New York Times Plays Games with Obama's Tax Rate

Today, The New York Times released a chart purporting to compare what the candidates made and gave away in 2010.

This is a bit like comparing apples to oranges, because the New York Times, like a lot of liberals, compares Romney’s income from capital gains (which were already taxed as income) to Obama’s salary as president (which is taxed as salary), but let’s go with it anyways.

Why only 2010? Because it would reveal how generous Romney is to include more years.

“[F]ew people know which is how incredibly generous [Romney] and his wife and his family have been to people in need. This is not sort of a bombshell surprise. I think it falls in the category of boring, nice surprise,” Scott Helman, co-author of The Real Romney.

But revealing more data would also show how stingy the Obamas were.

In 2011 alone, Romney gave nearly 20% of his income to charity. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle gave only $10,772 of the $1.2 million they earned from 2000 to 2004 to charities, less than one percent. In 2005 and 2006, the Obamas increased their giving to 5% of their $2.6 million income. Biden’s 2006 tax returns showed the he gave just $380 to charity out of an adjusted income of $248,459, or roughly .15%.

Just as conservatives give more than liberals, so too do conservative politicians give more often than liberal ones. Bill Clinton famously got tax deductions in the ’80s for donating used underwear. In 1997, Vice President Al Gore gave just $353 in charitable donations, or roughly .0017% of his income to charity. Multimillionaire John Kerry’s 1995 tax returns showed he gave no money to charities at all.

This isn’t surprising. As Arthur C. Brooks notes in his book, Who Really Gives: America’s The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, the world would be a far poorer place if we conservatives gave like liberals.

— Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

— Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

— Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

— Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

— In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

— People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

The Romneys keep this tradition alive and, in keeping with their co-religionists, the Mormons, give quite a bit. In 2010 and 2011 alone, the Romneys gave $7 million in charity, or roughly 16% of their income. Their charity, the Tyler Charitable Foundation, gave out more than $7.1 million from 1999 to 2007.

A little scouring shows a lot more giving, and there’s probably a lot more. “The governor is very active in his support of civic, religious, and social service organizations, but he doesn’t do it for public acclaim,” Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom told The Boston Globe in 2005. “There are certain aspects of his charitable giving that are public, but the majority of it is conducted privately, and he prefers to keep it private.” From 1999-2005, the Romneys donated more than $2.9 million (Raphael Lewis, “Romneys Listed as Big Givers to Charity, Nearly $2.9M Donated Since ’99, The Boston Globe, August 28, 2005).

From the Olympics, Romney accepted $922,980 in total salary as well as the $476,000 severance package, but Romney gave both his salary and his severance pay to charity. He and his wife Ann also donated $1 million to the organizing committee during his tenure (Bob Hohler, “Romney’s Olympic Ties Helped Him Reap Campaign Funds,” The Boston Globe, June 28, 2007).

Romney had also donated at least $260,000 to conservative organizations through his family charity foundation (Matt Viser, “Romney Says Biden Lives in “Fantasy Land,” The Boston Globe, December 24, 2011).

In 1997, Bain Capital, under Romney’s watch, donated $1 million to City Year, the Inner City Scholarship Fund, the Horizon Initiative, Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, the Boston Children’s Hospital and United Way (Kim Blanton, “Bain Capital to Donate $1 Million to Youth Projects,” The Boston Globe, April 17, 1997).

In 2008, Romney promised he would donate the $400,000 presidential salary to charity, just as he donated his $135,000 annual salary as governor.