Because of a new report on how generous various people are in giving to charity, affluent Americans are getting a black eye they don't entirely deserve.

The criticism they are receiving might be better directed at a misguided change a few years ago in this nation's tax laws.The good news in this week's report from the Independent Sector, a coalition of 750 charitable organizations, is that charitable giving is on the upswing, with baby boomers and blacks leading the way.

The bad news is that the poor are proportionately more generous than the rich, many of whom give sparingly to charity.

Is this situation an indication that the affluent are stingy and selfish? Not necessarily.

It's a well-known fact of economic life that contributors to various worthy causes give considerably more if they can claim a deduction on their income tax returns. Unwisely, the tax reform law of 1986 made charitable giving less beneficial to the wealthy.

It's no accident that this change in the tax law was promptly followed by a 50 percent decline in the prior rate of growth of financial support for charities.

Though Congress clearly blundered when it made this change, it's probably asking too much to expect this nation's law makers to go back to the old system of deductions at a time when they are deadlocked in efforts to whittle down the deficit.

But the fact remains that limiting deductions does more than just soak the rich. It also hurts a wide variety of private charities, putting more pressure on the government to pick up the resulting burden. Washington really ought to rethink how it treats charitable contributions at tax time.