.2 million they earn…" /> .2 million they earn…" /> CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS: - BrophyBlog

CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS:

Tuesday 24 January 2012 at 9:39 pm. Used tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

WHO'S GREEDY? Obama Gave 1% to Charity, Romney Gave 15%

Mitt Romney gave millions to charity. Joe Biden gave $369.

AP File

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle gave $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 through 2004 to charities, or less than 1 percent, according to tax returns for those years released today by his campaign.

The Obamas increased the amount they gave to charity when their income rose in 2005 and 2006 after the Illinois senator published a bestselling book. The $137,622 they gave over those two years amounted to more than 5 percent of their $2.6 million income.

Romney charitable contributions

Tax year    Taxable income          Charitable donations Donations as % of income
2010           $21.7 million                 $2.98 million                13.73%
2011 (est)   $20.9 million                $4 million                     19.14%

Mitt Romney gave millions to charity. Joe Biden gave $369.

Mitt Romney gave millions to charity. Joe Biden gave $369.

I'm really struggling to work out what all the fuss is about over this one. It seems to me to be much ado about nothing. Breaking news: Mitt Romney is very rich. He also gave millions and millions of dollars to charity and to the taxman.

In the early hours of this morning, some 550 pages of Mitt Romney's tax returns and a 2011 tax summary were released by his campaign. Just after dawn, there was a long campaign conference call for bleary-eyed reporters in which an accountant (who sounded exactly like you'd imagine Mitt Romney's accountant would sound) went into details of Mitt millions in mind-numbing detail.

There was an air of grumpy efficency about the call, which was led by Ben Ginsberg, who was George W. Bush's lawyer during the Florida election recount in 2000. At one point Ginsberg noted that 26 people from Chicago were listening into the proceedings, a reference to the Obama campaign headquarters.

So what were the headlines? He raked in about $42 million in 2010 and 2011. His effective tax rate was just below 14 percent, lower than that for many American taxpayers. He paid $6.2 million to the taxman and donated a staggering $7 million to charity, including $4.1 million to the Mormon church.

OK, so Mormons are supposed to tithe 10 percent of their income. But it's to Romney's immense credit that he promised to do this in his youth and followed through with that - to the tune of scores of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of dollars throughout his life.

In fact, in those two years, he paid 16 percent of his income to charity, compared to, er, 2.6 percent by Newt Gingrich.

And what about President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the run-up to their 2008 campaign?

USA Today broke it down here. In 2007, the Obamas gave more than $240,000 to charity, about 5.7 percent of their income. The Bidens gave an average of $369 to charity a year for the decade before he moved to the Naval Observatory - about 0.3 percent of their income. Back in 1997, then veep Al Gore and his then wife Tipper gave $353.

Since becoming veep, Biden hasn't become much more generous. In 2010, he gave $5,350, about 1.4 percent of income. That same year, Romney gave some $3 million. The national average is about three percent.

As far as we know, Romney scrupulously adhered to all US tax laws. No one has accused him of tax evasion.

What we hear is: Funds in the Cayman Islands! Swiss bank account! 

So will all this hurt Romney politically? The Obama campaign and White House clearly thinks so. An Obama guest for tonight's State of the Union will be Warren Buffett's secretary, a crude nod to the familiar Democratic trope about the secretary being subject to higher tax rates than Buffett himself.

Much of the media also thinks so. Covering the story, CNN made repeated use of the term "the one percent" - a blatant assimilation of the cry from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

In Britain and much the rest of Europe, immense personal wealth often breeds resentment. In the United States, not so much. Certainly, Americans want economic fairness and equal opportuity. But belief in capitalism and the notion that by striving hard you too can become wealthy remain are enduring American traits.

Last week, Romney was stunningly inept in his handling of questions about his tax returns, humming and hawing, prevaricating, stonewalling and then finally, in defeat in South Carolina, agreeing to release documents.

Now he's done what he should have done earlier (politically-speaking - he's releasing returns much earlier than any other candidate previously in modern times) this is going to fade away as an issue for most voters.

Democrats will try to foment resentment about Romney's wealth. And certainly some people will never want to vote for a fat cat rich guy. But if Obama strategists think they it can win a re-election battle on a platform of class warfare they're very much mistaken.

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