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December 19, 2005

The 2005 Gererosity Index

The 2005 Gererosity Index is out. As Michael Medved points out, the top half of the list is fully populated with "red states", while all but 1 of the bottom quarter of the list are "blue states". His conclusion:

The reason GOP states are so much more generous is both obvious and profound: conservatives view compassion as a personal responsibility, but liberals tend to see it as the government’s job. One approach leads to individual commitment, while the other encourages the belief you can best help others by leaving it up to tax collectors and bureaucrats.

Not to mention that those tax collectors and bureaucrats suck out around 75% of the money passing through them. This also highlights the divide in this country between those who look to government first to solve all the ills of society and those who are busy doing something about them (or personally supporting those who are).

Posted by Doug at December 19, 2005 04:45 PM

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I would hate to sound like a one-note song, but I wonder how poverty rates compare to the generosity states. As I recall, statistically, the poor give more than the wealthy as a percentage of their income. And the authors point that out: there are some of our poorer states at the top there. Another verification of that point, it would seem.

However, I wonder: If giving to your own church were removed from that list of charitable giving, what the numbers would be then?

I ask that because, for most of us, giving to our church is something we do for our own benefit (which is fine. I give to my church for my benefit, as I want to be able to continue to go to my church... In addition to the aid our church gives to those physically in need), as opposed to moneys given purely for the purpose of helping others.

As we all know, some churches spend a great deal of money on their buildings and infrastructure...What if THAT money were deducted out of this index, what would it reflect, I wonder?

I don't know the answer to that but it may be an interesting thing to know.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at December 19, 2005 05:57 PM

Doug, it really is a full-time job reminding you why your angry bizarro world bears little resemblance to reality. Lucky for you I have a few minutes, so I'll take a crack at your post above, which vies for one of the most ridiculous you have written, a real feat.

According to the web site you link to, a state's "generosity index" is based on the difference between its "having rank" and its "giving rank". A state that has a lot CANNOT achieve a high generosity index even if it ranks high in giving. For example, even if Connecticut, which ranks number 1 in the having index, were to rank number 1 in the giving index, its rank relation would be 0, which would place it 24th on the generosity index. Similarly, if Mississipians had given nothing to charity and thus ranked last in giving, it would also place 24th on the generosity index.

Another reason that chart is bogus is that it is based on average rather than median incomes. A few really rich people will have a disproportional impact on the average income, whereas the median really reflects what most people earn.

Dan's point is a good one too. There is a strong correlation between states with high charitable deductions and states with high numbers of people that are likely to tithe to their church.

Finally, when cost of living is taken into account, the blue states represent 50% more of the top ten spots than red states on a revised generosity index:

I find it hypocritical that you pretend to align your sympathies with the poor here when in the past you have spent so much effort trying to justify why the government should cut public assistance programs. Under a Republican President, House and Senate, cuts have been made to Medicaid, school lunch programs and student loans; job growth and inflation-adjusted wages are lower; more people have dropped below the poverty line and fewer people have health care than when the Democrats were in control. When responsibility to the weakest members of society is left solely to the conservative ideal of individuals and private charities, this is what you get.

I wonder - as I do with nearly all your angry posts - whether you don't understand the facts or whether you deliberately choose to ignore them to promote your political agenda.

Posted by: dem at December 21, 2005 09:18 AM

Dem, thanks for your analysis. Yes, I see what you mean about the methodology used in the Genorosity Index, and you're right that it does penalize wealthy states.

You're alternative scale is worth a look, although I think that average income is still a better measure that median. While more people will fall around the median income, it would then tend to penalize poorer states. A number of rich philanthropists would make it appear as though the whole state is giving more than its share. Not sure that's quite ideal either.

I agree with Dan's point, that church-goers tend to give more. I would point out, also, that it tends to agree with the suggestion that conservatives give more, as there's a good correlation between those two groups. Getting into the reasons for that tithing would be an interesting study. Anyway, that correlation is why I believe that, given the need and should folks have more to give, the church, even those churches who today think the government should be our main source of aid, could indeed pick up the slack from the federal government. We're a different, more wealthy country than we were a generation ago, and we're nowhere near a governmental situation that could be described as "the conservative ideal", so you can't really say this is what we get. I've talked about this before, and I'm sure you know where I stand.

The 1/2 of 1 percent that Republicans are trying to cut now (or, more accurately, slow the growth) could most likely be absorbed by cutting waste in so many of these programs, and there is plenty of waste. When responsibility to the weakest members of society is left almost solely to the liberal idea of big government, waste--massive waste--is what you get.

Posted by: Doug Payton at December 21, 2005 10:11 AM

"churches could indeed pick up the slack from the federal government."

Then let them do so. Nothing at all stopping them.

As to waste, you don't really want to start looking at the waste involved in the $500 billion military budget as compared to the $20 billion "welfare" budget, do you? [Note: Not that I'm opposed to reducing fraud and waste, no one is. I'm just suggesting that $25 here and there by an occasional person in poverty would pale in moral significance to the amount of waste inherent in having the world's most bloated military machine.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at December 21, 2005 10:53 AM

Look, Dan, we've hit this before, and it may surprise you that churches are, in fact, doing it. Helping hands are extended all over the place. If they're not giving to some standard of living you've set as the bar, I'm sorry, but it's not for lack of opportunities. I grew up in the Salvation Army; I know how much the church is doing. And if we're going to repeat things over to each other, I'll say again that my $1 to my local church co-op buys $1 of food, the $1 in the Army red kettle buys ~80 cents of service, while my $1 to federal taxes might toss a quarter into the kitty.

Reducing waste does not have to mean reduced cash outlays to the poor. You don't think we could find a way to reduce the 75% siphoned off by bureaucrats to more than pay for any "cuts"? If there was ever a case for the increased efficiency of the private sector, this is it.

Posted by: Doug Payton at December 21, 2005 11:15 AM

I'm all for churches and other non-profits taking the lead here. And they DO some work (my wife is a church social worker, so I know some of what is and what isn't being done). BUT they are not doing enough and as a result, society has to pay in other ways.

If we don't help with affordable housing, then we have an increase in homelessness (especially homeless families and children) and a corresponding decrease in education and other "family values," all of which can lead to an increase in prisons, unwanted pregnancies and drug abuse (among other reactions) which in turn costs society money.

I'm saying that we WILL pay one way or the other. If we don't help the 1.2 million children who are homeless TONIGHT (and, again, that is WITH welfare assistance - what would it be if welfare was gone), then we WILL be paying down the road.

To quote the Bible, we will sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

Reduce costs? By all means. But I find it pretty damned cynical and hypocritical for those who'd support a half a trillion dollar military budget with ALL its inherent waste and corruption to crow about the pennies lost in welfare.

"You hypocrite! First remove the log from your own eye and then you may be able to help the one with the speck in their eye."


Posted by: Dan Trabue at December 21, 2005 05:20 PM