There has been lots of chatter about 2020 Democratic hopeful Beto O'Rourke's lousy level of charitable giving. It was 0.7 percent of his income last year, according to his recently released tax returns.
Believe it or not, this represents a slight improvement over previous years for the millionaire O'Rourkes.
The O'Rourkes released their tax returns for ten years. On a joint income of $366,455 in 2017, for example, the O'Rourke gave just 0.3% to charity ( $1,166). And that was up from the 0.2 percent of the previous year.
I'll go out on a limb and bet that most people reading this blog made a lot less money and managed to give more to charity.
Although O'Rourke's level of charitable giving stood out, his fellow Democratic hopefuls were by and large not big supporters of charitable endeavors either, according to tax returns from several of them.
Kamala Harris: 1.4% of the $1.9 million income she and her husband enjoyed went to charity in 2017.
Of those who released tax returns, Elizabeth Warren seems to be the most generous: Warren and her husband had an income of $906,000 in 2017 and donated 5.5% to charity.
Andrew Stiles had this analysis of comparing O'Rourke and other 2020 hopefuls:
O'Rourke earned $366,455 in 2017, according to his tax returns, which he posted on his campaign website on Monday. That same year, he reported charitable donation of just $1,166, or 0.3 percent of his total income.
That's even less than rival Democratic candidate Kirsten Gillibrand reported giving to charity on her 2018 tax return. Gillibrand, who earned $217,634 last year, donated just $3,750 to charity, or 1.7 percent of her total income.
O'Rourke, who released ten years worth of tax returns, has done well for himself over the years, but has not made a habit of donating a significant portion of his income to charity. Despite reporting an average annual income of $340,613 between 2008 and 2017, the candidate donated an average of just $2,430 to charity per year during that time, or 0.7 percent.
That's considerably less than the average donation by Americans in lower income brackets. According to IRS data from 2016, Americans earning between $200,000 and $250,000 reported an average of $5,472 in charitable contributions, or about 2 percent of total income.
It's also less than half of what Joe Biden reported on his 2011 tax return (1.5 percent of total income in charitable donations), which resulted in the former veep being ridiculed as a cheapskate.
There has been some commentary alleging hypocrisy on the part of Democrats who say they stand with the poor and yet don't support charities. .
But I don't think it is hypocrisy at all: Democrats by and large see a bigger role for the state and that by nature means that closer to home, charitable giving by individuals is less important, if not downright counterproductive.
Charities, in this view, are stop-gap help to the poor that prevents us from seeing that what they really need is expanded government.
People who believe in charity, in a church or an institution that tries to help those in tough situations, such as the Salvation Army, find ways to give.
Why would people who believe in a bigger state bother to give money to charities that can even blind us to the need for more government?
So it may not be cheapness or hypocrisy that makes Democrats appear stingy when it comes to charity.
It may be their faith in government.
Just a mental exercise: if you needed help, who do you think would be more sensitive to your needs: a church community or a faceless bureaucrat?
How you answer this question probably determines what you gave to charity last year.