Vote Robamaney 2012 or get gonnhorea!

So information about Mit Romney’s tax return came out a couple of days ago and not surprisingly, the dude is freakin’ loaded. He made over $20,000,000 a year in 2010 and 2011. Most news stories I read seemed to only care about one thing, his effective tax rate of 15%.

Although I don’t like to identify myself with any political party (I think they’re both muy estupido), I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear I am conservative by nature. I never drank before I turned 21, I didn’t move in with Girl Ninja until I married her, and I definitely didn’t jump on board with the Occupy Wallstreet movement.

Even though I’m relatively old-school, I understand and appreciate that you might not be. You wont see me on the street corners preaching “repent or go to hell” and it’s not very often I talk about anything even remotely political on this blog.

If I said, “I love Mit Romney”, half of you would have a hay-day in the comments section, tearing him and me apart. Likewise, if I professed allegiance to the Obama Campaign, I would expect similar reactions from the other half of you. The problem with politics today is no one is willing to have a conversation, and no one is willing to say, “You might be right.” Instead we call each other stupid, ridiculous, ignorant, and any other insult we can think of to make ourselves feel better.

Oh man, I’m on my fifth paragraph and I haven’t even gotten to what I want to talk about (sorry today’s post is going to be quite a bit longer than average). Okay here goes…..

I noticed on Mit Romney’s tax return he gave $3MM, of the $21MM he made in 2010, to his church and other charities. That means Romney gave 14% of his wealth away. I’d be willing to bet if you looked at Romney’s tax returns for the last ten years, they would all tell a similar story; He made a ton of money, and probably gave between 10%-20% of it away.

Obama’s tax returns tell a different story. In 2009 and 2010, the Obamas donated about 14% of their income to charity. Not too shabby. But if you look at his tax returns prior to becoming El Presidente (2000 to 2008) he never gave more than 6.5% to charity, and two of those years he gave less than 1% of his earnings away. Makes you wonder if he is giving more now because he knows he will get hell if he doesn’t. The Biden’s have never even pretended to be charitable givers, only donating around 1% of their income each year.

I side with the democrats in that I DO believe the wealthy have an obligation to help the less fortunate, and that they should redistribute some of their wealth to those in need, but I find it hard to take Obama (or Biden) serious when their personal actions don’t necessarily reflect the message they preach.

If they really, truly believed the wealthy have this moral obligation, why don’t they act on their own beliefs? Why wasn’t Obama donating 14% of his income to charity between 2000 and 2008? Why hasn’t Biden ever given more than 1% of his income away? Why must the government force them to do this when they are completely capable of doing it on their own?

Does anyone else at least find this a little odd? I guess the big take away from this whole situation is that the only REAL way for America to prosper is for people to THINK like Obama, but ACT like Romney. Why are politicians (both democrats and republicans) incapable or practicing what they preach?

 

p.s. Just to be clear, I think Romney is kind of a tool and this post is not in any way, shape, or form an endorsement for his candidacy for president. Although I do admire the dude’s commitment to giving. 

p.p.s. I realize by talking about politics today, I’m opening up a can of worms. My only request is that we do our best to keep the comments related to this topic and avoid saying things like “Obama is a Muslim that wants to murder babies” or “Romney is a Mormon whackjob who only cares about his bank account”. Comments like that provide no value and only make you (and the party you represent) look bad.

p.p.p.s. If you want to know why I said I’d bet Romney has given at least 10% to charity for the last decade, see this comment I posted below.

p.p.p.p.s. I just wanted to p.p.p.p.s. this because I don’t think I have ever PS’ed something this much 🙂

67 thoughts on “Vote Robamaney 2012 or get gonnhorea!

  1. Though I’m about as far left as one can get, I really appreciate this post. It seriously looked at the difference between public and private giving. I’m a big proponent of federal funding of programs, but I also work with a non-profit who’s financial backing is solely private giving from corporations and individuals – no federal funding or grant money – and they have been hugely successful in their programming despite the economic downturn. There are certainly positives and negatives to both.

