An uncharitable view of charity
If billionaires say they want to “give back”, it’s because we let them take too much.
Our society has coined terms like “philanthropist” to encourage and salute people’s charitable spirit. Look at the flip side of this shiny coin of generosity, however, and you will find that its basic substance is societal selfishness.
After all, the need for charity only exists because we tolerate the intentional injustices and widespread inequalities created by power elites. A society as wealthy as ours should not relegate needy families and essential components of the common good to the whims of a few wealthy philanthropists.
Yes, corporate and individual donations can help at the margins, but they don’t solve anything. Food banks, health clinics and other service providers must constantly seek more charity, while major donors find their “charitable spirit” subsidized by tax breaks that siphon money from our public treasury.
I am particularly offended by the common grandiose claim by big donors that charity is their way of “giving back” to society. But if they can give so much, it’s probably because they took too much!
As business columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin points out, “Too often charitable giving is used…to make up for the failure of corporations to pay people a living wage and treat their workers with dignity.”
It’s not just the unemployed who depend on food banks, but also janitors, nannies, Uber drivers, cashiers and others who work full time but are paid so poorly they can’t make ends meet. This is not a sad case of charity but a case of criminal exploitation by wealthy elites. The charitable thing to do is to ban it and demand a living wage for all.
As Sorkin says, “The goal should be to create a society where we don’t need places like food banks…We should try to bankrupt food banks.”
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and speaker. Distributed by OtherWords.org.