I have many conservative friends who love to throw this argument at me when I speak of their lack of compassion for those who are weak, ignorant, or otherwise powerless. This is how I generally respond.
I believe that most of those conservatives are donating the money because:
- it’s strongly encouraged by their church, and
- doing so allows them to justify their callousness toward the suffering of the poor
They are, in essence, purchasing a Get-Out-of-Conscience Card, and they believe it to be a perfect defense whenever they are asked why they don’t support healthcare or education for the poor.
The problem is that they support the very policies that keep people suffering in the first place, e.g.: opposition of an improved minimum wage, cutting public education, privatizing social security, opposing universal health care, etc., and they then proceed to claim they are pro-poor because a portion of their check they never see goes to a charity somewhere.
They are, in effect, voting for an unjust war and then claiming moral high ground by donating medical supplies to battlefield hospitals.
It’s either foolish or reprehensible, depending on the level of ignorance involved. Don’t allow this tripe of an argument to deflect scrutiny when the question of human suffering arises. Focus on the policies that lead to the problems being perpetuated.
1 To be sure, there are many conservatives who give to charity and are active in doing so. Many also help those when they see them in need on the street as well, but for those who are anti-poor in their political philosophy and those who are cold to suffering when they see it in the real world, they tend to be conservative in my experience, and they cite this charity statistic as justification.