    I think individuals have a responsibility to give back, and doing so privately allows them to put money into programs they support (though, in full disclosure, as a grad student, right now I give my time and not money). That said, while I might donate to my local public schools or Planned Parenthood (which I realize is polarizing), I can’t imagine anyone who is going to go out of their way donate to the Interstate Highway Fund or Mortgage Relief Programs (though I know the later is also polarizing).

    And thank you for promoting positive, constructive conversation. That gets so lost on comment boards.

    • You donate to your local public schools!!!! THAT IS POLARIZING!!!! hahaha. Hoping when I wake up (it’s midnight here in Korea right now) this thread hasn’t turned hateful ’cause it’s starting off on the right foot.

  2. I haven’t read much about Romney’s tax returns, so I don’t know what has been publicized yet… However, you say that in the 2010 year, he donated 14% to charity and you bet that prior to that, it was 10-20%. You’re making quite an assumption there- maybe he only dontated to charity in 2010 because he expected to run for office soon. Maybe during the years prior he only donated 1%, or 5% of his income. I think that you can only compare what you know (2010 year) to make a fair argument. However, I do agree that it is important to practice what one says and if giving to the less fortunate is a priority for our country, that same priority should be reflected in the personal lives of political figures.

    • Romney is a known Mormon and a prominent one at that. It would be religious suicide for him to not have at least given 10ish% each year to his church, including years prior to 2010. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that he at least followed through with his personal religious convictions.

  3. Pre-Korea, your opening monologues came out by 6 AM Eastern Time. Now they arrive about 8:30 my time. So before I get into the duties of the day, just a few brief comments:

    I definitely didn’t jump on board with the Occupy Wallstreet movement.
    – However, if you believe “fees blow,” you are definitely taking a position consistent with OWS and its stance against corporate greed.

    The problem with politics today is no one is willing to have a conversation, and no one is willing to say, “You might be right.” Instead we call each other stupid, ridiculous, ignorant, and any other insult we can think of to make ourselves feel better.
    – There is considerable truth to this. My arch-right friend RJW prefers to call me naive, duped, misguided, or incapable of critical thinking. (The possibility that he could be in any way naive, duped, etc., apparently never occurs to him.) But we all know what he really means.

    I side with the democrats in that I DO believe the wealthy have an obligation to help the less fortunate, and that they should redistribute some of their wealth to those in need, but I find it hard to take Obama (or Biden) serious when their personal actions don’t necessarily reflect the message they preach.
    – You are however indulging in a logical fallacy here. It’s a kind of ad hominem argument (that is, questioning the validity of the position because the speaker’s actions do not follow suit, or because of a suspicion regarding his motives). But the position is no less valid for that.

    Why must the government force them to do this when they are completely capable of doing it on their own?
    – This is a commonly taken position, but in my opinion it misses the point. There is a major difference between voluntary giving, which various individuals may arbitrarily choose to apply at differing levels, and a uniformly mandated federal or state tax policy that applies impersonally to all members of a certain income group.

    • 1. My posts are arriving later because I write at night. When I’m in the states that means I publish the post at around 11pm PST. Now that I’m in Korea and the time zone is different, that means my posts aren’t going up til 8:30am. I’m assuming you’re annoyed by this, but you didn’t give a reason why? Please clarify so I can make changes if necessary.

      2. “if you believe “fees blow,” you are definitely taking a position consistent with OWS” That’s like saying if I eat vegetables, I’m definitely taking a position consistent with PETA. No, we both just agree that vegetables are worth eating.

      3. RJW is the reason i hate politics.

      4. You’re right, my frustrations are with the perceived hypocrisy and not necessarily with the message being conveyed.

      5. You are right again. I guess one could say something like “there does not need to be a law criminalizing murder, instead people just shouldn’t kill people.” I don’t think there should be mandates to redistribute wealth, because I believe we should have it engrained is us to do it any way. Still I’m hesitant to let the govt take control, they aren’t the best at balancing the books.

      • I now see your potential frustration with my posting schedule. Assuming it’s because you are already at work and it makes responding to the content more difficult? I’ll do my best to try and get a day ahead so I can post earlier, but I’m not making any promises. I’ve been known to procrastinate.

      • 1. Not annoyed, just making an observation.

