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Mitt and Ann Romney were featured in the August 26, 2012 Parade magazine. One of the topics covered was disclosure of their tax records including disclosure of charitable donations, which they preferred to keep private. [Note to Harry Reid & Nancy Pelosi when are you going to release your tax records? – put up or shut up. Sorry, hypocrites irk me] Back to the subject of charitable donations. I truly believe that the Romneys would prefer to keep their donations private, even anonymous. I have some good friends and neighbors who are also LDS. On occasion they have used me as an unknown delivery boy for anonymous food baskets.
This item about the Romneys got me thinking about the recent study of tax records by the Chronicle of Philanthropy which showed that “red” states donate a larger percentage of their income to charities than do “blue” states. See In the color of money, red staters more charitable than blues, By Ben Wolfgang– The Washington Times, Monday, August 20, 2012. The article goes on to state that when only donations to secular organizations are included, red and blue states come out fairly even. Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College states that people in less-religious states are willing to give by paying higher taxes. He make the leap of faith that they “view the tax money they’re paying not as something that’s forced upon them, but as a recognition that they belong with everyone else, that they’re citizens in the common good,” he said. “I think people here believe that when they pay their taxes, they’re being altruistic.”
I’ve never heard anyone speak of taxes as anything but a necessary evil. “I want: fire protection, police, roads, schools, etc… so I guess I’m going to have to pay for them.” I’ve only heard altruistic comments during activities like building houses with Habitat for Humanity, joining the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, or donating to specific church activities.
I think Joseph Grieboski, founder and chairman of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy is a lot closer to reality. “People who lean to the political left will rely on the government and pay higher taxes to manage social needs,” he said. “People who lean conservative will rely more on the individual and on religious institutions and civil society nonprofits to handle those needs.”
This thought bears expansion and examination. (Maybe now I’m the one extrapolating too far beyond private donations versus taxes to care for the less fortunate). People in the red states tend to live in rural areas and smaller towns. They live closer to the soil and socially closer to their neighbors. They see the direct connections between their actions and the effects. Thus they understand individual responsibility – in all areas of life: preparing for the future, earning a living, as well as helping the truly less fortunate (versus the lazy). This carries over into taking responsibility for personal behavior such as avoiding criminal acts. Compare this to blue states where people live in large cities. They work in offices and frequently know few neighbors. This isolates them from the results of many of their actions. They believe that society is responsible for: providing me a job, taking care of me (and you), and if I choose badly (criminal or risky behaviors) it is society’s fault, so society should fix it.
One last digression on personal donations versus taxes for aiding the less fortunate: the more personal and local the aid, the more efficient and effective. The larger the government agency involved, the more money gets wasted. If I donate $1 to the local food bank, a neighbor gets $1 of food. My $1 of taxes sent to Washington DC winds a tortured path to the hungry person down the street, shrinking at every step.
Our country was made great by individuals having the freedom to make choices and then taking responsibility for the results of those choices. If we are to give our Grandchildren a better world, we need to reemphasize personal responsibility.