Obama Releases Tax Returns, A Pittance for Charity

Law Prof Paul Caron has examined the tax returns released by Barack Obama today for the years 2000 to 2006. You can read the returns over at his blog.

What is surprising, given the recent controversy over Obama's membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ, is how little the Obamas apparently gave to charity -- well short of the biblical 10% tithe for all seven years. In two of the years, the Obamas gave far less than 1% of their income to charity; in three of the years, they gave around 1% of their income to charity. Only in the last two years have they given substantially more as their income skyrocketed -- 4.7% in 2005 and 6.1% in 2006. (Of course, it is possible that the Obamas may have made gifts to other worthy causes that were not deductible for federal income tax purposes.)

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    quite revealing.. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:30:54 PM EST
    Charity comes to mind only when are about to be running as a president!!!

    Possibly... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by sweetthings on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:32:20 PM EST
    But the fact that their income skyrocketed at about the same time probably had something to do with it too.

    The bigger point is that (none / 0) (#85)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:41:38 PM EST
    when he was making a quarter million $$ he gave charity worth just $1000 .... I mean common... I don't know how you guys see it but I will definitely take that into consideration before I vote!!!

    So they are giving more as they make more (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by mikecan1978 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:32:17 PM EST
    Is there anything about volunteer work in a tax return?

    I don't understand why this is a story.

    obama is the poorest of all candidates (none / 0) (#61)
    by marcusdelara on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:13:50 PM EST
    hey what did he do after law school? (magna cum laude/harvard) he ran a voter registration drive in illinois. what did hillary do? (after she failed her first bar exam) corporate law (rose law firm).

    obama just paid off his student loans 3 years ago, and only due to his book sales.

    hillary has 50mil in the bank. come on!!


    Didn't she run a voter drive in TX? (none / 0) (#77)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:29:27 PM EST
    I thought his drive was just in the area that could help him, not all of Illinois? 150,000 new voters, right?

    Wonder why (none / 0) (#82)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:35:31 PM EST
    he didn't write off any of his student loan interest.  That would be line 24 in the 2000 return.

    His income was too high (5.00 / 2) (#117)
    by AF on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 06:06:59 PM EST
    It's capped at 65K for individuals, 135K for couples.

    Kucinich much? (none / 0) (#87)
    by Fabian on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:47:21 PM EST
    I think Dennis wins in any lowest income, lowest net worth contest.

    this post is truly hilarious... (none / 0) (#88)
    by jor on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:51:06 PM EST
    ... the anti-obama bias is so transparent and absurd. Obama just finishes paying off his student loans and takes a public service job instead of going for a 7 figure salary -- and jeryln still finds something to criticize.

    Surprisngly no mention, how Obama was planning this dump of tax returns all at once to embarrass Clinton further. I could have sworn the clinton chorus here kept harping that Obama hadn't released all his returns. Apparently they were waiting for the clinton campaign to make that argument, so they could embarrass them with their lack of transparency 2 minutes later.


    Is there something wrong (none / 0) (#98)
    by badger on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:27:12 PM EST
    with being anti-Obama and point out things that are inconvenient for him?

    Is this your pledge to quit being anti-Hillary and only say nice things about her?


    there is a difference... (none / 0) (#119)
    by jor on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 06:12:04 PM EST
    ... between supporting your candidate and pointing out flaws in other candidates, and being a pure hack. Talking about Hillary's clothes effectively puts you into the hack category. Discussing the amount given to charity and ignoring the large financial debts obama had also puts you in the hack category.

    Pointing out flaws in obama's healthcare plan is reasonable.


    And he has little kids. n/t (none / 0) (#120)
    by dannyinla on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 06:43:47 PM EST
    This is a completely invented story... (none / 0) (#108)
    by sar75 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:50:16 PM EST
    ...that smacks of desperation.  In fact, this is the most desperate thing I've heard yet.  Seriously, it made me laugh.

    Why do the Obamas hate America? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by wwinfrey on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:43:51 PM EST
    Interesting that Jeralyn saw fit to quote pretty much the entire post, except for the last sentence:

    (Of course, it is possible that the Obamas may have made gifts to other worthy causes that were not deductible for federal income tax purposes.)

    Didn't see it but (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:48:56 PM EST
    I'll add it. You're right. I was working off an email Prof. Caron sent me, not his post, and the email didn't include that part of the quote. It's added now.