        2. I am not saying (or did not intend to say) that you are allying yourself 100%. Merely that in this case, you are.

        5. A further issue is that voluntary giving can be applied to any charity of the giver’s choice. Mitt may give most of his donations to the Mormon Church; I am more likely to give more of mine to various educational or cultural organizations. A governmentally mandated policy (whether you approve of their accounting or not), where individuals have no choice as to where their money is going, means that the money is applied as the government sees fit; e.g. to fight poverty or a war or the debt, etc.

  4. This is a great post, and I love the comparison you did. I’m always surprised when I hear that wealthy Americans don’t give more of their money to charity, so that’s interesting about Obama and Biden.

    P.S. I love political discussions where people can be polite because honestly I always learn something new. Once the mud slinging starts, though, I want out.

    P.P.S. I wonder how much Mr. Gringrich has donated, have you heard?

    P.P.P.S. People say you tend to get more conservative with age, however, I’m the exact opposite. I would have considered myself a die-hard Republican in college (the Reagan years), but now I’m definitely Liberal.

    P.P.P.P.S. Romney does seem like a tool. Definitely not a cool guy.

    • For a second there I thought you were about to out PS me, I was scared!

      Gingrich was about as sucky as Biden only giving 2.6% of his $3MM income in 2010.

    • P.P.P.S. People say you tend to get more conservative with age, however, I’m the exact opposite. I would have considered myself a die-hard Republican in college (the Reagan years), but now I’m definitely Liberal.

      Oh, good! I’m glad there are some of us left (pun intended).

        • LOL, good one Ninja! I’ve gotten sappier in my old age and really just want to help everyone. The old saying “bleeding heart liberal” definitely fits me! I’d gladly pay more taxes if it meant no one went hungry or missed out on healthcare.

          • But (please don’t get mad- this has always confused me) why don’t you just give more to charities that help people? If you would happily pay more taxes, can’t you happily give it to a charity & it does the same amount of good/provides same amount of help?

            Again, not trying to be a pain, but I don’t undertand why taxes are considered the only vehicle one can use to help others.

  5. I think it is unfair that you “bet” on Romney’s prior tax returns but compare the cold hard numbers of Obama’s. (though i see in the comments that you add a justification of why you think it is a safe bet)

    I think both sides agree that the wealthy should help the less fortunate (right?). I think that there is just different philosophies about how it should be done. Conservatives tend to think that church and charity can handle it (if enough people made as much as Mitt and donated 14% of it, it would work.), while liberals believe in social safety nets & programs. Obviously I’m speaking in generalities and individual veiw points vary)

    • You are correct. We both have the same end goal, just different ways about getting there. And I did search for Romney’s returns prior to 2010 to see if my assumptions were right or wrong, but couldn’t find anything. I still would be willing to bet $100 actual dollars that he at least was a consistent giver to his church.

  6. If you want to read an in-depth analysis of the types of people who donate time and money to charity, read “Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks. The data shows that at the end of the day, the best predicting factor on whether or not someone will donate money is if they are active in a religious congregation(any religion).

    There’s also a big difference in people who think the government has a responsibility to help people (generally liberal thought, donate much less) compared to people who don’t think the government has a responsibility to help people (generally conservative, donate much more).

    Basically, the data shows that an average liberal believes that supporting a policy of people being taxed and the government taking tax money and helping people is a replacement for actual individual giving. An average conservative will do more himself by volunteering or donating money.

    Again, “Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks. It’s all based on data and is a very rational discussion.

  7. While I don’t necessarily think this is the case for these prominent politicians who are giving large sums of money, I do want to point out that not all giving is tax-deductible and so you can’t assess a person’s entire giving mindset just from their tax return. For instance, I have given money or gifts directly to some local refugee families in the last year. While I consider this charitable giving, I can’t deduct it.

  8. I do think liberals should be held to a higher standard on what they give of their wealth than conservatives.

    I think everyone agrees that conservatives are held to a higher standard in the morality issue, and I think this is fair. Think of the response to what Clinton did vs the response to what Mark Foley did. One kept his job at the insistence of the party he represented, and the other was kicked out of office by the party he represented. Conservatives are seen as hypocritical if they are shown to have moral issues, while liberals don’t see it as such a big deal from their own members. I don’t have a problem with this.

