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Rich versus Poor, the Democrat’s Canard

I have an acquaintance, a gentleman I used to work with, who occasionally takes time to make observations on my blog. He is also fond of occasionally posting a news item on his Facebook page. Recently, he posted one about the wealthiest people in the Chicago area. To that, he appended a comment about how they must all be republicans. The gist of his post was that republicans were richer, therefore less virtuous, than democrats. When I asked him about it, he was gracious and honest enough to admit it was an assumption on his part, but that he would bet he was right. That got me thinking, and then researching, to see if a judgement could be reached about the politics of the rich, or perhaps the wealth of the politicals.

There are really two subtextual ideas involved in my friend’s assertion. The first is that republicans favor the rich, and that therefore the rich become republicans out of self-interest. The second is that, for some reason, wealth is bad and poverty is morally superior.

First off, I have been unable to find any definitive answers about whether democrats or republicans are wealthier. There are reams of information on wealthy politicians, and who represents wealthy districts, but little data indicating which political party contains wealthier people. That being said, let’s look at some numbers.

For example, more and more Democrats represent areas with a high concentration of wealthy households. Using Internal Revenue Service data, the Heritage Foundation identified two categories of taxpayers – single filers with incomes of more than $100,000 and married filers with incomes of more than $200,000 – and combined them to discern where the wealthiest Americans live and who represents them.

Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional jurisdictions. More than half of the wealthiest households are concentrated in the 18 states where Democrats control both Senate seats. This new political demography holds true in the House of Representatives, where the leadership of each party hails from different worlds. Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, represents one of America’s wealthiest regions. Her San Francisco district has more than 43,700 high-end households. Fewer than 7,000 households in the western Ohio district of House Republican John Boehner enjoy this level of affluence.

Democrats do well in areas of concentrated wealth even in Republican states such as Georgia, Kansas and Utah. Liberal congressman John Lewis represents more than 27,500 high-income households in his Atlanta district. The trend achieves perfect symmetry in Iowa. There, the three wealthiest districts send Democrats to Washington; the two poorest are safe Republican seats.

So it would seem that the wealthiest areas vote democrat more that the poorer people do. It would also seem that the poorest areas vote republican more than democrat. While this data doesn’t necessarily correlate perfectly, it does seem to suggest that the democrats are more closely the party of the rich than the republicans.

Let’s check another indicator, the Forbes richest 400 list. Out of the top ten names, who are left and who are right. The top ten are: Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, four Waltons, Michael Bloomberg, and the Koch brothers. The three top names are all democrats. Three out of four Waltons could fairly be labeled republican, as could the Koch brothers. Mayor Bloomberg, definitely democrat, the final Walton probably so. So based on publicity and some educated guesswork, I call it an even split.

Politicians are even easier. The richest? John Kerry, democrat. Hollywood wealthy? Do we need even ask? Wall Street? Sixty percent of Wall street campaign money went to democrats. Hell, Chelsea Clinton works for a major Wall Street hedge fund.

So it seems that class warfare may not be a safe strategy for democrats anymore. More and more they are, or are becoming, the party of the rich. But surely that’s not a bad thing, is it? Is wealth bad? Not when the compassionate party of the democrats has it, right? That brings up the data for the second question. Is wealth bad, or is it a question of who is more compassionate with how their money is used? Let’s see.

You may recall a flap during the 2000 election campaign when the fact came out that Al Gore donated a smaller percentage of his income to charity than the national average. That was perfectly consistent with his liberalism. People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes.

It is not that conservatives have more money. Liberal families average 6 percent higher incomes than conservative families. Most of the states that voted for John Kerry during the 2004 election donated a lower percentage of their incomes to charity than the states that voted for George W. Bush.

Conservatives not only donate more money to charity than liberals do, conservatives volunteer more time as well. More conservatives than liberals also donate blood. The left exalts the young especially as idealists while the more conservative vision warns against the narrowness and shallowness of the inexperienced. This study found young liberals to make the least charitable contributions of all, whether in money, time or blood. Idealism in words is not idealism in deeds.

So it seems that wealth is neither the sole purview of the right, nor an immediate guarantee of virtuous behavior. For years the left in this country have run on a platform of being the compassionate party, the party that wants to help. Except, apparently, when it comes time to actually do something that requires cost or effort. The party reviled as capitalist hoarders or uncaring fat-cats are the ones that spend more of their own time and money to actually help people. It’s been that way since Carnegie divested his wealth building libraries.

So to my friend, I bet you’re wrong. I bet the division on your list is roughly even. Outside of your list, it looks like democrats are now the fat-cats!

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