    Hunh? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by QuakerInABasement on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:44:47 PM EST
    This sentence doesn't make any sense:
    What is surprising, given the recent controversy over Obama's membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ, is how little the Obamas gave to charity

    "The recent controversy" has absolutely nothing to do with how much or how little the Obamas have donated to their church.

    Let's call this sentence what it is, shall we? This is an invention, a tool to leverage one controversy out of another.

    I trust the release of the other candidates' returns--if and when that happens--will be given equal attention.

    Oh don't worry (none / 0) (#19)
    by blogtopus on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:47:29 PM EST
    When the Clinton's returns are released, they'll be pored over with every ounce of feverish being.

    I think the writer is trying to help Obama by (none / 0) (#31)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:56:21 PM EST
    suggesting he did not have a very strong ties to church given his paltry charity shown on the tax returns!

    Don't forget his wife was making (none / 0) (#92)
    by FlaDemFem on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:03:03 PM EST
    as much as he was, if not more, and she could have given some. Although my guess is that their main charity was their church. Obama is said to have given over $22,000 to the church over the years. So given how little he seems to have given to other things, the church is probably their main charitable beneficiary.

    Like most married couples (none / 0) (#94)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:14:27 PM EST
    they file joint returns.

    iow, the returns show all income from both and all itemized charitable donations from both.


    please!!! (none / 0) (#122)
    by The Realist on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 06:59:25 PM EST
    I have given more than 22,000.00 to church, over the years, and i have not been in 15 years. If he were to follow The Gospel, he would be giving a minimum of 10%.

    And don't insult us by saying he may not have wanted to report all his charity.He is not humble. He is a politician. of course he would the whole world to know of his charity.


    Not defending him (5.00 / 1) (#127)
    by FlaDemFem on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 07:56:03 PM EST
    just making sure everything is taken into consideration. I can't stand Obama, I think he is an empty suit and an ego. But one should be fair, even to someone who expects to be given the benefit of any and all doubts.

    There is no obligation (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by ruffian on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:48:31 PM EST
    to report all of your charitable giving on your tax return.

    These statistics are meaningless IMHO.

    Yes, because (none / 0) (#42)
    by Marvin42 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:03:04 PM EST
    Everyone is SO PURE they REFUSE to take the tax deduction allowed by law.

    Geesh, please be realistic in your criticism.


    I don't (none / 0) (#56)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:10:04 PM EST
    take tax breaks for my charitable giving.  Maybe I don't exist?

    I am curious (none / 0) (#62)
    by Marvin42 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:14:06 PM EST
    What is the logic behind that? Not commenting on the decision, just curious why someone would do that.

    This might seem dumb to some here... (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:19:25 PM EST
    but for me it ties in to "do not do your good deeds before men."  I don't like getting my charity A.) recorded, and B.) rewarded.  I don't think that is entirely in line with Christ's teachings on generosity.  

    Someone pointed out that you could get the deduction and then give that money away too, but I would really just rather pay my share of taxes based on my income and support schools, infrastructure, social programming, etc.  

    There are a lot of needy people on my block, but none of them have as much money trouble as the government.  :P


    Thank you (none / 0) (#72)
    by Marvin42 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:22:55 PM EST
    For the explanation, makes a lot of sense. I for one would not want people knowing what I gave and why, but would gladly take the money back to give again.

    Didn't they change the deductions 'rule' (none / 0) (#80)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:33:21 PM EST
    awhile back also? I don't write mine off either, but it seems like I remember them fiddling with what you could/couldn't write off and amounts, etc.

    Not sure I get your point.... (none / 0) (#66)
    by Maria Garcia on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:17:01 PM EST
    If you don't want to take tax breaks for charitable giving then I assume that you enter 0 for charitable donations. That's not what the Obama's did, but perhaps you are suggesting that they chose to take a write off for a small fraction of their donations but actually donated more. I don't get this reasoning. Frankly I don't care how much or whether they donated money at all. I always think that peeking into other people's taxes is kind of creepy. But I really don't see any basis for assuming that they donate lots of money but choose to only write off a small portion. That's a bit nonsensical to me.

    10% To His Church (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:49:04 PM EST
    Is charity whether or not you like the charity. Not sure why this wouldn't count.

    What am I missing? (none / 0) (#27)
    by Dave B on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:52:41 PM EST
    I don't see anything about church donations.

    I deduct what I give to my church.


