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Because when I read this Raw Story Report, that's what it certainly seems like to me.

In an interview on CNBC on Monday, Home Depot founder and devout Catholic Ken Langone said that the Pope’s statements about capitalism have left many potential “capitalist benefactors” wary of donating to the Church or its fundraising projects.

According to Langone, an anonymous, “potential seven-figure donor” for the Church’s restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is concerned that the Pope’s criticism of capitalism are “exclusionary,” especially his statements about the “culture of prosperity” leading to the wealthy being “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”

So apparently when the Pope talks about those who are "Greedy at the Top" Mr. Langone feels he must take it on himself to be the spokesman and defender of the Greedy?

Oh, well, he was an investment Banker who helped with Home Depot's IPO, so there's that.  Should the Pope be expecting to wake up with the Head of a Golden Calf sitting at the foot of his bed?

Langone's behavior here could be a bit of a real-time example of something researches have recently verified using a rigged game of Monopoly which gave extra money and/or turns to certain players in order to study their behavior.  They found that when you give some people every advantage, they sometimes become Drunk with their Power.

According to Piff,  the goal here was to study how “a privileged player in a rigged game behaves”. After just fifteen minutes of play for each game, the researchers began noticing “dramatic” behavioral changes in the advantaged players…observed changes ranged from louder, more forceful movement of their game piece (and other “displays of power”) to seemingly trivial things like eating more pretzels.

In one humorously shocking (or shockingly humorous) example, one of the advantaged players, after successfully winning the game, was heard explaining what he had done, strategically, to succeed and win. This example speaks to “how we make sense of advantage”, says Piff

Or in other words, how some people who are born on third base suddenly think they hit a triple, and expect that every one else should defer to their obvious prowess and goodness.

Even the Pope.

Here's just a snippet of what the Holy Father Actually Said.

Francis said trickle down policies have not been proven to work and they reflect a “naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Pope Francis wrote.

“This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system,” the 76-year-old pontiff added.

To me that reads like a rather sober and informed reflection that the policies of "give more to the have mores" simply does not result in greater riches and prosperity being shared by all, in fact, exactly the opposite as just about any responsible economist will state.  Or you could just quote Robert Reich as he recently debated the topic with  Paul Ryan's Economic Adviser.
Cutting benefits to struggling families, Reich explained, is “not just bad for those families, but also bad for the economy overall, because, remember, those unemployment benefits going to the unemployed will be or have been turned around by the unemployed in terms of their purchases of goods and services.

“And that means the economy will be that much less robust,” Reich said.

“I don’t think there’s much reason to be concerned” about economic inequality, said Winship. The damage to the middle class, he said, “has really been overstated. The middle class has not stagnated.”

Reich argued that the further the individuals at the top of the “income ladder” pull away from the rest of the people in the U.S., the more difficult it becomes for people in lower income brackets to get anywhere or better their situations.

Plus we now have a lot of the middle rungs of that ladder disappearing,” he said, as labor unions are undermined by pro-business politicians and wealthy corporations. “Those rungs of the ladder are now gone.”

Reich has even gone so are to produce a documentary on the subject called 'Inequality for All".

Or to put it another way, people need less charity when they Make More Money!

But certainly that's not how the Home Depot CEO Founder saw things as he complained to Cardinal Dolan.

“I’ve told the Cardinal,” Langone said, “‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country.’”

Langone further said that, in the future, he hopes Pope Francis will “celebrate a positive point of view rather than focusing on the negative.” He does worry, though, because of “the vast difference between the Pope’s experience in Argentina and how we are in America. There is no nation on earth that is so forthcoming, so giving.

Now, to my knowledge, Pope Francis did not single out any particular nation for criticism, and I frankly feel it odd both that Langone and his anonymous 7-figure friend took this so personally, but also that they felt a deep burning need to defend the Sacred Honor Of the American Rich and declare that our Rich people are so much better than those self-absorbed stingy Argentinian Rich the Holy Father must only be acquainted with.

I mean, clearly, he just doesn't know how we're so dipped in Awesome Sauce here in the U.S, does he?

But y'know what? When you look at the 2010 Worldwide Giving Index, guess who'se Not Number #1? [Google Doc]

The Top 10 Countries Are:
1 Australia
1 New Zealand
3 Ireland
3 Canada
5 Switzerland
5 United States
7 Netherlands
8 United Kingdom
9 Sri Lanka
10 Austria

The index creates a compound score for each country looking three factors
- % of Population Giving Money to the Poor
- % of Population Volunteering Time to help the Needy
- % of Population Helping a Stranger

America's Scores in those areas are 60%, 39%, 65% for an average of 55%.

