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When Prosperity Becomes the Enemy of Charity

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Conservatives are fond of saying our society is sliding in a culture of entitlement.

I agree.

There, I've said it. I've admitted it to myself. Our once-proud nation of individualists and self-starters, of boot-strappers and pioneers, of neighbors and friends, has become a nation of farm animals, waiting to be treated to the next slop of the bucket.

Evidence...Yes, I agree, there needs to be evidence. Without it such a charge should be considered treasonous.

Sadly, the evidence is all too obvious, resting in each failed orchestra and closing art gallery, each struggling museum and -- harsh though it may seem, it is true -- each downsized free clinic and shuttered homeless shelter.

Read TheStreet's Brian O'Connell, Charities Are Already Feeling Dropoff From Fiscal Cliff Uncertainty . In that article, he cites a poll showing 15% of Americans have decided to donate less to charity this year.

More than a third of those said their personal financial situation left them reconsidering their giving levels. A third also singled out rising health-care costs.

True, the incomes of all Americans have suffered mightily. Savings plans were badly impaired by, first, a recession and second, a limping excuse for economic growth. On top of that, the costs of surviving to old age in this grim world have gone up.

Then there's the impending "fiscal cliff" taxation -- again roughly a third of those polled cited this as a reason to give less. The president of the company who commissioned the study offers this quote in O'Connell's article:

. . . with annual charitable giving here in the U.S. still $12 billion below 2007 levels, and no real recovery so far this year, this is not an encouraging sign for nonprofits. . . .

Seems self-evident, doesn't it? Incomes fall, costs and taxes rise...of course, charitable donations take a hit.

But, I submit, it is self-evident because the evil of entitlement has already penetrated to our hearts. Good people have become accustomed to bad ideas, allowing themselves to be led. Laziness passes for freedom.

Let me share a quick story, from the small rural community where I'm originally from, down in the Ohio River Valley. First character: A middle-aged woman, mother of seven kids and wife of a farmer who owns a small sawmill.

She didn't sign up for the farm life, milking cows at 4 a.m. She fell in love with her husband when he was young, dashing and rich, before the Crash of '29. Their courtship was exciting. When all that went to hell, she wasn't happy about it, but she stayed. She stuck it out.

Second character: Preacher's wife. Young woman, new to the community, raising two small children of her own.

The preacher's wife had spent the day meeting parishioners, running errands, helping her husband plan the Sunday schedule, cooking, cleaning, washing, wrestling the kids into their best behaviors, meals, clothes and finally to bed -- it was late evening by now and she was dog-tired.

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