Sometime Reason contributor, self-confessed welfare queen, and ABC News heavyweight John Stossel has a new special that airs on Wednesday, November 29, at 10P.M. ET as a special edition of 20/20. Titled Cheap in America, Stossel explores the giving patterns of the poor and the wealthy, and everyone in between. From a press release about the show:
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."
And true to form, Stossel has set up some great stunts-cum-experiments such as this one:
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?