There has been a lot in the news about Mitt Romney’s dubious personal finances. So when his wife, Ann Romney, went onto ABC to defend her husband she incidentally stepped in shit, twice. Having had to explain why her husband would refuse to show how he manipulated the system within the parameters of the law, but perhaps against the spirit of patriotism (what with tax loopholes, offshore accounts, et al.), she took up a daunting task indeed.
The liberal minded media saw her second step in shit when she said, “We’ve given all you people need to know.” The question is who is “You”? Is it just liberals? Well that wouldn’t make sense because it was largely demanded by many of Romney’s fellow party members including George Will, Ron Paul, Bill Kristol and Michael Steele! Does “you” refer to Americans? The media? Who? This comes right after Mitt himself said, “It’s kind of amusing,” that people wanted his tax returns.
In any case, there was a subtle sentence before that which has caught my attention which I think Ann Romney tried to pitch as a way to measure Mitt’s character.
“…He is a very generous person. We give 10% of our income to the church every year.”
For those of you who aren’t listening, that’s the Chuch of Latter Day Saints. The Mormon church asks all its members to tithe 10% of their income. What Romney donates, even by the Mormon church’s standards, is not an exceptional donation. It is what is expected of him.
Is tithing charity?
If what Ann Romney was trying to show was that Mitt was a charitable human being, then we’d have to examine what it means to be charitable. If a person is giving resources, time, money, and/or effort at the expense of one’s self to those who would benefit much more from it, then we can say that it is charity. If one does not wish to donate time or effort, money might be sufficient, but are all financial donations charitable? Hardly! I don’t consider paying Verizon a large fraction of my paycheck even close to being charitable. However, I feel it could be argued that Verizon does more for a society, indeed the world, than The Church of Latter Day Saints. Verizon, could certainly be more transparent about where the money goes as made famous by BusinessWeek’s front-page article. It’s really important you read this article in order to understand how a church, any church, doesn’t constitute as a charitable organization.
If not, it is humorously simplified here by Bill Maher:
For more on the ethics of charity, read works by Peter Singer.