Friday, August 17, 2012

Money, Religion, and Politics

What Romney’s Money Tells Me about his Values

You know that old saw: Families and other communities tend to eschew conversation about sex, money, politics, and religion.  I’m going to violate three of those taboos here.

If you’re in the U.S. and haven’t been living under a rock, I assume you’ve seen the ongoing news reports, commentary, and harangues about Governor Romney and his tax returns.  You know that the Democrats are calling for him to release more than just last year’s returns, and you know he has refused.

You may be appalled, as I am, by this utter hypocrisy: The Romney campaign staff required that VP nominee Ryan share with them several years of tax returns, while both Romney and Ryan decline to make them public. Apparently, Romney thinks Ryan should share his tax returns with the Romney staff, but neither of them feels the public has the right to any of that information. Ironic, isn’t it?

So that’s the politics of the thing. Now let me talk about money and religion.

Money and Religion

Romney went under his invisibility cloak and looked at his tax returns from the past several years. He emerged, proudly declaring that he’s paid about 13% of his gross income in taxes, and a total of “about 20%” when including charitable contributions.

Romney’s paying a lot lower tax rate than I am. I’m a lowly 1040EZ filer – owning no home, claiming no special deductions – and my rate is generally about 18%. But, of course, that’s only fair, for I have a lot more disposable income than he has. NOT! I have a tiny margin of “disposable income." He has millions.

I earn my income through working for a living. All news media (from the left and the right) have explained that Romney’s income comes mostly from capital gains … which are taxed at a much lower rate than wages. I work for a living and pay 15-18% to the IRS. Romney plays the stock market and pays about 13% to the IRS. Does something about that strike you as just a wee bit unfair?

Romney claims to be a Christian, right? So how does he square his financial situation with Luke 12:48? It says:
"From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
In the Romney/Ryan vision of the world, those who make the most money should pay the lowest tax rate. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, those who profit most should give most. I wonder how these oh-so-“religious” men square their policy decisions with the words of Jesus Christ. I wonder what Jesus would say to them.

But enough about politics. Let’s talk about religion and money.

Getting Personal

Explaining the tax returns that we have not seen, Romney says he paid about 13% in taxes to the IRS, but he added that charitable contributions bring the total to about 20%. He said that as if charitable contributions should count toward his “giving” or “offering” to the IRS. What do “charitable contributions” have to do with what he paid in taxes??

But never mind that. Let’s just deal with the facts he gave us.

Romney tells us he gave about 7% of his income in charitable contributions. Seven percent. Not quite the biblical standard of 10%, is it? The man reaps millions each year, and he expects us to applaud his giving 7% out of his abundance?
"From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." Luke 12:48
Romney’s proud declaration sent me to my financial spreadsheet.

Personal revelation: A few years back, I got serious about the biblical standard of the 10% “tithe,” and I began working toward it, increasing my church pledge each year, even though I’ve had no salary increase in three [or has it been four?] years. I kept increasing my giving in all those years of no pay increases. My pledge to my church is now beyond 10% of my net income, and I’m increasing it every year, working toward a tithe on my gross income. This year, I’m at 8.7% of my gross income in giving to my parish. Governor Romney, that's 8.7% of my gross! -- while you brag about giving 7% of your millions.

This year hasn’t been different than most years in my financial life. Between my contributions to my parish, other parishes and ministries of the Episcopal Church, and other non-profits, so far this year I have given 9.1% of my gross income in charitable contributions. Governor Romney, that's 9.1% of my gross!  With an annual income just under $45k, I can manage to give over 9% of my income to the church and other benevolent causes. But Governor Romney – making millions each year – can only afford to give about 7%. What’s up with that? Is his budget a lot tighter than mine? Bless his heart. Could he afford to give more if he didn't make so much money in outsourcing jobs to China?

In my parish, we talk about “proportional giving.” So far, I can give 9% to my church and charitable organizations. Governor Romney – bless his heart – can only afford to give 7% to his church and similar causes. Maybe he could “afford” to give more money if he didn’t make so much money. Poor dear.

I wonder if Governor Romney has ever heard Jesus’ parable about the widow’s mite. I have, and it challenges me to give more sacrificially to the Kingdom of God because I am so grateful for the blessings God has showered on me.

You want to talk about "Christian values," Governor Romney? Bring it on!

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Blogger Ann said...

Romney is a Mormon - profit a sign of blessing.

8/17/2012 11:23 PM  
Blogger JCF said...

The thing that gets me, is that Mitt thinks that merely following the law (IF he does that!) is enough to get him elected President. Speaking of the need for "entitlement" reform!!!! :-0

8/17/2012 11:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ann, but aren't Mormons supposed to give 10%?

8/18/2012 9:29 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

JCF, what gets me is his utter hypocrisy about money. He has millions and gives proportionally less than people like me. How can the sheep in the GOP fail to perceive that disconnect?

8/18/2012 9:31 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

I don't know who "Ceramic Episcopalian" is, but I love this post:

8/18/2012 9:50 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

our daughter

8/18/2012 9:53 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Yes - all Mormons in good standing give 10% to the church

8/18/2012 9:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ann, what's the "our daughter" comment about?

8/18/2012 10:01 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ann, so if all good Mormons give 10% ... and Romney said he gave 7% above his taxes ... what does that make Romney?

8/18/2012 10:02 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Ceramic Episcopalian

8/18/2012 10:16 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

You are supposed to give on your pre-tax income - in the old days in Utah - it was taken out of your paycheck and given directly to the church -- if you weren't LDS - then you could apply for a refund.

8/18/2012 10:17 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Ah. Thanks. I'm honored to get a link from the Ceramic Episcopalian!

Now ... about the Mormon rules: Since Romney has said he gives only a total of 7% in charitable contributions beyond his taxes, what does that mean about his standing in his church? Do gazillionares have a standing exemption?

8/18/2012 10:21 PM  
Blogger LKT said...

Also, note that he said he paid at least 13% in taxes, not that he paid at least 13% in Federal income tax.

8/19/2012 6:25 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Hmmm ... Very good point, LKT! If I added up all my taxes -- IRS, sales tax, property tax, etc. -- I shudder to think what the total would be. I suspect you're right to counsel a wary eye about Romney's comment.

8/19/2012 10:45 PM  

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