    Now consider the issue of “spreading the wealth”. Conservatives view free market enterprise and growth as the great tide that lifts all boats. It’s fair to say that many free market capitalists truly believe that more benefit for the poor comes in grown in business than growth in giving. So if they give less and spend more on investments that promote growth and stimulus, it would fit their model of providing good to society. But for a liberal who heavily preaches the need for providing direct financial aid to the poor, and the moral imperative of not keeping wealth but the need to share it with those in need, the bar should be much higher. Someone like Kerry who is just as wealthy as Romney should be held to the standard of his rhetoric. Romney believes his investments benefit people, but liberals talk as if the wealthy are just leaches on society. Liberals should be held to that standard and be drummed out of their establishment if they don’t live according to their stated principles.

    • I think conservatives are held to a higher standard because they’re the ones claiming to have a moral authority. Or at least, I think they should be held to a higher standard. I’m not quite sure they really are. (Gingrich, Cain, etc.)

      It’s one thing to cheat on your wife with a man. It’s another to cheat on your wife with a man at the same time you’re giving speeches about the “traditional family” and how homosexuals are “sinners”.

      • How about the person giving very little to charity while claiming moral authority for caring more about the poor and lambasting other rich people for not giving their fair share? I’m simply saying people should be held to the standard of their own rhetoric.

  9. When people give to charity, they can choose where their money goes. If this was the only way charities could get funds, their income would be very unstable. We often give a sizeable one-time donation to a cause that we personally support. What about other organizations for the same cause? What about the charities I don’t even know about, that can’t advertise like Red Cross and St. Jude? What about causes that not everyone supports – would you expect Romney to donate to cover food stamps, welfare, or women’s health clinics, if federal funding for them didn’t exist?

    For charities, consistently getting a fraction of federal funding is better than getting a couple hundred $ here and there. Of course it’s a very beauraucratic system, think of all the sources of federal income, and all the outputs of federal funding! But it’s consistently supporting the infrastructure and social programs that give every citizen a high quality of life. There isn’t a single charity that I could donate to, that would support as many people and causes as federal and state funding can. That’s why I support raising taxes on the wealthy, to spread out the effects of 3 million dollars to more people, rather than it all/mostly ending up in Romney’s church.

    • You raise valid points, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all support should come from charities or the church. I do like like ideas of welfare, unemployment, etc problem is the government (and I think you would agree with me) doesn’t have the strongest track record of creating efficient and economical institutions. Unemployment, sure. Unemployment for 99 weeks, WHY!? Have you read anything about the Post Office lately? If I believed the government was more efficient, I’d be all for higher taxes, but then again we probably wouldn’t need to raise taxes because they’d be operating below cost.

      • p.s. at least when Romney gives money to his church, he knows that his money wont be used to fund an abortion clinic down the street. The same can’t be said if he is required to give more money to the government. That’s my biggest concern; giving the government more control.

        • I don’t think that’s a good argument. I don’t get to directly tell the government “Oh, you can’t use MY money for a war or BLANK program.” That’s the way taxes work.

          If tax payer money can’t cover abortion, then it shouldn’t be allowed to fund any procedure that a group has a problem with. I hate the debate over tax payer funded abortion anyway. It’s already illegal to use the money for abortion unless it’s to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape/incest. I would think that would be enough of a compromise for both sides.

          Good article BTW.

  10. I think when one’s income goes up, one has a greater ability to donate to charity. I made out a sketch of my yearly budget yesterday, now that I have a paystub worth of information, assuming that the payroll tax cut passes for the rest of the year. There’s not a heck of a lot left over if I want to maintain a similar level of retirement contributions as in the past. I feel that I have to be sound first, and make sure I am contributing to retirement, and then I can be generous with what I have left for others. But when your income goes up, your expenses don’t always have go up, and you may have more disposable income available for giving.