By Comparison the five Counties ahead of the U.S. Scored: [Top Score Bolded]

Australia : 70%, 38%, 64% - Average 57%
New Zealand : 68%, 41%, 63% - Average 57%
Ireland : 72%, 35%, 60% - Average 56%
Canada : 64%, 35%, 67% - Average 56%
Switzerland: 71%, 34%, 70% - Average 55%

So is what Langone saying based on nothing? Well, no - it seems that for 2013 (pdf) the U.S. does come out on top in this index since our Donating Money Scores has jumped to 62% (Up 2 Points), Volunteering Time is up to 45% (Up 6 points) and our Helping a Stranger Score has jumped to 77% (up 12 points), for an Average of 61%. [I could be wrong, but I suspect the economic downturn and Occupy probably have more to do with the improvement of those numbers than does Langone and his buddies]

Canada, Myanmar, New Zealand, Ireland and the U.K immediately follow the U.S. in 2013 all of which are at or above the previous high water mark of 57% Average set by Australia in 2010.

So we're not always the most giving in terms of percentages, but were typically in the running.  What Langone might have meant is simply how much money Americans give as a matter of public (governmental donations for developmental aid), because in pure dollars were way out front.

1 United States – $30.46 billion
2 United Kingdom – $13.66 billion
3 Germany – $13.11 billion
4 France – $12.00 billion
5 Japan – $10.49 billion
6 Canada – $5.68 billion
7 Netherlands – $5.52 billion
8 Australia – $5.44 billion
9 Sweden – $5.24 billion
10 Norway – $4.75 billion
But then again, if you factor in how much money America has available as part of it's Gross National Income - and then calculate how much we give (or rather our government gives) the picture changes rapidly.
1. Luxembourg – 1.00%
2. Sweden – 0.99%
3. Norway – 0.93%
4. Denmark – 0.84%
5. Netherlands – 0.71%
6. United Kingdom – 0.56%
7. Finland – 0.53%
8. Ireland – 0.48%
9. Belgium – 0.47%
10. France- 0.45%
11. Switzerland – 0.45%
12. Germany – 0.38%
13. Australia – 0.36%
14. Canada – 0.32%
15. Austria – 0.28%
16. New Zealand – 0.28%
17. Portugal – 0.27%
18. Iceland – 0.22%
19. United States – 0.19%
20. Japan – 0.17%
Now it's difficult to compare this documented government giving to what private individuals give, because that's private, however some high profile public figures do sometimes announce how much they've given and to whom.
The largest gifts announced by American philanthropists in 2012 totaled nearly $5.1-billion, but $3-billion of that was from Warren Buffett’s promise in August to give stock valued at $1-billion to each of three foundations run by his children.

Without Mr. Buffett’s pledges, the biggest gifts announced in 2012 would have totaled only $2-billion—far less than 2011’s $2.6-billion.

Nonetheless, three gifts of $100-million or more were announced in December, so that could be a positive sign for 2013.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder, donated $498.8-million in stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation in mid-December, within days of gifts from Mortimer Zuckerman, the publisher and real-estate executive who provided $200-million to Columbia University, and the Hollywood mogul David Geffen, who gave $100-million for scholarships to the medical school at the University of California at Los Angeles.

If not for Warren Buffet, America's Billionaire Giving would be Less Than Half of what it would have been in 2012.  The number of people who have individual access to that kind of disposable cash, is very small, and clearly from year-to-year these amounts wax and wane considerably.  But even in this relatively high-water mark year, the total amount given was still only 1/6th of Public Donations granted through the Government for developmental aid, and that itself is only 0.19% of our Gross National Income.

Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand spend nearly Double as a percent of GNI than we do, and their individual citizenry is generally more giving as well.

Overall evidence to the argument that "America is the Greatest Giver" isn't really all that convincing.  Maybe compared to Argentina - sure - but not the entire world. Perhaps you only see higher giving totals from America, because Rich Americans have so much more to give, rather than their being so much more "giving".

My question to Langone, is that if you yourself are not part of the "culture of the greedy" you really don't need to apologize for them, defend them with "We're Number One" (particularly when you sometimes aren't), complain that they're "just so misunderstood", or offer a not-at-all-veiled threat that you just might take all your duchets and run home if the Pope doesn't give you a verbal reach around, right?  Is your position "who does that Pope guy think he is anyway?"

Unless of course, you are part of that culture and you just can't stand to be exposed as such.

In summation, I don't know if Langone and his pals hurt fee fees are going to dissuade the Holy Father from saying things that another courageous Preacher once said long ago. Somehow, I just don't think so.

Matthew 19:21 .Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.…
Maybe if Langone worried more about the words of that preacher, than his 7-figure friend's hurt feelings, he might be a little better off in the long run no matter what the Pope says or doesn't say.

I'm just saying.


Originally posted to Vyan on Tue Dec 31, 2013 at 11:44 AM PST.

Also republished by Anglican Kossacks.

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