Obama's Charity Problem

A curious feature of the most outspoken proponents of government redistribution of taxpayer money is that, often they are the stingiest among us when it comes to donating their own wealth to charity.

In her new book and column of March 12, Ann Coulter compares the charitable donations of Presidents Obama and Bush and VPs Biden and Cheney.

As a tipoff on how the comparison goes, remember that Obama's youngest half-brother lives in wretched poverty in a 65-sqare-foot shack in Nairobi. Like many liberals, the president cares deeply for the poor; so long as the poor are helped with taxpayer money. Even without any trickle-down assistance from his older brother, George Obama nevertheless proudly adorns his dilapidated hovel with a front-page newspaper photo of his wealthy relative who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (but I digress).

According to their tax returns [notes Coulter], in 2006 and 2007, the Obamas gave 5.8 percent and 6.1 percent of their income to charity. I guess Michelle Obama has to draw the line someplace with all this ‘giving back' stuff. The Bidens gave 0.15 percent and 0.31 percent of the income to charity.

Meanwhile, in 1991, 1992 and 1993, George W. Bush had incomes of $179,591, $212,313 and $610,772. His charitable contributions those years were $28,236, $31,914 and $31,292. During his presidency, Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year.

For purposes of comparison, in 2005, Barack Obama made $1.7 million -- more than twice President Bush's 2005 income of $735,180 -- but they both gave about the same amount to charity.

That same year, the heartless Halliburton employee Vice President Dick Cheney gave 77 percent of his income to charity. The following year, in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama's.

(For those who reject everything that Ann Coulter says because she is a "flamethrower," I commend to you a book on the subject by Professor Arthur Brooks, aptly titled, "Who Really Cares?")

Studies have shown that giving away personal wealth to charitable causes doesn't help donors to get elected to government office. It turns out that promising to help the poor and middle class with tax money from the "wealthy" does, in fact, win elections. In an attempt to provide some "fairness doctrine" balance, there is a silver lining for President Obama in the comparisons: Compared to Joe Biden Obama is rather generous.

Obama's real source of generosity -- other people's money -- brings me to the president's plan to limit tax deductions on charitable giving.

Tampering with charitable giving is one of those inexplicable liberal policies against society's own interests. It's in the category with the brilliant policy of paying women monthly installments in taxpayer money after they have children out of wedlock -- which increases both illegitimacy (and all its aftereffects) and the taxpayers' exponential burden. Denying charitable deductions likewise creates a double negative: It discourages voluntary giving while increasing the individual's tax burden.

Considering that Americans are the most generous charitable givers in the world it makes absolutely no sense to discourage generosity and its benefits. That is, it makes no sense to a traditional American. Spreading the wealth or surplus around to the less fortunate works best when it's done voluntarily, for any number of reasons: Charitable giving eliminates waste and government bureaucracy; it can be accomplished at the local level, meeting immediate needs; it makes the community stronger; it provides satisfaction to the giver; and rather than creating a sense of entitlement in the receiver, it encourages recognition and responsibility.

Totalitarian government, however, cannot tolerate competition in meeting the needs of society. Government alone must spread the wealth around inasmuch as only Big Brother knows what people really need.

In his piece, "Obama's Ideological Father," Professor Herbert London shows that the parallels between the founder of the Italian Communist Party, Antonio Gramsci, and President Obama are striking. Gramsci provided three reasons for why the Italians didn't welcome a Communist revolution in the early 20th century. "He found three explanations: Christianity, nationalism and charity."

Though the economy is providing him quite the opportunity, Obama nevertheless faces the same three obstacles in his quest to "fundamentally transform America."

In context of the topic of this piece, charity, London notes that:

Gramsci engaged in efforts to persuade Italians that the way, the only way, to express humanitarian concern for the poor or those left behind as the detritus of capitalism is through a government that can be benevolent and beneficent. For him, big government wasn't a temptation for tyranny but rather the adjudicator for life's unfairness.

Unfortunately, when government sets out to achieve social justice, religious institutions and charities become obsolete and people become wards of the state.

When traditional mores are in order and when families and communities are strong the need for government as savior dissipates. In fact, the capacity of a people to self-govern has always been the gravamen of American liberty. Back in the days when stigma attached to poor choices and when government did not bail out poor choices, fewer were made. And when they were made, families pulled together which made them and their communities stronger. Families, churches, synagogues and charities once did what government now does from Washington.

Times of uncertainty, fear, chaos, crisis, weakness and cultural breakdown provide transformative opportunities from which any despot that's worth his salt will not waste.

Is it any wonder that social progressive policies often are against society's own interests?

Monte Kuligowski is an attorney who writes on topics of faith, culture, policy and law. His blog site is duelingnations .com.