    I don’t claim to be an expert on the Obama’s tax situation, but I know he has a large mortgage and his and Michelle’s education incurred large student loans, so he probably had large expenses to deal with over those years. He has made money by speaking and from his books, but his income didn’t really jump until 2005, when he did give substantially more. About a year ago, there was a Chicagoan professor who made a post on a blog about how his family was having a hard time scraping by on ~300,000 or so in income and it caused a lot of controversy. Which was a bit of a stretch if you ask me, and perhaps he didn’t have his priorities in perspective and was trying to keep up with the Joneses. But it could explain why Obama’s charitable contribution levels have fluctuated.

    • Agree more income means more ability to donate. Pretty straightforward.

      The Obamas made $2.6MM in 2008, his first year of presidency and the year his book sales skyrocketed. He gave 6.5% away. Reality is, he just didn’t donate much until 2009, around the time he started telling the wealthy they need to help their neighbors out. Maybe it’s coincidence, but I just don’t see it being so.

  11. If the government lived within its means I would be more willing to accept the fact that they remove money from my family (by force) and give it to someone else that THEY deem worthy of getting it for doing absolutely nothing.

    The problem comes in the fact that ALL the politicians care more about being re-elected than about being a true statesman and doing what is necessary to save this country from financial ruin. They will not look into the camera and tell America to quit being lazy and make something of themselves. They would rather give thousands upon thousands of people a few bread crumbs with a note that says, “Vote for me and the bread crumbs will keep coming”.

    Also, our society now views it as socially acceptable to sit and do nothing for yourself and allow the govt to send you a check. My grandparents would have rather STARVED than take a handout from the government knowing that they had took it out of the pocket of a fellow American.

    I am frustrated with all the politicians, right and left. LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE AND STOP TAKING MY MONEY.

    PA. I give over 10% of my GROSS income to local homeless shelters in my area.

  12. I don’t understand why it’s ok to raise the tax rate for only the wealthy. How about we change the tax rate on investment income instead? The same income doesn’t always cover the same cost of living everywhere. So what’s wealthy in one place might only be middle class somewhere else. I don’t want my taxes raised. So why would it be ok to arbitrarily raise another group’s taxes just because they have more than me? Taxes pay for the same services that we all take advantage of: roads, schools, police, firemen, defense, etc. Instead tax all income the same to raise revenue. Why should we dictate to someone where their charitable gifts should go? They earned the money; they should decide. If Romney wants to fund the Morman church with his money and their charitable causes, then more power to him. I don’t like the idea of being forced to support causes I don’t agree with. The government is a wasteful organism. The last thing I want to do is give it more of my hard earned money to throw at problems it doesn’t know how to solve.

  13. Um, I wouldn’t make the connection between not drinking and being conservative. I rarely drink, but I’m ultra liberal. Definitely not conservative, in fact, when I hear someone say they’re conservative I definitely get a feeling of distaste because to me it goes hand in hand with non support of human rights and welfare. And thinking poor people deserve to be poor, thinking single moms are whores, sex is only between a married man and woman, and various other ideas muy estupidos that I won’t bother to elaborate on now…

  14. I have class in a few minutes so I haven’t read any comments, but I’m going to go ahead and stick my hand in what could be a hornet’s nest.

    I think it’s disingenuous to count church donations as “charity”. There, said it. I’m sure the Mormon church does do some good with the money they receive. Just like my small local church does. But a lot of that money goes to just maintaining the church and paying employees, purchasing buildings, etc. That benefits no one but the members. Tithing is also somewhat forced right? I mean, the bible says 10% right? If God is making you donate, then it’s not really a donation.

    • Agreed, that is part of the problem. The tax code lets you donate to any recognized charity, which by definition can be an educational or cultural institution as well as a philanthropic one. If I purchase my annual membership to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my deduction on Schedule A is as valid as if I sent a check to Doctors without Borders or the Salvation Army. (I rarely contribute to religious organizations, because as a card-carrying born-again atheist I do not want to support their agendas.) A valid criticism of donating to the Met would be however that in so doing I support an elite organization.

      But whether one is donating voluntarily or one’s money is being redistributed through the tax code, the problem with poverty in this country is appalling and only getting worse, while a tiny handful of top earners is getting continuously richer. Charitable donations, let’s face it, are doing very little to stem the tide. At least there are some provisions in the current tax code, such as the Earned Income Credit (which Reagan called his proudest achievement), that provide some relief for lower-wage citizens.

