Issues & Insights

Dem Candidates Are Generous — But Only With Other People’s Money

There’s a scene early in Charles Dickens’ fabled Christmas story when representatives of a private charity approach Ebenezer Scrooge asking him for a donation.

Scrooge’s response: “Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then? … I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course.”

Scrooge goes on to explain that the taxes he pays “help to support the establishments I have mentioned. They cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”

Scrooge would fit right in with today’s crop of Democrats hoping one day to be president.

USA Today took a look at their tax returns and found that, when it comes to making personal charitable donations, Democrats pull their purse strings as tight as Dickens’ most famous miser.

Here’s a rundown of leading Democrats’ donations to charity as a percentage of income based on the latest tax filings publicly available, which Tax Notes has helpfully compiled:

  • Beto O’Rourke: 0.3%
  • Pete Buttigieg: 0.6%
  • Kirsten Gillibrand: 1.1%
  • Kamala Harris: 1.4%
  • Joe Biden: 1.8%
  • Amy Klobuchar: 1.9%
  • Bernie Sanders: 3.3%
  • Jay Inslee: 4%
  • Elizabeth Warren: 5.5%

As a point of reference, American families who made between $25,000 and $50,000 give an average of 6.8% of their income to charity, according to IRS data.

Only Cory Booker was generous with his own money, giving 16% of it away to charities in 2018. But that’s when he knew he would be running for president. In 2017, he gave only 4.7% of his money away, and the year before that, 4.4%.

Of course, we don’t know what Trump has donated to charity because he hasn’t released his tax returns. However, Vice President Mike Pence gave away nearly 8% of his income in 2015.

In case you think this is an anomaly, it isn’t.  Al Gore gave a paltry $353 to charity in 1997, a year he made more than $197,000. When Mitt Romney released his tax returns in 2012, Democrats were dismayed to learn that not only did he pay plenty in taxes, he also gave away almost 30% of his income to charities.

This dichotomy also holds true outside presidential candidates.

Arthur Brooks, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, spent years studying giving patterns in the U.S. In his 2006 book, Who Really Cares, he found that households headed by conservatives give 30% more to private charities than households headed by liberals.

A study by the Philanthropy Roundtable found that while conservatives tended to have less household income than liberals, they nevertheless gave significantly more to charities.

Eight of the 10 most generous states — measured by giving as a share of income — in 2010 were solidly Republican.

There’s an obvious explanation for this. Like Scrooge, Democrats believe in government. They pay their taxes — as little as they can get away with, at any rate — to support government welfare programs. Why should they also cough up money out of their own pockets?

But generosity isn’t measured by how much you’re willing to force other people to help those in need. It’s measured by how much you are willing to give of your own time and money.

Yet somehow, it’s Democrats who keep getting labeled as compassionate, and Republicans as greedy.

As Ebenezer Scrooge would say: Humbug!

Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. We’re just getting started, and we’ll be adding new features as time permits. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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John Merline

Veteran journalist John Merline was Deputy Editor of Commentary and Opinion at Investor's Business Daily. Before IBD, he launched and edited the Opinion section of AOL News, and was a member of the editorial board of USA Today, where he continues to be a regular contributor. He’s been published in the Washington Post, National Review, Detroit News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Forbes, and numerous other publications. He is regular commentator on the One America News Network and on local talk radio. He got his start in journalism under the tutelage of M. Stanton Evans.


  • Ah, Daddy will provide. Sooner or later (sooner — much sooner — methinks) they’ll run out of Daddy’s money.

    John Schedler | 206-550-9831

  • Don’t forget Bill and Hillary Clinton. The year before he decided to run for president, he very generously donated his old underwear to charity. Today, the Salvation Army will not accept old socks and old underwear, thank you very much.

  • Don’t forget Bill and Hillary Clinton. The year before Bill decided to run for President, he and Hillary very generously donated his old underwear to charity, thank you very much.

    Today, the Salvation Army will not accept old socks or old underwear.

    • I forgot about that. Didn’t they put some ridiculously high price on it, too?

  • Like the old saw ‘Liberal’s are always willing to give you the shirt off someone else’s bacgk’



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About Issues & Insights

Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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