Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Is Joe Biden a hypocrite?

This is the claim being made on many blogs because of this headline: Palin gives more to charity than Biden Joe Biden, the champion of the poor, the man who illustrates every point with an anecdote about a conversation with his poor friends, gives less to charity than Governor Palin- who makes half as much money. "In 2006, the Palins paid $11,944 in taxes on $127,869 in income. In 2007, they paid $24,738 on $166,080.But in 2006, they donated $4,880 to charity, and in 2007, they donated $3,325. By contrast, Biden (D-Del.), Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's running mate, has donated a total of $3,690 since 1998 despite his higher Senate salary, according to an analysis posted by National Review."

This is a common phenomenon, written about many times- the supposedly hard-hearted Republicans giving more than the compassionate Democrats. From The Chronicle Of Philanthropy, Republicans give a bigger share of their incomes to charity, says a prominent economist ; from ABC News, Who Gives and Who Doesn't? ; a state-by-state list from the Catalogue for Philanthropy . Does this indicate Liberal hypocrisy? Many are cynical enough to think so- I remember a Doonesbury strip, with Honey asking Duke, "Doesn't he care for the poor?", and Duke answering, "Of course he does- that's how he avoids being one of them."

No, Senator Biden is not a hypocrite; he really does care for the poor. His Senate service illustrates this- he has the talent to be a multimillionaire in private industry, as a lobbyist if nothing else. Every day he spends in the Senate is costing him a fortune. The difference in personal giving does not reflect where his heart is, it reflects where his trust and philosophies lie.

A political liberal believes in government solutions. He believes that his own gifts- even large ones- are like trying to fill the Grand Canyon by throwing bricks in it; a meaningless gesture for the most part. The real cure, he believes, is by creating programs that will help everyone everywhere. He trusts the government to handle such programs more fairly and effectively than any private charity could. He believes that it takes a village.

A political conservative believes government programs exist primarily to provide plum jobs for political appointees. He believes that even the best intentioned government programs will be bungled. And so he fights against government programs and gives privately instead.

There is the additional effect that the political conservative is most often also a religious conservative. A religious conservative tends to believe in a personal duty to help the poor and unfortunate; "Rendering unto Caesar" does not discharge that duty, only his personal efforts do. That is why the dirt-poor often give a higher percentage of their incomes than the better off.

This is the only nation in which this philosophical difference makes a practical difference. For example, the US is often criticized for how little foreign aid we give- but that criticism arises from the fact that only government programs are counted. To illustrate with a personal example, the amount we send to our sponsored child in Guatemala- small as it is- is tens of times higher than the portion of our taxes going to foreign aid... multiply that by millions of like-minded Americans, and the total amount of aid sent, government and private combined, is much higher per capita than any other nation.

But the rigid political partisan of either side doesn't look at the big picture. The liberal believes the conservative heartless because he doesn't support the liberal's pet project. The conservative believes the liberal a hypocrite and a demagogue because he isn't doing those things personally. The professional activist feeds those beliefs to create hatred and anger because he knows that those emotions are easier to manipulate. One activist sits on our right shoulder, whispering that liberals want government programs to increase their personal power and empire, that liberals just want to rule, using the poor as pawns. One activist sits on our left shoulder, whispering that conservatives are heartless, greedy pigs who don't give a damn about anyone else, too stupid to know their own good. And so we have these nasty election campaigns. Think about that manipulation before you post your next jeremiad.


ogre said...


My household income is significantly less that that of the Palin's--and we gave two to three times as much to charity in the past couple years. And paid as much or more in taxes--and that's not accounting for paying CA taxes, whereas the Palins get $10-$15k from the State of Alaska.

(And we're more liberal than Biden. Politically and religiously.)

Despite this, I'm not suggesting that the Palins are hypocrites for not being more generous than we are, despite more income and more assets.

Nice try.

Joel Monka said...

Of course individuals differ- all generalities apply to a mere majority, not a totality. My point- which I stated expressly- is that Joe Biden is NOT a hypocrite, as right wing blogs are saying, and that both sides care about the poor.

