By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
Last month the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named this year’s 23 MacArthur Fellows. The Foundation annually awards unrestricted $500,000 grants to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”These are the awards that the media have dubbed “genius grants.” One of this year’s recipients resides in Australia, the rest in the U.S. Of those, the Foundation found that “genius,” amazingly, is almost exclusively a bi-coastal phenomenon.Consider: Nine of the 22 U.S. recipients live in Atlantic Coast states (Massachusetts 4, Rhode Island 2, New York 2, Maryland 1), while10 live in Pacific Coast states (California 9, Oregon 1). Who knew that California, now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, had such a concentration of genius?Only three recipients hail from the nation’s heartland, that vast region the media elite derisively call America’s “flyover zone.” Of those three, one’s from Minnesota and the others from Chicago, coincidentally the headquarters of the John D. and Catherin T. MacArthur Foundation.John D. MacArthur, a longtime resident of Palm Beach, grew up in poverty and later amassed the great wealth that funded the Foundation that bears his name and that of his late wife.MacArthur’s Wikipedia profile says that for many years prior to his death in 1978 at the age of 80, he often “held court” at Palm Beach’s Colonnades Hotel. Visitors – including JMI’s founder Dr. J. Stanley Marshall – report that he truly qualified for the title of “curmudgeon.”Indeed, some of those who dealt with MacArthur in his later years suspect that he might well be quite displeased with the way the MacArthur Foundation is now disbursing his money.If so, he’s in good company. Other wealthy philanthropists – especially conservatives such as John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford – are probably wondering how their respective foundations became major funders of ultra-liberal causes.Although these tycoons knew that “you can’t take it with you,” they may well wish they had.