By Ian Haworth, Opinion Contributor
Several Democratic presidential candidates came under fire this week as they were pressured to answer why they haven’t donated more money to charity in recent years. Beto O’Rourke and his wife donated 0.3% of their combined income in 2017. Last year, Senator Elizabeth Warren and her husband donated 5.5%, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and her husband donated just under 2%, and Senator Kamala Harris and her husband donated 1.4% of their combined incomes to charity.
In isolation, there is nothing inherently immoralwith the financial choices these candidates have made. After all, their money is theirs to spend as they wish. However, what is deeply immoral is that these candidates consistently justify their policies, which all require aggressive taxation systems, using compassionate and charitable language. Despite demanding the power to spend the money of others in order to gain “moral outcomes”, they aren’t willing to pursue these outcomes through their own charitable giving. Are these moral outcomes suddenly immoral? Is our money any better than theirs? While it’s obvious that they couldn’t personally fund vast policies such as “Medicare for All”, their lack of charitable giving does highlight the clear discrepancy between the veracity of their moral rhetoric and the lethargy of their moral actions.
No presidential candidate abuses the concept of charity in a more hypocritical and despicable manner than Bernie Sanders. His radical policies are built upon an assumed foundation of “fairness” and “compassion”, demanding that the “rich pay their fair share”. Despite making over $1 million in both 2016 and 2017, placing him as a member of the “1%” he constantly demonizes, Bernie Sanders declined to pay what he would describe as his “fair share”. He donated only $10,600 in 2016 and $36,300 in 2017 to charity. While he could have elected to pay additional taxes on his earnings, he decided to decline. When questioned on this topic during a Fox News town hall, his response was “Pfft, come on. I paid the taxes that I owe”. It seems that the size of society’s moral injustices are large enough to justify his claim to your money, but not large enough for him to dip his hands into his own pocket.
Bernie Sanders epitomizes the radical Left’s intentional conflation of government spending with charitable giving. They present themselves as society’s only hope in the face of our gravest problems, justifying their vast taxation schemes as necessary in the pursuit of “moral justice”. Only they have the ability to spend our way out of these problems, since individuals are seemingly incapable of directing their voluntary donations in the “correct” direction.
In Judaism, the Talmud describes tzedakah (charity) as “the equivalent of all the mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah”. Maimonides, one of Judaism’s greatest scholars, defined eight levels of tzedakah, with the two highest levels being:
1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.
2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Communal funds, administered by responsible people are also in this category.
Some might argue these two highest levels of charity are equivalent in content to the proposals made by Bernie Sanders and his radical political comrades, as they hope to preemptively solve societal issues through some form of communal fund: the federal government. However, the crucial factor intentionally ignored is that the act of charitable giving is a voluntary act. It is an individual’s choice how much to give, and to whom they wish to give.
Bernie Sanders’ objective is to remove consent from the charitable process by demanding how much is taken and to whom that money is given. He might speak using compassionate and giving words, but it is easy to give away the wealth of others. Those who share his radical ideology believe that they are uniquely qualified to spend your money. The fact that they refuse to act upon this assumed morality through voluntary charity shows that their argument of charitable compassion is deeply disingenuous. Like so many who extol socialism, Bernie Sanders is willing to virtue-signal and reap the rewards of enshrining his policies as “charitable” without having to put his own money where his mouth is.
Maimonides defined the lowest level of charity as “when donations are given grudgingly”. As Bernie Sanders continues to hijack the language of charity to justify the seizure of other people’s wealth, would he argue that Maimonides missed the lowest level of charity: “When donations are seized and distributed without consent.”