UNCHARITABLE. Cato's David Boaz has a gleeful post whipping Andrew Cuomo -- and by extension, all liberals -- for his relatively paltry commitment to charity. "In 2004 and 2005," Boaz writes, "Cuomo had more than $1.5 million in adjusted gross income. And he gave a total of $2,000 to charity. He made no charitable contributions in 2003, when his income was a bit less than $300,000. It�s no wonder that Cuomo believes passionately in taxing Americans to support all manner of welfare and transfer programs. Looking within himself, he quite understandably fears that in the absence of coerced transfer programs there would be no support for the poor. Yet in fact Americans gave about $250 billion to charity in 2004, or an average of about 2 percent of income."
Oh boy, 2 percent of income! You hear this quite a bit, that liberals support large welfare programs because they fear their own selfishness. It's a nifty bit of ideological jujitsu. Liberals, who want to codify sufficient support for the poor, are actually less generous than conservatives, who would fund a parallel welfare state out of the goodness of their own hearts but are continually foiled by progressive taxation. Since paltry amounts of unprompted giving are considered somehow purer than a willingness to support large coerced contributions, conservatives are better people. QED.
But let's look at the data a bit more closely. In 2004, charitable donations totaled $248.5 billion, a 2.3 percent increase over 2003. Given that the growth rate in 2003 was 3 percent, charitable donations grew more slowly than the economy. How generous. Of that $248.5 billion, $187.9 billion came from individuals, $28.8 billion from foundations, and $12 billion from corporations. So for individual contributions, which Boaz is talking about, the operative amount is just shy of $190 billion. But even that vastly overstates how much money is donated to aid the needy.