      • “…the problem with poverty in this country is appalling and only getting worse”

        I agree, but I think the problem lies in the mindset of poor people. If I was poor I would do everything in my power to better myself and make something of myself so that my kids would never have to grow up as poor as I was. The mindset of the poor in this country is more like this, “I deserve better. My fellow citizen who has worked hard to succeed should have some of his success removed from him and given to me.”

        PS. I am only speaking of able bodied, mentally capable, poor people. Those with mental or physical disabilities do need help as they may not be able to succeed on their own.

    • I am going to respectfully disagree with the notion that tithing is forced and that God makes me donate my money to His Church.

      Tithing is an Old Testament law that does not apply in the New Testament era in which we currently live. The word “tithing” is mentioned (2) times in the New Testament. On both occasions, Jesus mentioned the word while scolding the Pharisees. All that God asks is that you be a “cheerful giver”.

      While I have gone to church my entire life. I have yet to walk in an had 10% of whatever was on me forcibly taken by God or “his thugs”. I have yet to be kicked out for not giving 10% either (back in the poor college days or when I was a child and put in the $0.50 my parents gave me – thus giving 0% of MY money). There is an offering plate and I can chose to put something in it, or I can chose to pass it along. I give 20% because I choose to, not because I am forced to. God still lets us live under “free-will”.

      Besides, if God really wanted your money, why would He stop at 10%? Why not 20% or 50% or 100% (and make you live on nothing but a hope and a prayer)?

  15. The first thing that came to my mind was how do you know they don’t donate money to charities? Just because it’s not declared on my personal tax return, doesn’t mean I don’t donate. How many times have you walked past a Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas, dropped $20 in the bucket then not declared it on the tax return? From everything I’ve learned about charitable donations and taxes, declaring charitable donations means my tax bill is lower. So I’m really just trying to avoid paying my fair share of taxes by donating a lot of money. Or I could be trying to project an image because my tax return says I’m really charitable. Could that be why Obama’s donations went up? Because he now has more income to declare? Or maybe he just wants the wing at his alma matter to be named after him and the paper trail justifies that goal. Tough to say. And who’s to say Biden doesn’t declare his charitable donations because he believes it’s a personal matter, similar to one blogger I read on a regular basis who omits charitable donations from his publicly viewable budget.

    • Are you suggesting the Obamas, Romneys, or whoever elses have given $100,00+ away to a non deductible entity? I guess it’s possible, but I imagine any “significant” contribution they make to help others is through a tax deductible charity. Giving a homeless guy $20 is one thing, but giving a homeless guy $10,000 isn’t too common.

  16. I think for a post touching very heavily on politics you handled it well.

    I started filling out my 2011 returns. I made $9000 more in 2011 than 2010, mostly in bonuses. That has caused my tax bill to go up by over $1500! How is that possible? Well, as far as I can tell, I’m in the same marginal tax bracket (28%). The major change is that we have reached the income phase-out limits for the dependent care tax credit. I don’t understand how someone in the DC area, earning the average, AVERAGE, income for their professions, my wife and I don’t qualify for any tax credits this year.

    I have a big problem with the way that Democrats want to dictate redistribution of wealth upon those that they deem are rich. I tithed 9.5% last year (I shoot for 10% but came up short because of the bonus). I personally believe that local non-profits and religious organizations can more reliably and flexibly respond to local needs. In 2008 and 2009, the non-profit my wife works for created an emergency response fund that was targeted at those out of work. They were able to keep people above water and help with job searches in a way that the stimulus never could because of the unique local economy. A large beaurocracy like the US Federal Government will never be able to do that. My wife’s employer has an overhead of about 12% (12% of donations pay for salaries, benefits, building, etc). I don’t know what the Government’s rate is, but I would be surprised if it was less than 25%.

    • That’s the reason that I prefer to donate to charity & not have the money taken by the gov’t. The mission’s overhead is about 7%, which means that most of the people involved are volunteers & 93% of the money donated goes directly to helping people.

      I also think the problem with the Fed gov’t running things is they have such a large scope, they have to have set standards in place & it’s very difficult to make exceptions to the rules/regulations, which makes it very inflexible. I think that inflexibility leads to people being able to take advantage of the system (those who get something when it’s not needed/warranted) and to those needing help being denied it on an arbitrary basis (may genuinely need the help but don’t fit the rigorous criteria).

