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Religious States Are More Charitable


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Red states give more money to charity than blue states, according to a new study on Monday.

The eight states with residents who gave the highest share of their income to charity supported Sen. John McCain in 2008, while the seven states with the least generous residents went for President Barack Obama, the Chronicle of Philanthropy found in its new survey of tax data from the IRS for 2008.

The eight states whose residents gave the highest share of their income — Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, Arkansas and Georgia — all backed McCain in 2008. Utah leads charitable giving, with 10.6 percent of income given.

And the least generous states — Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire — were Obama supporters in the last presidential race. New Hampshire residents gave the least share of their income, the Chronicle stated, with 2.5 percent.

“The reasons for the discrepancies among states, cities, neighborhoods are rooted in part in each area’s political philosophy about the role of government versus charity,” the study’s authors noted.

But it’s not just about politics — “religion has a big influence on giving patterns.”

Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church,” the study states. “The remaining states in the top nine are all in the Bible Belt.”

The Chronicle of Philanthropy used tax data from the IRS for 2008 to create its study. The Chronicle noted that “to account for sharp differences in the cost of living across America” the study “compared generosity rates after residents paid taxes, housing, food, and other necessities.” The study only included taxpayers who said they had an income of $50,000 or more.

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79888.html?hp=r5

Interesting how a religious philosphy leads to more charity than a social welfare philosophy and that is consistent with LDS doctrine.

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Not convinced. All church contributions count as charitable giving and building and maintaining church buildings is a wonderful thing but it won't replace the "SOCIAL WELFARE PHILOSOPHY" (cue scary music).

Add in that it would take every church congregation in America raising an extra million dollars a year (in addition to what they already collect) to replace half of what the government spends to help the needy (not counting the organization costs needed to distribute it).

It's not an either/or proposition though.

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You could make an argument that US tax code aside, many people would argue that funding a church is not what they think of as charitable contributions, and counting those contributions artificially inflates REAL charitable giving. In my perfect world, I would only allow charitable tax deductions for services that the government would otherwise be morally obligated to provide as safety net --- food, medical, shelter, employability training, disability access, education, maybe a little of historical preservation and conservation easements, disaster relief.

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Now if the government didn't take that money in the first place in taxes, one wonders how much of it would go to the needy in one way or the other (as charity or as salaries or whatever).

My guess: Not much. If you were to cut the federal income tax off for me my tithing would go up by a bit and my fast offerings might double at best. Maybe a little more in other charitable giving. Corporations are worse. Many give something back but this is usually a PR move. The stockholders want one thing: money. The company makes money or stock prices fall. Cut corporate taxes and what do they do with the rest? Stockholders make money. They might hire new workers IF they can grow and make more money and IF economic prospects are good.

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Now if the government didn't take that money in the first place in taxes, one wonders how much of it would go to the needy in one way or the other (as charity or as salaries or whatever).

Wouldn't matter. In part because not nearly as much of the government's money than you'd think actually helps the poor. Plus, such an arrangement is contrary to the Lord's doctrine on Charity. The BoM example, for instance, does not have King Benjamin or Mosiah becomming tyrants collecting huge taxes and redistributing wealth. Rather, they emphasized the example of working with their own hands and individual salvation through service and the agency to do it or not. And of course this dovetails with the doctrine regarding the Law of Consecration:

President Lorenzo Snow emphasized the importance of individual agency in moving forward the work of consecration: “In things that pertain to celestial glory there can be no forced operations. We must do according as the Spirit of the Lord operates upon our understandings and feelings. We cannot be crowded into matters, however great might be the blessing attending such procedure. We cannot be forced into living a celestial law; we must do this ourselves, of our own free will. And whatever we do in regard to the principles of the United Order, we must do it because we desire to do it. Some of us are practising in the spirit of the United Order, doing more than the law of tithing requires.” (In Journal of Discourses, 19:346.)

http://institute.lds.org/manuals/doctrine-and-covenants-institute-student-manual/dc-in-200-j-l-l.asp

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You could make an argument that US tax code aside, many people would argue that funding a church is not what they think of as charitable contributions, and counting those contributions artificially inflates REAL charitable giving. In my perfect world, I would only allow charitable tax deductions for services that the government would otherwise be morally obligated to provide as safety net --- food, medical, shelter, employability training, disability access, education, maybe a little of historical preservation and conservation easements, disaster relief.

“Historical preservation” and “conservation easements” are part of the “safety net?”

To what extent is “education” part of the “safety net?” Through high school? An undergraduate degree? Graduate degrees? Is the government morally obligated to subsidize every college course, or only those most likely to produce economically self-sufficient graduates? Should donations that benefit a university’s humanities department be tax deductible?

Is the government morally obligated to subsidize education at pricy, high prestige-type private universities, or merely education at state owned universities? Should donations to Harvard be tax deductible?

