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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Generosity and Leadership

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Mitt Romney had $21.7 million in income in 2010. He paid $3 million in taxes. He made $2.98 million in charitable contributions.

Mitt Romney had $20.9 million in income in 2011. His tax bill in April will total about $3,23 million (most of which has already been paid via estimated payments no doubt.) He made about $4 million in charitable deductions in 2011.

That’s the summary of the summary in the Wall Street Journal. The summary in the Washington Post is much the same.

Ann and Mitt Romney are wealthy, and Ann and Mitt Romney are generous. Very generous. And this is to be admired.

Much of their giving goes to their church, and Mormon culture is very generous not just to those struggling in the congregation, but to the community, the nation and the world. A minute or so of googling finds this story from the days after Katrina, representative of how the Mormons respond to disasters, which noted that “[a]s of Sept. 13, 140 truckloads of commodities and supplies, about 5.6 million pounds or 2,800 tons had been shipped into affected areas; with thousands of LDS volunteers giving 9,204 manpower days helping 1,606 Church members and 3,226 people not of the LDS faith, according to Garry Flake, director of Church Emergency Response. In addition, some 3,500 volunteers served Sept. 10-11.”

All denominations of any size have their charitable arms, like Catholic Relief Services and Presbyterian Relief and Development Agency, but the culture of giving is deeply embedded in the LDS community and reflected in the Romney tax returns. In addition to direct giving to their church, the Romneys have supported cystic fibrosis research and the United Way, but the bulk of their giving is to their church.

Recall the stories on, say Joe Biden’s charitable giving?:

The Bidens reported giving $995 in charitable donations last year – about 0.3% of their income and the highest amount in the past decade. The low was $120 in 1999, about 0.1% of yearly income.

Over the decade, the Bidens reported a total of $3,690 in charitable donations, or 0.2% of their income.

The Bidens of course made far less money that the Romneys, with total income of $319,000 in 2008, so they have a lot less than the Romneys to give from. I note the Bidens’ total to simply contrast it with the fairly extraordinary level of giving from the Romneys.

They are very generous people, which in turn suggests they are good people, and while good people don’t necessarily make good leaders, it is far less likely they will be indifferent to suffering or intentionally malicious in their politics.

This is quaint stuff, certain to fall on deaf ears among the bare knuckled blogging community and the self-righteous among the media elite. But it ought to matter to some voters, especially values voters, even those of different denominations.

I got an email from a Romney supporter that noted Romney took no salary during his three years as leader of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and no salary during his four years as governor of Massachusetts. Those sorts of contributions don’t show up in tax returns, nor do the hundreds and hundreds of hours that Mormons contribute to their church work every year –the church has very few paid staff, and Romney was never among them.

But they do tell us about character, and even if we disagree at a fundamental level about theological matters, a man with his time, talent and treasure is a generous man, period.

Watch and see how how the Manhattan-Beltway media elites deal with this aspect of the story. Generosity is a core virtue. But MSM won’t know how to write about or comment upon it, and the comparisons it generates will be awkward for many, so they will leave it alone.



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