By Vexen Crabtree 2017
Throughout 2013-2016 the USA proved to be the second most generous nation in the world in terms of personal charitability, counting both the voluntary giving of money and time. The previous decade, in 2005, The Economist placed them first in terms of Individual Gifts to Charity as % of GDP1. But critics point out that compared to other developed countries, as a percent of income, "the US ranks twenty-second of the 22 most developed nations"2. Worse than that are claims that most USA aid goes to US allies such as Israel and other countries where politics and self-interest tie the aid to USA interests2,3. Public perception of this bias is one reason that many give for 'hatred' of the USA. However the criticism on tied aid is only fair when compared to how much other countries do the same, and, it is surely true of all countries that their citizens give more to those other countries where there are already links.
(World Position, 2013-2016)4
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The Charities Aid Foundation's statistics place the USA 2nd in a rating of how charitable individuals are in their personal relations and personal lives.
“The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) produces annual statistical analysis of personal charitable acts by individual individuals. It takes into account the helping of strangers, donations to charity and charitable volunteer work. Myanmar and the USA's people are commendable for their generosity. The ratings system is however biased towards grassroots-charitability and because of this, it is not wise to draw moral conclusions from the data. Some countries have a top-down approach to social aid. For example, in highly socialist countries such as Finland, Norway and Sweden the government itself is paid by citizens (through very high taxes) to engage in a lot of social work. Therefore there is a culture in which individuals feel they already contribute to charity - a charitable social safety net is centralized and organized, and well funded, but is not reflected in Charities Aid Foundation ratings. Some of those countries do score highest in measurements of how much aid is given to developing countries. Conversely, some of the lowest-ranking countries are clearly suffering from extreme poverty, and may lack the infrastructure that let's people volunteer time or give to charity.”
And aside from giving personal time and money, the USA's international charitability is well-known in many parts of the world. Some older commentary from 2003:
“When the going gets tough, Americans keep giving - to the tune of nearly $241 billion. Charitable donations for 2002 set a new high, rising 1 percent over 2001's total in current dollars, according to Giving USA, a report released Monday by the American Association of Fundraising Counsel's Trust for Philanthropy in Indianapolis. The estimated $240.92 billion in gifts equalled 2.3 percent of US gross domestic product.
Although once it is adjusted for inflation the amount represents a 0.5 percent decline since 2001, it still shows "the resilience and pervasiveness of giving in our culture," says Leo Arnoult, chair of the AAFRC Trust.
Most donations come from individuals (76 percent of the total), and some nonprofit sectors were hit harder last year than others.”
Stacy A. Teicher (2003)5
And from 2005:
Relative aid (2002):
“[Americans] are regularly told by politicians and the media, that America is the world's most generous nation. This is one of the most conventional pieces of 'knowledgeable ignorance'. According to the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the US gave between $6 and $15 billion in foreign aid in the period between 1995 and 1999. In absolute terms, Japan gives more than the US, between $9 and $15 billion in the same period. But the absolute figures are less significant than the proportion of gross domestic product (GDP, or national wealth) that a country devotes to foreign aid. On that league table, the US ranks twenty-second of the 22 most developed nations. As former President Jimmy Carter commented: 'We are the stingiest nation of all'. Denmark is top of the table, giving 1.01% of GDP, while the US manages just 0.1%. The United Nations has long established the target of 0.7% GDP for development assistance, although only four countries actually achieve this: Denmark, 1.01%; Norway, 0.91%; the Netherlands, 0.79%; Sweden, 0.7%. Apart from being the least generous nation, the US is highly selective in who receives its aid. Over 50% of its aid budget is spent on middle-income countries in the Middle East, with Israel being the recipient of the largest single share.”
Not only that, but according to Sarder & Davies, 80% of that aid itself actually goes to American companies in those foreign countries.
|% of USA aid 1988-1989|
“US aid, which acquired an increasingly military flavour during the Regan years, is now concentrated on a relatively small number of countries of special political importance.”
According to Heater & Berridge, Israel has been receiving 12/13% of all American charitable foreign aid since 1979. The chart shows numbers from 1988-1989.
The practice of tied aid can ruin local economies and is used to benefit the USA's allies such as Israel. The same phrase describes money that is given to US corporations working around the world which can be classed as charitable for tax and public relations purposes, even though the money isn't used for that purpose at all. This pours fuel on to a fire of anti-Americanism that burns throughout the educated world, as summarized in "Why Do People Hate America?" by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies (2002) (although not without sensationalism).
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..
Sardar, Ziauddin and Davies, Merryl Wyn
(2002) Why Do People Hate America?.
The Fraser Institute
(2016) The Human Freedom Index. Published by The Cato Institute, The Fraser Institute and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Covers data up to 2014. On www.fraserinstitute.org/.../human-freedom-index-2016..
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