Yesterday, Barack Obama and Joe Biden released their tax returns for 2008.  While Barack Obama donated a respectable 6.5% of his adjusted gross income to charity, totaling over $170,000, Joe Biden continued his parsimonious tradition.  Biden donated a mere $1885 to charity on an AGI of almost $270,000, or about 0.69%:

The White House on Wednesday also released the tax return for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill. They reported an adjusted gross income of $269,256 and paid $46,952 in federal income taxes.

The Bidens also reported donating $1,885 to charity, less than 1 percent of their earnings. In a press release, the White House said the Bidens have made additional donations to charity not listed on the returns.

“The charitable donations claimed by the Bidens on their tax returns are not the sum of their annual contributions to charity,” it said. “They donate to their church, and they contribute to their favorite causes with their time as well as their checkbooks.”

Church donations are just as tax deductible, and just as trackable, as any other kind of charitable donation.  Also, many of us who donate money also donate time and effort, as well as untrackable cash, to charities and good works.  For instance, the First Mate and I wound up declaring almost twice what the Bidens did while serving on Twin Cities Marriage Encounter’s board, volunteering for Feed My Starving Children, and other efforts, at a much lower AGI than the Bidens enjoyed.  For Catholics, that’s really not much to brag about; we’re supposed to be called to those efforts.

Biden has a long track record of miserliness.  When Obama picked him as a running mate, Biden eventually released his tax returns from the previous decade — and showed less than $3700 in charitable donations for the entire period.  Sarah Palin, by contrast, had donated that much in 2007, and more in 2006, on lower income.  Biden actually improved in 2008 by donating almost exactly half of what he had for the previous decade put together.

Why is this important?  Biden scolds people for not caring enough to “pitch in” and help out through heavier taxation.  “Catholic social doctrine,” Biden instructed, “as I was taught it is, you take care of people who need the help the most.”  While he waggles his fingers at others, Biden’s been pinching pennies in Delaware.  What’s worse is that he has sought to replace charity with government, perhaps as an excuse for his own parsimony.

When politicians squawk about pitching in and helping out as an excuse for sucking more resources into the federal government and describe paying taxes as a religious experience, they would have more credibility if they had a track record of actually helping the poor and needy themselves personally.  0.69% should be an embarrassment; it’s certainly a revelation about the devotion to charity for this particular liberal.

Update: I mistakenly wrote “higher” for “lower” income for Sarah and Todd Palin. I’ve fixed it.