In a story on American charitable giving on CBS’s Sunday Morning, correspondent Mark Strassmann cited liberal Princeton University bio-ethics professor Peter Singer on how much people should give: “[He’s] worked up a giving guide. The more you make, the more he believes you should give....He believes it’s within our power to virtually end world poverty.”
A clip was played of Singer arguing: “Well I think we should be giving something quite substantial....the right thing to do in this situation, where there are millions of children and adults, of course, dying from avoidable poverty related causes is to give something pretty significant. Something that makes a difference to how you live.”
While Strassmann simply introduced Singer as a bio-ethicist, in reality, the professor has a history of promoting radical ideas, such as justifying infanticide. In an excerpt of his 1993 book Practical Ethics, entitled “Taking Life: Humans,” Singer concluded: “Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all.” CBS certainly picked an odd person to lecture Americans on caring for those less fortunate.
In addition to his embrace of killing off the weakest members of society, in a 2001 article, Singer seemingly justified bestiality.
Throughout the segment, Strassmann profiled the Salwen’s, a family from Atlanta, Georgia that sold their home in order to provide aid to a village in the African nation of Ghana. He explained how: “three years ago this stoplight changed the direction of Kevin Salwen’s family. His teen-aged daughter Hannah saw America’s great divide. A luxury car on one side. A homeless man on the other.” A clip was played of Hannah Salwen making the typical class warfare argument: “I said, ‘you know, Dad, if that guy to my right in the Mercedes didn’t have such a nice car then this man over here could have a meal.”
Here is a partial transcript of the segment:
MARK STRASSMANN: Giving is in the American DNA. A part of who we are.
STRASSMANN: We respond to human need with our time and money. From the haunting images of Haiti, where Americans have donated more than $600 million since the earthquake, to America’s troubled streets in cities like Atlanta. That’s where three years ago this stoplight changed the direction of Kevin Salwen’s family. His teen-aged daughter Hannah saw America’s great divide. A luxury car on one side. A homeless man on the other.
HANNAH SALWEN: And I said to my dad, I said, ‘you know, Dad, if that guy to my right in the Mercedes didn’t have such a nice car then this man over here could have a meal.’
STRASSMANN: Hannah insisted on answers to questions about personal sacrifice and public need.
SALWEN: I said, you know, I don’t want to be a family that just talks about doing something. I really want to get out there and I want to do it ourselves. I want to make a difference.
STRASSMANN: Her parents took Hannah’s outrage seriously. Joan Salwen is a teacher and former business consultant. Kevin’s a journalist and entrepreneur. They were already active in local charities, but then this family started asking each other, well, how much are you willing to sacrifice?
KEVIN SALWEN: And Joan challenges back by what are you willing to give up? Your room? This house?
JOAN SALWEN: I really wanted to test that a little bit to see what she really meant.
STRASSMANN: Then all of a sudden, we’ve got the two of them collaboratively saying ‘hey, we ought to sell this house.’
STRASSMANN: Overnight the house was as good as gone?
KEVIN SALWEN: It’s pretty crazy, but, yeah, just about.
STRASSMANN: This house. Their $2 million Atlanta show place.
STRASSMANN: One day the moving vans came and the Salwen’s were off. Their journey would take them and their six-figure donation halfway around the world. They were pushing a familiar debate. What’s the right amount to give to charity?
BRIAN GALLAGHER: There’s a pretty short list of what drives people to give.
STRASSMANN: Brian Gallagher is the president of United Way Worldwide. The world’s largest charity. $5 Billion in donations a year. Its average contribution: $250. During tonight’s Superbowl, you’ll see United Way ads from the NFL, its major partner.
GALLAGHER: The most significant human driver of giving and compassion is basic human need. So when you see somebody without the ability to get water, food, have no shelter, the American people historically respond.
STRASSMANN: Americans are generous. The latest figures put the country’s annual charitable giving at $307 billion. And over the years, America’s giving has been remarkably consistent. Averaging about 2% of individual income. So that’s the average, but is it enough?
GALLAGHER: Everyone’s heard the term ‘give until it hurts,’ give until it feels good.
STRASSMANN: Don’t answer that yet until you hear from Peter Singer. He’s a bioethics professor at Princeton University and the University of Melbourne. Remember Brian Gallagher’s calculus?
BRIAN GALLAGHER: Give until it feels good.
STRASSMANN: Singer says give until it hurts, at least a little.
PETER SINGER: Well I think we should be giving something quite substantial. So yes, I think we should probably say the right thing to do in this situation, where there are millions of children and adults, of course, dying from avoidable poverty related causes is to give something pretty significant. Something that makes a difference to how you live.
STRASSMANN: Singer’s worked up a giving guide. The more you make, the more he believes you should give. 1% At lower incomes, much more if you make a lot. He believes it’s within our power to virtually end world poverty.
SINGER: I’m not saying that there wouldn’t be any left but we could cut it back. We could educate people. We could get them on a sustainable footing.
STRASSMANN: The Salwen’s certainly cut back. After selling their grand house, they downsized by half into this house, four blocks away. And gave the profits from their home sale, $800,000, to The Hunger Project which gives a hand-up not a handout to needy people around the world.
HANNAH SALWEN: Thank you for welcoming us warmly into your community.
STRASSMANN: They traveled to Ghana, an eye opener for Hannah.
SALWEN: We went to an opening of a corn mill. And when we cut the ribbon, people were so overjoyed. There’s no moment in my life that I have ever seen people so happy over, you know, over a corn mill?
STRASSMANN: That corn mill meant that girls could go to school instead of walking for miles to mill corn. The Salwen’s money is now building two food and banking centers, a helping hand for 20,000 people. They’ve written a book about their experience, encouraging others to give up half of something they have and give to a cause greater than themselves. They now live in half the house they once had, 5,600 miles from villages they adopted in Ghana. But the Salwen’s have never felt closer to their world and to each other.
KEVIN SALWEN: If you’re out there in the world and you let the world in, it’s almost impossible to not feel that there’s some place where you can make things better.