It's Official: Rich People Are Greedy A-holes

gilded age

Let me hide my surprise: The Atlantic reports on a recent study suggesting that the wealthiest Americans donate less than half as much of their income to charity than their poorer counterparts.

In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income … Last year, not one of the top 50 individual charitable gifts went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.

Put that in yer pipe and smoke it, Rockefeller.

Not only do the rich dole out much less of their already-sizable moneybags, but they tend to give it to organizations that hardly even need it.

As The Atlantic’s Ken Sturn notes, the longstanding notion of the baron-as-philanthropist has gotten a historical boost from the nature of their high-profile purchases donations. Why give your hard-earned (a.k.a. tax-free capital gains) cash to a smelly food pantry, when you can get your name on some big opera house? Everyone knows the chicks love that classy shit. Plus, now you’ll finally have the sway to get that valet fired who dared get his oily fingerprints on the dash of your Audi. The disrespectful heathen.

Even better, donate your cash to an Ivy League school that desperately needs it. May I suggest Harvard; it’s endowment is in dire straights at only $32 billion. No matter what school you choose, don’t worry – it’s a sound investment. Now little Johnny Beau-Monde can easily take a walk in your (boat) shoes when he’s done snapping towels at the prep academy.

Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.” They are, he continued, “more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

Way to come right out there and say it, Professor Piff. Don’t expect any big donations for a new psychology lab anytime soon.

Another study seems to suggest a connection between the time Americans spend face-to-face with poverty every day and their willingness to donate to services for the less privileged:

…Researchers analyzed giving habits across all American ZIP codes. Consistent with previous studies, they found that less affluent ZIP codes gave relatively more … Wealthy people who lived in homogeneously affluent areas—areas where more than 40 percent of households earned at least $200,000 a year—were less generous than comparably wealthy people who lived in more socioeconomically diverse surroundings. It seems that insulation from people in need may dampen the charitable impulse.

Real shocker there. Someone turn on the gated community’s electric fence. This could get ugly fast:

Of the 50 largest individual gifts to public charities in 2012, 34 went to educational institutions, the vast majority of them colleges and universities, like Harvard, Columbia, and Berkeley, that cater to the nation’s and the world’s elite. Museums and arts organizations such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art received nine of these major gifts, with the remaining donations spread among medical facilities and fashionable charities like the Central Park Conservancy. Not a single one of them went to a social-service organization or to a charity that principally serves the poor and the dispossessed.

Ouch. Not a good showing for the barons. Good thing Big Government U.S.A. has been picking up the slack with it’s impressive, ever-expanding social safety net. Oh, wait – sorry. Do you mean the net we made for the banks that destroyed the economy in the first place? Moral hazard these days might as well be announced with the ‘Fox News Alert’ sound.

But breathe easy; no one who cares has the pull to get you kicked off the country club waiting list. Just make sure the help don’t hang around after cleaning the pool, or they might start stealing cans of Alpo from your cabinets.

I eagerly await the UC Berkeley researchers’ newest data, which is looking into whether Wall Street hedge fund managers have below average-size penises.

Nick Bush can be reached at nbush@thoughtpollution.com. 

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