer Obama gave Rick Warren.  When asked about his own shortcomings, Obama gave an initially touching response in identifying a “fundamental selfishness” in his youth that led to destructive behaviors.  Unfortunately, Obama then expanded on his statement to accuse Americans of a lack of charity:

“Americans’ greatest moral failure in my lifetime,” he said, “has been that we still don’t abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”

Sorry, but he can hang that one up. Whatever the case is with his own selfishness, the evidence of an internationally superior American generosity is impressive, beginning with the numbers on our charitable giving. We give twice as much as the British per capita, and according to The American magazine, seven times as much as the Germans and 14 times as much as the Italians.

Even in inflation-adjusted dollars, the amount given each year just keeps getting larger, and meanwhile, we do far more volunteer work than in other industrialized countries.

Obama’s allegation echoes that of then-UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland in December 2004.  In the immediate aftermath of the Asian tsunami disaster, Egeland commented that America was “stingy” (as well as other Western nations).  He called on the US to take more money in taxes so that the funds could get redirected to the UN relief funds:

“It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really,” the Norwegian-born U.N. official told reporters. “Christmastime should remind many Western countries at least, [of] how rich we have become.”

“There are several donors who are less generous than before in a growing world economy,” he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Europe “believe that they are really burdening the taxpayers too much, and the taxpayers want to give less. It’s not true. They want to give more.”

This makes sense if people count only that charity taken by threat of force by the government.  Even then, the notion made no sense; the US sent a massive Navy presence to the islands devastated by the tsunamis to ensure the proper distribution of relief, at no small cost to our nation and military during a period when we were fighting two wars.  Even apart from that, Americans raised over $2 billion privately for tsunami relief, more than doubling the $900 million spent by the US government.

In fact, no country even came close to our efforts in tsunami relief.  Germany and Australia gave $1.3 billion, the UK almost $800 million, Canada $780 million, Japan $500 million, and France gave $300 million.

The American noted the difference between Americans and the rest of the world as givers:

No developed country approaches American giving. For example, in 1995 (the most recent year for which data are available), Americans gave, per capita, three and a half times as much to causes and charities as the French, seven times as much as the Germans, and 14 times as much as the Italians. Similarly, in 1998, Americans were 15 percent more likely to volunteer their time than the Dutch, 21 percent more likely than the Swiss, and 32 percent more likely than the Germans. These differences are not attributable to demographic characteristics such as education, income, age, sex, or marital status. On the contrary, if we look at two people who are identical in all these ways except that one is European and the other American, the probability is still far lower that the European will volunteer than the American.

In Spain, the government studied this question and found that the US more than doubled any Western nation in per-capita donations (in Euros):

COUNTRY…………….PER CAP. GIVING

Spain……………………..122
Belgium……………………120
U.K……………………….117
Netherlands………………..110
Ireland……………………100
France……………………..74
Finland…………………….70
Austria…………………….50
Germany…………………….39
Hungary…………………….32
Slovakia……………………25
Czech Republic………………25
Romania……………………..5

U.S……………………….278

So the notion that Americans somehow come up short on charitable giving is simply a myth.  Moreover, it’s a myth with a purpose.  The people who float this nonsense want to take more out in taxes so that the elites who run the government make the decisions on how the money gets spent, and not the people who originally earn the money.

Once again, we see Obama give a knee-jerk Blame America First response without knowing the facts.  Americans give mightily, as a normal condition and especially in times of crisis.  Does Obama think he can win the votes of Americans by slandering them?

Addendum: As Instapundit notes, perhaps Obama can stop lecturing Americans about how to care for their figurative brothers and set an example by taking care of his own real brother, living in destitution and squalor.

Update: And while we’re talking about charity, please visit Baldilocks’ site to help her support the school Obama forgot.


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