Saturday, August 25, 2012

Conservatives Donate More to Charities Than Liberals? So What's the Mystery?

The local Libertarian rag today again makes much ado about nothing with its fatuous editorial entitled ''Conservatives Give More Than the Left' (p. A17) citing endless percentages, stats from The Chronicle Of Philanthropy, and to the final end of bloviating that "10 Republican leaning states" give more to charity than the "ten most left-leaning states" (nine of which went to Obama in 2008).  First place goes to Willard Mitt's Mormon haven of Utah, which is no surprise since much of that "charity" (As a Rachel Maddow report noted some 6 weeks ago) ends up in political coffers, and probably 60% of Mitt's "donations" fund his own campaign. 2nd place went to Washington, D.C. home to "large numbers of Baptists and Catholics" - but the Gazelle fails to note it's also part of the 4th wealthiest region in the U.S. - together with Howard County, Maryland- home of thousands of lobbyists earning over a quarter million each per year.

The "top five" philanthropic states are rounded out by Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The Gazelle explains this by being in the Bible Belt and the fact that "Believers are encouraged to give and not just to neighbors".

But therein lies the rub. Unstated is the fact that too many of these religious charitable givers are also hard core individualists who'd rather see their kids get Rickets or be malnourished than take a "handout" from government. (Yet, incredibly, red states with military outposts are quite content to grab as much as they can.)

But that's exactly why pro-government liberals donate less, because they sure as hell don't wish to create even more of an excuse for government to do less and abdicate its own responsibilities, i.e. to "promote the general welfare" - using the tax commons. The reason is that charity alone will never fill the enormous holes created by recession and major economic dysfunction, most of which is endemic to a Darwinian system used by the wealthiest against everyone else. (Based on the Pareto Distribution and Pareto "Optimality")

An article in the Free Inquiry issue of January, 2009, entitled 'The Future of Religion' highlighted the problem. The primary finding is that religious belief and activity (inlcuding charitable giving) is a superficial coping mechanism easily cast aside when the majority in a given society enjoy true (not faux) democratic government, and a secure, comfortable and middle class lifestyle. Those who claim the universality of religion or that it is integral to human nature commit the basic selection effects error, in that they conveniently overlook the data showing broad secularization of western Europe, Anglo-Australia, Canada and other developed nations.

Since the U.S. is a nation which is now seeing that lifestyle eviscerated, because of  globalization (outsourcing of jobs), austerity attacks based on tax cuts (reactionary Keynsianism), and military adventures, then it follows that inequality is mestastasizing, and people are becoming more and more dependent on religion....and religion's purse strings.  In fact, the article shows the primary reason the U.S. is a statistical outlier in religious belief (relative to the European advanced nations) is income inequality (as measured by the Gini coefficient).  This index has seen inequality increase ever since Bush Jr. was handed his presidency, compliments of the five Supremes, in 2000.

Meanwhile the U.S., with its historically lower taxes, fewer public safety nets, and more poor than rich (by more than a 25:1 ratio) displays a greater disparity than any other nation. Moreover, it displays a much greater social pathology. Understanding the basis of this pathology doesn’t take a genius. As anyone with more than air between the ears can see, on examining state by state budget deficits now exploding, in every case “re-balancing” is being done on the backs of the poor, the disabled, the elderly and the homeless. The results are predictable: loss of health care, loss of jobs and loss of overall security, as well as increase in drug use, violent criminality and prostitution.

Believers, especially in the Bible Belt, will then attempt to fill the gap because they accept that: 1) their Bible tells them to do so, and 2) they detest the very thought of the government doing anything for them, or their kin, neighbors. Hence, their charitable giving is believed (falsely) to have kept the government to a minimum. But it hasn't. The truth is there are now 45 million on food stamps,  up 58%  from 2008(according to The Economist, 7/28/12, p.23), and 54 million on Medicaid, up 21% over the same interval (ibid.). The amount of charity that would be needed to leave government out of the picture is actually some twenty five times more than the actual volume of charitable giving!

Hence, Leftists giving more will not alter the landscape or make it more hospitable. What is needed is MORE government assistance, in extending and increasing food stamps support, as well as unemployment insurance ....given that nearly 14 million are still looking for jobs.  Ironically, in spite of this, Americans claim levels of satisfaction and happiness similar to those in the Euro-secular advanced societies. This clearly suggests, as noted by the FI piece, that Americans use religion and their religious (or spiritual) beliefs as a form of self-medication to alleviate the chronic stress attendant on the knavish, neo-Darwinian society they inhabit.  Giving donations for their capitalist oppressed neighbors therefore enhances this feel good sense, despite the fact it simply isn't adequate to the task.

For example, to make charity ends meet and fill the gap in the absence of the government, those rich Catholic and other lobbyists in DC would need to give about 14.9% of their income, not the cited 7.7% Similarly, all the other alleged generous conservo states would need to at least double up on their giving. In the end, with a new recession, even that couldn't be sustained, and we saw how food pantries emptied  their stocks in weeks after the 2008 recession and stock market collapse - and were hard pressed to refill them. 

At least the local rag did get the perspective on us progressives correct:

"Most blue staters are not heartless wretches who want to horde money. Instead they want government to raise taxes and resdistribute the wealth."

Bingo! You got it, Sparky!

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