Charitable giving by Romneys and Obamas in 2011 proves they’re generous and nothing else

Several of the Romney supporters who read OpEdge have pointed out how much more money the Romneys gave away to charity in 2011 than the Obamas.  While the Obamas are well off—certainly part of or close to the notorious 1%–the Romneys are the much wealthier of the two families. But even on a percentage of income basis, Romney gave more: a little more than 29% for Ann & Mitt compared to a little less than 22% for Michelle & Barack.

Both families should be applauded for their generosity.  Traditionally when people consider the appropriate percentage of income to give to charity, what comes to mind is “tithing,” which means giving away 10% of your income. Both candidates gave a much greater percentage of their income away last year.

Some have chided the Romneys for only declaring about $2.25 million of their income, suggesting that their motive was to make the amount of federal income tax they pay as a percentage of income not look so paltry. That’s really petty thinking, because not declaring some of the charitable contributions did result in Ann & Mitt paying more in taxes, which is what they would be doing if we had a more equitable tax system. I’ve learned that it’s best to judge people on what they do and say and not what they’re thinking, so bravo to the Romneys for deciding to pay more in taxes, at least in 2011.

But what do these numbers really mean?

Absolutely nothing, as far as I can tell.

First of all, the wealthier you are, the higher percentage of your income you can afford to give away and the more you are expected to give away. The Romneys can afford to be more generous than the Obamas, just as the Obamas can afford to be more generous than the average middle class family. The social norm in virtually every society throughout millennia that I have studied has always been that the more you have, the more you give.

More important, though, is the simple fact that what one gives to charities has nothing at all to do with one’s competence to be president of the United States or to serve in any other position or job, either in public service or the private sector.  While generosity is a positive characteristic in all humans, we judge presidents on their political views and their competence.  That the Romneys gave more does not change my evaluation of Romney’s positions as mainly benefiting the wealthy nor of his lack of competence in the foreign policy arena.

So thanks, Ann & Mitt, for the extra money into our depleted federal coffers. But let’s hope that by next year the Bush II temporary tax cuts for those earning $250,000 or more will have ended and you pay even more. And let’s also hope that Congress ends the cap on income that can be taxed for Social Security purposes and thereby secures the future of perhaps our most successful and certainly our most important social service program. Most of all, let’s hope that Ann & Mitt write the check from one of their many homes (perhaps the one with the elevator for cars), and not from the White House.

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5 comments on “Charitable giving by Romneys and Obamas in 2011 proves they’re generous and nothing else
  1. Wilfred says:

    Here’s a glimpse at some of Romney’s “charity”… doing much more harm than good.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/23/mitt-romney-charity-donations_n_1167981.html

    More than $4.7 million to the Mormon Church.

    Romney also gave to the Heritage Foundation and to the Federalist Society. – Both conservative think tanks for development of the GOP’s political, legal and cultural ideas. Both deny science and social policies that affect the poor.

  2. Wilfred says:

    I agree completely with EBZAR. We need to see who Romney and Obama are giving to, otherwise the statistics are completely meaningless. Not all donations are created equal.

    For example if Romney were donating a good share of his income solely to programs designed to help the poor or cure cancer I’m all in favor of that and it should be honored. But I’d imagine a good portion if not all of that donating goes to the mormon church as his religious beliefs would require him to do. As such, I don’t believe those donations count as charitable giving. For example those donations to the mormon church would be used in their massive spending campaigns to deny equal rights to other human beings. Look at the massive influx of out of state spending from the mormon church on Prop 8 in California. Using massive wealthy to help churches establish new national nanny government laws isn’t “charitable giving”, it’s repulsive. Romney has a long history of giving his money not to charities and organizations doing good, but rather to religious groups seeking to turn their specific spiritual beliefs into national US law.

    Without establishing where the “charitable giving” is actually going, it’s impossible to say what they’ve actually done. For example sending $.01 to the American Red Cross would do much more good for people who need it than sending millions of dollars into the bloated mormon church so they can attack other lifestyles and beliefs.

    Oh and John, that’s a very simple way to look at the issue. You are correct to see the obvious connection to increasing wealth and increases in donations. Of course if you’re born into ridiculous wealth as Romney was, you can spend excessively on your own personal interests. Where as Obama spent his time in a much more traditional American way, taking individual responsibility for himself and building his success and wealth on his own. He then used that wealth to give back, and as his wealth increased so did his contributions. Think about what “moral” you take away from these facts. You’re demonizing the man who worked hard, showed individual responsibility, built his wealth and then began to donate back to the system that helped him and you’re glorifying the man who was born into more wealth than any single person could ever need simply because he gave some of that away? I guess that speaks volumes about what’s more important to conservatives… being rich the day you’re born or working hard to make something of yourself. Both candidates give to charity, but only one was born with the wealth to do it from day one. That’s not an indication of generosity, it’s an example of how far ahead some people are born into this world than the rest of us. And I should add, you conclude that Romney’s donations “really supports those in need”, however as I mentioned the vast majority of his donations do not go to those in need. They go to religious groups that actually take that money to force religious beliefs into law. They aren’t in need and very few of those organizations use that money on those in need. They use it to pay millions of dollars in advertising in other states to try and influence laws. Sometimes reality is a little more complicated than the conservative minds might want to believe.

  3. EBZAR says:

    What charities did the Romney’s and O’Bama’s give to?

  4. John says:

    It is interesting to compare how much Obama has given to charity over the years, and though you are correct in stating the more a person earns the more they can afford to give to charity. However, a close look at Obama’s generosity proves it to be anything but – until recently.

    http://www.taxhistory.org/www/website.nsf/web/presidentialtaxreturns

    According to federal tax returns filed by Obama, between the years 2000 and 2004 Obama earned approximately $1.2 million dollars. He gave a total of just over $10,000 to charity. Just less than 1%. Yet that income, by his own standards, put him in the 1%. Not too generous, was he? I will point out on a personal level that between a similar set of years I gave approximately half that, earning just a quarter of what Obama earned. So I am VERY unimpressed by Obama’s generosity.

    Between 2005 and 2006, with the publication of his book, Obama’s income sky-rocketed, and so did his generosity – but his generosity hit the ceiling long before his income peaked. He gave approximately 5% of his of his approximately $2.5 million income to charity. For someone making over $1 million a year, not very generous to those in need, I would argue.

    It has been argued that Obama is attempting to make up for his past lack of charitable contributions, and I do applaud Obama for any and all he has given, but compared to the percentage Romney has always given we must really ask ourselves who really supports those in need?

    As you have said, actions speak louder than words, and most of Obama’s actions have actually been the lack thereof.

  5. If being charitable is a positive characteristic for a human being and some individuals possess more of it than others, don’t you think that will affect them and their decision making as a politician and more importantly as the president? I am glad to hear that both Romney and Obama contribute to charitable organizations because if they didn’t I don’t think they would have the insight and love for people to lead our country successfully.

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