Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obama's tax returns; liberal v conservative charity

Barack Obama recently released his tax returns for the last seven years. I'm not exactly sure why we ask candidates to do this. I don't recall any big "gotcha" moments from past elections. I wonder if we do it because there is a genuine chance that the forms could expose malfeasance or whether we just like to pry into people's private affairs.

I suspect the latter, though the cynic in me wonders why he only released seven years of returns and not eight. What's this guy hiding?

So anyway, here's a summary of Obama's returns, courtesy of TaxProf Blog:


The "big news" here is that the Obamas don't give much to charity, especially considering how much they make. That's not the kind of "gotcha" that disqualifies him from being president, but it's still kind of interesting.

Up until he started running for president, the Obamas earned an average of almost a quarter-million a year and gave about 1 percent of it to charity. In 2005, the Obamas became bona fide millionaires and increased their their donations four or five points.

I guess that's not a lot of money, percentage-wise, but I have to say that I could live for several years on 77 grand. I can't remember the last time I made half that much in a year. So I'm not real bothered by "how little" the Obamas give to charity. It's their money, and they can do what they want with it. (I am bothered that they gave $27,500 to Rev. Wright's church in the last couple of years, but that's a post for a different day.)

George Will provides some timely perspective on these matters as he looks at the differences in charitable donations between conservatives and 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.
Good data points to have handy next time someone talks about how conservatives are so greedy.

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