      • I should have said the overhead for the local mission I donate to is 7%. Didn’t mean for it to sound like I was contradicting what you said about your wife’s employer’s overhead. Just meant that I like local too 🙂

        • Melissa: I assumed.

          The other benefit I find of keeping it local and not with the Government is the ability to also volunteer time. I spend a lot of time supporting the organizations that I also support with money – including the one where my wife works.

  17. Charitable giving is important, but it is also important to get social policy right (whatever we as a country decide our goals are) rather than patch the systematic holes left by bad policy with charitable donations. To take an example I care about, you can donate 100% of your income to charities that support education for underprivileged children, and that’s great — but in my view, even better would be to systematically fix the education system of this country through solid social policy so that these charitable donations would be less necessary. In summary, I take the point of your post, but I think someone wanting to make the tax system work properly is admirable, just as is someone who gives money to charity to solve problems of social injustice, poverty, or whatever by piecemeal. These two things can be *related,* but you can choose to focus your time and attention on one, the other, or both without being a hypocrite.

  18. Like!
    Not even touching the politcs piece, I have been looking at our finances (and hearts) lately and really want to get on the same page with my husband and find a place/charity/church to donate to. I just joined an amazing moms group through the church and they provide support, growth and childcare for FREE! I’m thinking this will be a perfect place to start:)
    Hope you are enjoying Korea. Did I tell you I lived their for a year? Granted I was only 18 months old but my parents taught on the DOD in Pusan…said it was one of the best years of their life!

  19. I think donating and then getting a tax deduction defeats the whole purpose of donating. Donating is supposed to be an act of being a good person, not something to selfishly benefit yourself. I automatically discount donations by anyone who mentions it on their taxes. That’s not donating, that’s just …trying to get something for yourself.

    • Then would you suggest that if someone makes a donation that is an allowable tax deduction, they should not claim it on their return?

      • I just think it shows poor character. There are so many other deductions. Why not just do a good deed to do a good deed?

        Then again, I may be saying this as a bitter ex Salvation army employee who watched people donate pit stained shirts, torn jeans, and feces stained underwear so they could write it off on their taxes (went straight into the garbage, obviously, so they technically wrote off a donation that didn’t even happen!).

    • So, that is a very interesting and deep topic you stumbled onto.

      I’m Jewish and there is a lot of rabbinical discussion on charity. Specifically, if you get something out of it, is the value of the deed any less valuable? Judaism has a very unusual answer. If the personal benefit the giver receives is what causes him to give in the first place, then how could that ever be bad? Basically, even if the initial motivation is selfish, it doesn’t mean the end result is any less selfless.

      The most common example is a donation to have a building named for someone. The person would seem vain by wanting the notoriety of his donation being very public. Do you think the people receiving the donation have a diminished benefit? Consider the opposite: an anonymous donation. Does an anonymous donation have a different value for the recipient? The rabbinic answer is that the public donation is greater. I know it seems backwards. A public donation in this way provides an opportunity to encourage others. If even one person donates in response to seeing someone else’s donation being publicly acknowledged, then it has a greater impact than the anonymous donation. Similarly, a person who is actually requesting the donation is said to be performing a “double mitzvah” – twice as good as a donation alone because they provide an opportunity for someone else to perform a mitzvah (commandment).

      I’m happy to discuss further in some other format to avoid clogging Ninja’s comments.

      • Mike, I was fascinated by this! Never even thought about the intentions of a gift not mattering if the end result is ultimately positive.

    • If I am allowed to deduct the donation, I can afford to give more.

      Donating to charity is done for many reasons (including genuine social beliefs, political motivations, moral or religious beliefs, to boast, build reputation, market a business etc), but i doubt the fact that you can deduct it is one of them. Yes, it might lower your tax bill, but unless you are getting 100% of that donation back from the gov, then a % of it is still coming out of your pocket.

      Kinda like the people who think negative gearing of property is good to lower their tax bill. But that’s another issue….

