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11.28.2006 - 09:48am ET

Source: 20/20

"Cheap In America" John Stossel Reports On Charity: Who Gives, Who Doesn't And Why We All Should Be More Generous

Airing On A Special Edition of "20/20" On Wednesday, November 29, 10:00 - 11:00 p.m. on ABC

Press Release

It is the season of giving. But what determines someone's likelihood of giving? Do liberals give more than conservatives? Do religious people give mostly to their own churches? Do the rich give more than the middle-class and the middle-class more than the poor? And are billionaires cheap? The answers may surprise viewers. John Stossel's special "Cheap In America" airs as a special edition of "20/20," WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

Stossel wonders about the charitable behavior of the "filthy rich." It turns out that the working poor give away a higher percentage of their salary to charity than the rich. So does that mean the richest Americans are cheap? He asks some of the Forbes 400 billionaires about that. Four, to date, have agreed to talk to him, and their reasons for giving, and not giving, are different and sometimes unbelievable:

  • Ted Turner, who is worth 1.9 billion dollars, tells Stossel: "I'm doing all I can. And still keep enough, for, you know, make sure that my grandchildren make it, can get through college." When Stossel suggests that 1.9 billion should be enough, Turner answers: "It's not enough. Not in the way inflation... I was worth ten billion, about four, five years ago, at the very height. And I lost eight of it. So you know, the other two could evaporate overnight...the banks can close. They're not safe either, just like the United States government, behind social security."

  • Dan Duncan, who is worth 7.5 billion dollars, is on Business Week's list of the most generous philanthropists. Still, he has only given away two percent of his net worth, which Stossel says "sounds cheap." Duncan answers, "If that was all that I ever wanted to give away, I would agree 100%, [but] if you're one of the gifted people that can actually make more money, people receiving it are better off if you keep it to get a lot more later on."

  • Eli Broad, who is worth 5.8 billion dollars, and who has given away almost two billion dollars, 33% of his net worth, says he has so much money that he can't yet give it away effectively. "Who do you give it to? You could write checks. Everyone will take your money," he tells Stossel. "And I know people in decades gone by giving away a lot of money and you look back a decade later and say what happened to it? Did it make a difference?"

  • James Goodnight, who is worth 4.5 billion dollars but is not on the list of generous philanthopists, just tells Stossel: "I think I give enough."

    To illustrate what distinguishes those who give from those who don't, "20/20" went to two parts of the county that have two very different populations: Sioux Falls, South Dakota and San Francisco, California. "20/20" asked the Salvation Army to set up buckets at their busiest locations in both cities - Macy's in San Francisco and Walmart in Sioux Falls. Which bucket gets more money? Sioux Falls is rural and religious, more than half of the population go to church every week. People in San Francisco make much more money, are more liberal, and just 14% of people in San Francisco attend church every week. Liberals are said to care more about helping the poor; so will people in San Francisco give more?

    In his book, Who Really Cares, Arthur Brooks finds that the people who donate money are the same ones who will donate blood, volunteer, and even give up their seat on a bus. "The people who give one thing tend to be the people who give everything in America," says Brooks.

    Stossel also reports on the joy of giving. Science documents something called the "helpers' high." It is one more reason for people to think about giving more of their money, or time, to others. "Giving is as good for the giver as it is for the receiver, science says so," says Stephen Post, author of an upcoming book Why Good things Happen To Good People. In fact, new science says that giving more can actually improve your health.


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    Joyce Placito    2006-11-29 11:47:35

    I have heard a lot about this recently, but think that many people consider themselves moderate or conservative and will say so because 'liberal' has negative connotions in society. many people that you actually survey about their feelings on social issues are acutally more progressive but do not want a liberal label.

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