[POL] Charity by political affiliation

Green Co.

EAS Admin
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I have argued several times in the pages of Touchstone that politics is downstream from culture. I know that some folks are obliged, by vocation, to deal directly with political questions, but normally I don't have to do so. I enjoy the luxury of addressing cultural concerns without getting into the nitty-gritty of partisan politics.

Consequently, when I spoke as a guest lecturer at Penn State last week, I endeavored to refrain from political comment, even though we had just held the national elections two days earlier, and the minds of my listeners were still filled with political considerations. Although the theme of my talk, "Tradition and Culture," was perhaps not without political interest, I did not touch on political concerns as such.
Nonetheless, what I had to say about culture apparently prompted political questions in the minds of some of the audience, and politics certainly came up in the Q & A session after the lecture.

One of the students, for example, apparently reacting to my remarks on abortion (with respect to which he correctly gathered that I did not approve), spoke of the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties on this subject. He went on to lament that the Republican Party, though correct in its opposition to abortion, was otherwise a group lacking in compassion, charity, and generosity. Republicans, he declared, cling to their money and, though they would never admit it, are deeply selfish. They refuse to share their wealth. Republicans do not care for the poor, show no concern for the homeless, fail to feed the hungry, and manifest insouciance to the needs of widows and orphans.

This student's views on the matter seemed to me somewhat extreme. In my answer to him, I suggested that he was identifying the political and economic philosophies of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises with the policies of the Republican Party. I also suggested to him that this identification is massively unwarranted.

You know, I wish I had held in my hands last week the report that came out today from The Catalogue for Philanthropy's 2004 Generosity Index. This index, reported by Associated Press and carried in today's Chicago Tribune (section 1, page 18), surveys and grades each of the fifty states according to the generosity of its charitable donations.

This survey is based on the citizens' average adjusted income and itemized charitable donations reported on the federal income tax reports. The index for this year is based on the tax reports of 2002, the latest year available for scrutiny.
The results of this survey and gradation are most interesting and informative, and, as I remarked, I wish I had held the report in my hand when I was questioned by that student at Penn State last week.

According to this report from the Catalogue for Philanthropy, the five most generous states in this country are (in rank) Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Alabama. The Associated Press's article on the report notes that this is the eighth year in a row that Mississippi ranks first.

A picture takes shape here. We observe, for example, that all five of those states are in the South. (These are also five states in which church attendance is very high, but we may leave that thought for another time.) We also note that all five of them voted heavily for Republican candidates, and that President Bush carried all five of them last week. Indeed, according to the "county-by-county" map published in the most recent Newsweek, Senator Kerry did not win even a single county in Oklahoma; as a former citizen of that wonderful state, I took great pride and satisfaction in the fact.
Let's look at the next five (6-10) most generous states in the country: Tennessee, South Dakota, Utah, South Carolina, and and Idaho. Once again, we observe that all five of these states voted for Bush.

So far, none of the generous states voted for Kerry. Let's try the next five states (11-15): Wyoming, Texas, West Virginia, Nebraska, and North Dakota. Hmm, here again all five went for Bush, none of them for Kerry.

It doesn't look like the generous people in America have been voting Democrat. Maybe we'll find something in the next five states (15-20): North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, and Kentucky. Gulp! We're still in Bush country.

So let's go to the next five (21-25): Montana, Missouri, New Mexico, Alaska, and Indiana. Sorry, folks. We haven't found a Kerry state yet. The top 25 most generous states in the country — the top half — all voted for Bush.

There is something else we may note about these 25 most generous states — their locations. None of them are in the northeast of the country, none of them on the west coast, and only one of them bordering the Great Lakes. (This was Indiana, a special case worth examining in more detail. Only 4 counties in Indiana voted for Kerry. Two were on Lake Michigan and are virtual suburbs of Chicago; one has Indianapolis, and the other is on the Ohio River, not far from Louisville, which also went for Kerry.)
As countless commentators have observed, those three outlying regions of the country —the northeast, the west coast, and the Great Lakes region — went for Kerry. (In general, those Americans who lived closest to the metropolitan centers of Canada tended to vote for Kerry. There may be a lesson in this.)

Indeed, we do not find a Kerry state until #26 in the generosity ratings. This is New York.

So how generous, compassionate, and solicitous for the poor are the Kerry states?
Well, let's look at the list again. This time, let's start from the bottom and go up. We commence with the bottom five (50-46): New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. These, the least generous states in the country, all voted for Kerry. Four of them, we observe, are in the northeast, three of them in New England, and one of them bordering the Great Lakes.

Let try the next five from the bottom (45-41): Minnesota, Connecticut, Colorado, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Aha, at last a Bush state that is relatively ungenerous — Colorado. The other four are still in Kerry country.

Do we detect a trend in these statistics? I think so. It is true, as that student at Penn State suggested last week, that there really is a difference between the folks who voted for Bush and the folks who voted for Kerry. Indeed, he was also correct that this difference is spelled out in terms of generosity.

The problem, of course, is that the terms of this difference appear to be the very opposite of what he supposed.

One last point is worth mentioning, I believe. This report of the Catalogue for Philanthropy is published in Hartford, Connecticut, which is Kerry country.