Those who do not consider “funding a church” to be a “REAL” charitable contribution are free to direct their charitable contributions elsewhere. The same applies to those who do not consider preserving old buildings and open space as “real” charity. Why should either take a “holier than thou” attitude toward the other’s giving, let alone attempt to use the tax code to promote their favorite charities at the expense of someone else’s?

The entire point of having private charity is that each individual is pretty much free to decide for himself what is a worthy charitable donation and what is not.

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The real question is not whether or not churches should be counted as “real’ charities. It is whether, all other things being equal, religious people are more willing to donate to causes they believe in than non religious people. This and similar studies seem to suggest that there are.

If so, the next question is whether or not churches, in general, are more successful in producing altruistic people than secular institutions.

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My reason is unrelated to the charity argument here. It is that when people are excused from paying taxes, it ought not to be because we like their hobbies/choices/things they think are worthy of contributing to. It ought to soley be related to whether the donations will affect how much taxes have to be collected for the critical needs of government. Otherwise you have the government deciding winners and losers. Obviously that is good to the extent it honors family (and government will spend less if families do good), or other societal "goods".

But why should our tax laws favor one person's choice of how they spend their funds over another, otherwise.

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My reason is unrelated to the charity argument here. It is that when people are excused from paying taxes, it ought not to be because we like their hobbies/choices/things they think are worthy of contributing to. It ought to soley be related to whether the donations will affect how much taxes have to be collected for the critical needs of government. Otherwise you have the government deciding winners and losers. Obviously that is good to the extent it honors family (and government will spend less if families do good), or other societal "goods".

But why should our tax laws favor one person's choice of how they spend their funds over another, otherwise.

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

If taxes were collected only to pay for the critical needs of government, I might even agree with you. The problem is that most of what passes for the “critical needs of government” is probably better described as the “critical wants” of politically influential pressure groups.

A second problem is that it can be difficult to measure how much a donation to a charity really affects how much tax has to be collected. One obvious example is a church whose members have fewer children born out of wedlock and a lower incidence of illegal drug use.

I agree that when people are excused from paying taxes, it should not be because we like their choices. Yet, that is precisely what will happen if the government grants tax deductions to people who donate to charities which it feels advances governmental policy and denies them to people who donate to charities that do not.

If a particular individual chooses to donate to an anti-Mormon “ministry” or to an organization that opposes family values, so be it.

I believe that, on the whole, society benefits from tax policies that encourage individuals to donate to pretty much any charity they think is worthy. This tends to reduce selfishness and inculcate the feeling that seeking to do good is primarily an individual responsibility.

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Sleeper Cell:

Thomas Jefferson thought public education should be free through college, and should include the arts, humanities, and sciences.

Opinions vary.

Did he consider providing a free college education to be one of the “critical needs of government,” or simply a highly desirable policy?

BTW, did he ever advocate an income tax?

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Sleeper Cell:

Difference in the philosophy of governance.

I agree.

Societal needs should/can never be met by individuals acting alone.

I disagree.

Even if true, this would support my position in favor of a tax policy that encourages individuals to donate to the charitable group(s) of their choice.

For better or worse we are all in this together.

However, we have different ideas on what to do about it. This is one reason we should encourage individuals to donate to the private charity(s) of their choice.

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Sleeper Cell:

However it is impossible to run government as a charity.

I have finally won you over to the dark side. :diablo:

Seriously, I have enjoyed our conversation. Not only did we manage to “disagree agreeably,” we got away with having a political discussion without the mods shutting us down. I somehow suspect that the two facts are related.

You may have the last word, if you wish.

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Sleeper Cell:

Thomas Jefferson thought public education should be free through college, and should include the arts, humanities, and sciences.

But it would never have occurred to him that the Feds should be involved either with funding, setting curricula, or making policy about carbonated drinks in vending machines.

Don't, therefore, overgeneralize.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Rand article was a gross misunderstanding of Rand. Just one point from there, yes homeowners may get tax deductions but they also pay the real estate taxes which fund children's educations and other community projects. And my estate taxes are very high and go up every year even though my property values keep going down.

As to the charitable giving and the "parasites", government has created the parasites by its unbridled giving without even checking into who actually needs help and without regulating how those funds are spent and without requiring some kind of work or service to compensate. We have lost the work ethic and if you don't believe that ask any employer, particularly of physical labor, how hard it is to find good dependable workers under a certain age.

Government has expanded its purpose far beyond the bounds foreseen by the Founding Fathers, and in fact the purpose of the Constitution was to specifically spell out limitations to what the Feds could do. How can a bureaucracy centered on the east coast possibly meet the needs of a country with such diverse populations and needs. Most people are very charitable and I have been in many communities where families have lost everything and neighbors and even strangers give help. Such things are the responsibilities of individuals and local communities. I really believe that if so much wasn't taken in taxes more people would give to help the truly needy. I know I would.

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