  20. I refrain from criticizing what anybody does. After all it is their money. I would rather focus on the candidates and what they say they will do for the country, but I do not trust them nor do i believe them. I prefer to concentrate on my own finances and what I do with it.

    • I’m not criticizing Obama’s charitable gifts. He has the right to donate as much or as little as he wants. I’m criticizing the hypocrisy of the message he preaches (wealthy need to help out more), yet he obviously wasn’t modeling that sentiment from 2000 to 2008.

  21. Have to agree whole-heartedly with krantcents: It’s their money, they earned it, they should spend it how they please. Don’t criticize unless you are willing to open your checking account to the public to see how YOU spend!

    That said, I think our Grand Poobah of Ninjitsu has a point about the whole timing of Obama’s donations. Here’s the raw data that HuffPost used:

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/03/obama-releases.html

    Interesting is the jump in income around 2005….probably book royalties kicking in from his time as a professor maybe?

    On the flip side, I like how Obama has his finances….no debt whatsoever, not even a mortgage! Plus he’s set aside money in 529 accounts for his kids’ futures. This is in comparison to VP Biden, who has almost all of his net-worth reduced to nothing due to all his liabilities…aren’t you a little too close to retirement to be carrying all the debt Joe?:

    http://www.opensecrets.org/pfds/CIDsummary.php?CID=N00009638&year=2010

    • I agree as well. That’s the beauty of America, I can’t force you to give a penny more than you choose to. Wouldn’t want it any other way. That’s exactly the reason I am concerned about the government indicating they want to take more from certain people. Again, if the govt had a track record of being fiscally responsible, I wouldn’t be so concerned, but I think you and I both agree the govt isn’t known for being the best managers of money.

      And let’s not ignore the REAL issue of the blog post. It wasn’t to say that people should give to charity instead of pay taxes. Or taxes should be used for charity purposes. It was simply to point out that Obama demands wealthy individuals (which he is) spread the love around, yet nothing from his personal situation seems to reflect he has acted upon those beliefs. If Obama had been giving 14% (like he has the last couple years) for the last ten years, I would have never wrote this article. But instead it appears his increase in charitable gifts is more political than personal.

  22. I think that this article is a fair and open way to talk about something that may be considered a political issue without getting into mindless bickering (hey – there’s enough different opinions on here and everyone is civil – maybe we should take over Congress!)

    As someone else mentioned in the comments, tax returns don’t capture volunteer time – only dollars. While I doubt that any of the politicians mentioned in the article had much time to donate, for everyone else – I think that might be a little more balanced. At least for me it is, I aim for a combination of monetary and time donations to equal 10-15% of income.

    But, I do have to admit that I do make a certain dollar amount of donations to ultimately help with my tax bill. I’m right on the cusp of two different tax brackets (and some years randomly subject to AMT). In certain cases, if I can get my deductions just right, it can significantly lower my tax bill. So I do have to admit that for me there is some thought about the tax benefits involved in the donation.

  23. Super interesting discussion! About this comment:
    “That’s exactly the reason I am concerned about the government indicating they want to take more from certain people.”

    Most of the articles about Mitt Romney’s tax returns are focusing on his tax rate (13.9%) because he is paying LESS than someone with a lower income. *You* are actually the person the government is taking more from.

    I don’t think President Obama’s own charitable giving percentage rate has anything to do with him “demanding that wealthy individuals spread the love around” because taxes and charitable giving are two totally different things. I don’t look at taxes as being “taken away” from me because I realize that very little of the money I contribute goes to people who might be helped by a charity or non-profit. What does the biggest portion of every tax dollar go to? Someone has to pay for the military, right?

    • “Most of the articles about Mitt Romney’s tax returns are focusing on his tax rate (13.9%) because he is paying LESS than someone with a lower income.”

      Don’t confuse Capital Gains taxes with Income taxes.

      • Sorry, but capital gains are most definitely income, as a quick look at Form 1040 will confirm. It would be correct to say that long-term capital gains are not taxed at the same rate as ordinary income.

        • Yes, Larry, you are absolutely correct. Thanks for claryfing. I had a long response about risk involved and why I think cap gains should be taxed at a lower rate but then I erased it when I realized you were just clarifying my statement. 😉

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