Jaume de Marcos Andreu said...

Your understanding of the American right wing "caring about the poor" includes supporting people like Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala?

Joel Monka said...

No, it means supporting Jorge Eduardo Alvarez Macz, now age 15, in Guatemala for the last eight years.

Steve Caldwell said...

Based on the charitable contribution amounts, it appears that neither candidate is tithing (giving 10% to the church).

Senator Biden doesn't make that big a deal about his religion. But Governor Palin does.

I guess the tithe part of the Bible isn't meant to be taken literally.

Perhaps she is only a literalist when reading Genesis and the creation of the world.

Joel Monka said...

Surely that is an uncharitable comment. Tithing is much debated in modern Protestant churches, including evangelical ones. For example, from Wikipedia, "Opponents of tithing argue that the only Biblical references to the tithe occurred (or referenced events that occurred) during the period of Mosaic Law, applicable only to Jews. They further argue that Jesus taught He came to "fulfill" the Law, which they believe occurred at His crucifixion, and therefore Christians are no longer obligated to pay a minimum amount, but should give only as God specifically directs them to do (which may be more or less than 10 percent) 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. Further, opponents hold that the "blessing/cursing" teachings used in prosperity theology would result in God being able to be "bribed" or acting as an "extortionist". In addition, the blessings / curse point of view invalidates the gospel, i.e. if one is cursed, then Christ could not have been a "curse on our behalf" and if we can get more blessing by tithing, then we cannot possibly have "all Spiritual blessings in Christ" (Galatians 3:13; Ephesians 1:3). If it's true that all giving should be non-compulsory and rooted in the Christ in each believer, then tithing is moot." So unless you are a theologian of her particular denomination, statements such as "I guess the tithe part of the Bible isn't meant to be taken literally." seems smugly presumptuous.

CJ said...

Over at The Khaki Elephant blog, the blog owner observes that "Biden Talks The Talk, Palin Walks The Walk", saying that "when it comes to charitable giving, Joe Biden talks the talk, but Sarah Palin walks the walk", and he had provided graphs and charts to show us that "according to contributions adjusted by gross income, the Palins are around 12x more charitable than the Bidens."

...AND, on a talk forum earlier this morning, I was directed to a YouTube video pertaining to Joe Biden's charitable donations last year, or the lack thereof:

Bob wrote,
"As for that article you posted from the Huffington Post,none of that even checks out at all.It's just talking points for Obama.
Now,I have a good You Tube link that brings out documented proof about Obama,the person even tells you exactly what to Google so you can check it out for yourself.
http://www.youtube.com/themouthpeace ...."

After watching the video, I responded:
"Bob, that YouTube site didn't have a lot of facts that I could check out. It was mostly music and sound effects and was designed to appeal to its audience's emotions, rather than their intellect. I did google "Biden charitable donations" and saw that he was recorded as giving $369 yearly to charity, but all that that tells me is that:

A.) he isn't using charitable contributions as a tax deduction
B.)that any deductions he may be making over $369 per year are not a matter of public record."

Three hundred sixty-nine dollars a year... what a piddly amount. Charities and such are a big deal in Washington, socially and politically. Certainly someone of Biden's stature can afford to give more, and Joe's been in politics long enough to know that money given to charity is money well spent, when it comes to raising oneself in the eyes of one's peers and the voting public.

But maybe Joe doesn't care what people think. Maybe that's because he's such a tightwad that he only gives away $369 yearly and doesn't care who knows it or what that will do to him politically, or maybe he doesn't care because he's obeying Jesus's instructions regarding charitable giving:

Mat 6:2 Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. Mat 6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: Mat 6:4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Now, both Biden and Palin are churchgoers, and certainly denominations do differ, but taking into account that the Palins are very upfront about both their Pentecostal "the-world-is-6000-years-old-and-the-Bible-is-to-be-taken-literally" faith and about the amount of money they "give" to charity (and recieve back again in the form of tax deductions and social and political attaboys)
... WHO'S talking the talk, and who's walking the walk?