June 22, 2010

Not Working, Not Helping?

Justin Katz

A report on volunteer rates in the United States and in Rhode Island seems to make contradictory points:

Volunteering in Rhode Island hit a six-year low last year, as more people looked for work or worried about making ends meet.

The state ranked 42nd out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., in volunteer rates, according to a report released Tuesday by the government-run Corporation for National and Community Service. ...

"There's plenty of evidence that shows that when people are unemployed and they have to focus on their livelihoods, they are less likely to volunteer," said Bernie Beaudreau, executive director of Serve Rhode Island. "If you're not secure" about your job or the future, "you focus on changing that."

On the other hand:

Despite a tough economy, the number of American helpers increased by nearly 1.6 million to 63.4 million — the biggest increase in volunteers in a single year since 2003, the report says.

Americans spent 100 million more hours helping their neighbors and others.

Clearly, Rhode Island's economy and unemployment are at the head of the pack of failure, in the nation, and there's surely correlation with this finding about volunteerism. My gut tells me, though, that both facts are effects of something larger. Our intrusive government, for example, is premised on the local belief that government is meant to take care of problems. Why should people volunteer when they donate by way of their taxes, and why should they work to expand the economy when those donations are obligatory and confiscatory?

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This is the gaping hole in the logic of those who argue that private charity is insufficient to cover the absolute poorest among us for things like food, education, or just plain living expenses. They rely exclusively on current contribution levels, but obviously fewer people are going to donate when they already have to pay taxes for the state to provide those services for free. It's amazing that anyone still donates at all, but plenty of people do - a testament to human generosity with no government coercion necessary. And so many less people would be dependent upon those handouts in the first place if they actually had to convince people that they were worth the charitable investment rather than just filling out a form.

Speaking of obligatory and confiscatory services - Michael, there is a member of the Providence Fire Department Union claiming over on RIFuture that their department puts out 1000 raging house fires each year. No joke. Just thought you might want to clam him up before he destroys what little credibility public unions have left in this state.

Posted by: Dan at June 22, 2010 2:26 PM

As usual, Justin, you come to a conclusion based on your ideology.
There could be many reasons for less volunteerism, the most obvious being that people are working longer and harder for LESS money......since about 1970, but even worse since Reaganomics was trumpeted as the solution to our problems.

Speaking from experience, I often volunteer and would like to do so more. However, I unfortunately have to now help be a caregiver to various family members with medical situations.

Actually, your quote gives another reason:
" more people looked for work or worried about making ends meet."

Hmmm, should I look for a job and try to keep my house, or go clean up the Cliff Walk? Which one is the responsible thing to do?

Once again, I think your guy is misleading you based on conclusions you reach before even reading and thinking.

Posted by: Stuart at June 22, 2010 2:58 PM

I don't have time to find a site to cite, but I think it is well established that Republicans are far more generous with their time and money for charitable purposes. This may be a reflection of that.

I again find "666" in my anti spam code. I swear that I do not "worship the beast, or bear his mark or his number".

Just for Justin: "Smoke shall rise forever and ever from the torment of those who worship the beast, or bear his mark or his number".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at June 22, 2010 10:54 PM

Volunteering rates in RI were very low relative to those in other states even before the current economic downturn. As others have noted, there are plenty of hypotheses as to the underlying causes of this result, including having one of the most generous social safety net programs in the United States, ancient ethnic rivalries and tribalism, being the most heavily Roman Catholic state in the nation, etc. Perhaps the soon to be former owner of RI Future could do his MPP thesis on this issue...

Posted by: John at June 23, 2010 12:35 PM

>> think it is well established that Republicans are far more generous with their time and money

A fabrication - based on ALL tax deductible contributions, which includes ALL churchs, etc....Utah scores very high for this specific reason.

Such a question would be almost impossible to answer accurately because of such variables as money given to churches (tithing) as well as politically leaning groups.

However, an indication of the views of those more on the left and right can be found among the largest givers in the US.

Suffice it to say the Buffet and Gates as well as Soros and others are in the top 10 and have pledged vastly larger sums AND percentages of their income than others.

On the "right" side of things, we have the Walton family - one of the richest in the world - who gives a decent amount in dollars BUT a tiny amount as a percentage (compared to others).

Moreover, they spend vast sums of money to make sure they can keep their money - on such issues as fighting the estate tax (which applies to them more than any other Americans) and supporting GOP candidates as well as anti-worker initiatives.

Also, the stat which you are referring to gets skewed greatly because folks in very poor states (more Red) often have to tithe and therefore that represents a big portion of their measly pay.

Lastly, the article which started this rumor is not based on individual behavior, but only on whether a state trended blue or red in ONE election. If we took the same numbers from 2008 (Obama election when red states voted blue), it would show the opposite.

I would speculate that poor republicans (the christian base) give a larger percentage of their money to charity than most.....because of the church thing. I would also speculate that rich Dems give vastly more of their money to actual social good than those in the GOP and that the total amount is much larger.

Personally, I have more respect for someone like Buffett who is thankful for what this country did for him...than I do for the Waltons and others who use and abuse us (IMHO) and then use the profits gleamed to fight against paying their fair share.

Posted by: Stuart at June 24, 2010 11:59 AM
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