Thursday, January 26, 2012

Romney is more charitable than most, tax returns show

When Mitt Romney released his tax returns earlier this week, most of the attention was on the tax rate that he paid on his income. Romney paid less than 15 percent of his income in taxes due to the fact that his money comes from capital gains and dividends rather than from a salary, but he still pays a higher rate than most Americans.

The real surprise in Romney’s tax return is that the Republican presidential candidate is more charitable than most Americans. The Wall Street Journal states that Romney gave 13.8 percent of his income to charity in 2010 and more than 19 percent in 2011. This means that Mitt Romney is giving more to private charities than he is giving to the federal government.

In dollars, Mitt and his wife, Ann, earned $21.7 million in 2010 and $21 million in 2011 according to an analysis by CNN. They paid $3 million in taxes in 2010 and $3.2 million in 2011. They donated $2.9 million to charity in 2010 and $4 million in 2011 according to the WSJ figures.

In comparison, the Journal notes that Barack and Michelle Obama gave 13.6 percent of their income to charity in 2010. This was a marked increase from previous years. Between 2005 and 2009, the Obamas gave between 4.6 and 6.2 percent to charity. Before Obama became a national political figure, the rate was much lower, between 0.4 and 1.4 percent.

In another incident last week, Romney put his wallet where his mouth was. On January 14, ABC News reported that an unemployed woman asked Romney for money while he was meeting voters in South Carolina. Romney pulled out his wallet and gave the woman “a wad of cash,” later estimated to be about $50-60. Romney also introduced the woman to Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, and the state treasurer, Curtis Loftis. Loftis reportedly gave the woman $150 to pay her light bill. The woman, Ruth Williams, told ABC that God directed her to Romney’s campaign bus and told her to follow it. She has reportedly been volunteering for the Romney campaign since meeting the candidate.

The Washington Post reported that the Romney’s action was not filmed, but was witnessed by an ABC News print reporter who later interviewed Williams. The Post writes, “There was no indication that Romney’s cash gift was calculated or anything more than a spontaneous reaction to one woman’s story of personal struggles.”

Contrast this with President Obama’s reaction when Henrietta Hughes asked him for help at a rally in February 2011 being filmed by Fox News. Hughes was unemployed and living in a car and asked for help finding a house. On live television, Obama responded, "We're going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you."

Hughes did get a house. A local NBC affiliate reported that a couple who owned a vacant rental house had donated its use to Hughes and her family “for as long as she needs it.” The house belonged to Nicholas and Chene Thompson. Nick Thompson is a state representative. They are Republicans. There is no evidence that Obama or his staff ever followed up with Hughes.

These figures may be surprising, but they are not atypical. The 2006 book, “Who Really Cares,” examined giving trends in America. Its author, Arthur Brooks, found that on average conservatives gave more to charity even though liberals typically earned more. This may be partly due to the fact that conservatives tend to be more religious and both Christianity and Judaism encourage charity (Proverbs 14:21, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

The difference between Obama and Romney underscores the different philosophies of liberals and conservatives. Where liberals believe that it is the role of government to help people like Ruth Williams and Henrietta Hughes, conservatives see it as their personal responsibility. The liberal philosophy is one of waiting on the government for help while conservatism empowers individuals. Obama made vague promises that help was on the way while Romney and Chene Thompson actually worked to make a difference. Conservatives like Mitt Romney believe that charity, like the economy, is better left in the hands of individuals than delegated to government bureaucrats.

It is obvious that many, if not most, conservatives do not deserve their reputation as heartless moneygrubbers. After all, is it really giving when it doesn’t come out of your own wallet?

This article was first published on

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