A while back, when people were attacking Mitt Romney over not releasing his tax returns, I wrote that the entire exercise of tax-return transparency was nothing more than an excuse for class warfare attacks on the wealthy. Romney didn’t defend his delay in releasing his returns very effectively, though, and in the end published them — and created a nine-day wonder over the fact that a man who derived almost all of his income through capital gains paid the cap-gains tax rate. Romney handled the post-release very effectively, though, and as I predicted, no one has given it much thought since. If he wins the nomination, Romney won’t have any more hiccups on this front.
Yesterday, Rick Santorum released four years of his own taxes, and started the class-warfare voyeurism cycle again:
USA TODAY calculated that the Santorums have paid effective tax rates between 25.4% (in 2007) and 28.5% (in 2010). That’s far more than what Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate was in 2010 but lower than Newt Gingrich’s rate for the same year.
The Santorums, filing jointly, had adjusted gross income of $659,637 in 2007. That went up to $945,100 in 2008, about $1.1 million in 2009 and $923,411 for 2010.
In other words, Santorum did pretty well in the private sector after leaving the Senate, but not as well as his competitors, so hitting him on his income won’t be terribly effective. But it didn’t take long for the class-warfare knives to come out on another point:
However, Santorum’s tax returns reveal some interesting figures that might bring him under the scrutiny of his opponents as well as the Republican conservatives. Santorum is selling himself in the Republican presidential race as the most conservative candidate who is rooted in Christian values and the church.
In fact, it is Santorum’s ultra conservative philosophy and his religious way of life that is his USP for his claim to the Republican presidential nomination. But interestingly his tax returns tell a different story about his religious ways.
Christians are expected to give a certain part of their income to church and charity. According to the Old Testament, the rate of such offerings should be ten percent and the very practice is called tithing which means one tenth part of something. There are several mentions in the Bible on tithing by devotees.
So what did Santorum contribute? Was it $3,690 dollars over ten years? Not exactly:
In 2008, Santorum reported an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $659,637, as per his tax returns. His deduction under the charity head is $13,383 for the year, which is just 2.2 percent of his AGI. In 2008, he paid $21,990 to charity on his AGI of $945,100, at the rate of 2.33 percent.
For the year 2009, Santorum’s returns show that he has paid $29,822 to charity while his AGI is more than $1 million (1,116,736). That translates in to 2.67 percent of AGI to charity.
Well, that’s certainly well short of Romney’s contributions, to be sure, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. As a Catholic, I can tell you that there isn’t much emphasis on “tithing,” though, only on prayerful consideration of contributions to one’s parish and the various missions conducted by the church.
I wonder if the International Business Times was as exercised about another Catholic’s track record of charitable giving as a percentage of income three years ago?
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.”
That came to 0.69% of the AGI for 2008. And unlike Santorum, Biden scolded people on the basis of his Catholic faith over not enthusiastically supporting higher taxes to help the less fortunate:
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.
If the Left wants to play a class warfare card on Santorum’s charitable giving, well, be our guest.