    Here (none / 0) (#32)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:56:53 PM EST
    What is surprising, given the recent controversy over Obama's membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ, is how little the Obamas apparently gave to charity -- well short of the biblical 10% tithe for all seven years

    Some people (none / 0) (#35)
    by Steve M on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:58:16 PM EST
    do not believe in taking a deduction for what they give to church.  I'm not sure how widespread this practice is.

    No, really? (none / 0) (#45)
    by Marvin42 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:04:02 PM EST
    What is the thought behind this? Why is it wrong? And couldn't you take the deduction, then give the amount you save to the church again to increase what you give?

    hate to break the news to you, (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:00:59 PM EST
    but this makes the obamas, um, well, uh, normal.

    if you check out the IRS Statistics of Income, you'll find that the average taxpayer, in the obama's bracket, contributes about the same amount (as a % of gross income) as the obamas do.

    i'm surprised that prof. caron (whose blog i have on my favorites list) failed to note that, he should have.

    as well, what stood out for me was the relative pittance of interest & dividend income earned by the obamas, as a % of their AGI; whatever it is they're doing with their money, clearly they aren't investing much of it. however, i must also note that investments in deferred funds (IRA's, 401(k)'s, etc) aren't listed on tax returns, so that could be where they are putting that money.

    in the grand scheme of things, this isn't something i'd really consider pertinent, with respect to deciding on the democratic nominee for president.

    for those wondering what charities the obamas gave to, go to the linked site, prof. caron has all the returns listed, in pdf format. they have a schedule of the individual charities with amounts for each.

    average taxpayer (4.50 / 2) (#44)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:03:49 PM EST
    average taxpayer

    The only problem.. he is not an average taxpayer .. he is running for a president with qualities that you will not see in your lifetime..


    heh (none / 0) (#55)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:09:29 PM EST
    in my world (accounting, auditing, tax law), he and his wife are average, for their income bracket. presidential candidate or not.

    in fact, in my world, i wouldn't even deal with someone who made that little money, not worth my time.


    What Do You Think (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by BDB on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:04:47 PM EST
    Of Obama's repeated calls for the Clinton tax returns.  Haven't they invited this scrutiny?

    We know for a fact that Hillary donated (5.00 / 2) (#70)
    by Dancing Bear on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:22:41 PM EST
    her entire Book Royalty from "It takes a Village" to Children's Hospitals around the country.That was millions of dollars. He bought a Georgian Mansion with is.

    I also believe that Mr. William Jefferson Clinton has given/raised hundreds of millions including efforts for Tsunami victims, Katrina fundraising, and many other worthy causes.

    Barack is laying in a Cabana talking strategy on his cellphone. Maybe he could swing through New Orleans on his way back. Bill C. was there last week with hundreds of college kids to continue the work he is involved with. Bill is doing this on top of campaigning for our next President.  Not saying "I'm too tired to help the poor. I need a vacation".

    Don't (none / 0) (#99)
    by Wile ECoyote on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:28:38 PM EST
    forget Bill's many donations of his used underwear to charity.  

    I dunno (5.00 / 1) (#111)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:52:47 PM EST
    his voluminous use of bolded phrases has pretty much convinced me he's right.

    Walmart Connection ..in tax returns (none / 0) (#134)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 09:09:06 PM EST
    Michelle Obama's salary the year 2005 included  $316,962 plus another $45,000 for her role as director of TreeHouse Foods an important supplier to Walmart [yes the same company that Obama took snipe on Hillary for serving on their board]

    This is embarrassing . . . (4.33 / 3) (#11)
    by AF on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:41:20 PM EST
    . . . to anyone trying to make this a campaign issue.  

    No.. (3.00 / 6) (#21)
    by Chimster on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:48:36 PM EST
    Hillary getting caught using puffery in the "sniper" story is embarassing. Barrack disclosing his tax returns so they can be picked apart by the public is a cornerstone of his campaign--transparency. The Clinton tax returns will be raked through by the public shortly. I'm sure you'll feel better about this process at that point.

    I Agree Candidate Tax Returns Are a Joke (none / 0) (#41)
    by BDB on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:03:04 PM EST
    But it's the Obama campaign who has been screaming for the Clinton tax returns so the press can engage in this ridiculousness with regard to them.  So they brought it on themselves by insisting tax returns are somehow important windows into a candidate's soul.  Goose, gander.

    I have to agree with you. (none / 0) (#54)
    by Maria Garcia on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:09:13 PM EST
    I frankly don't care how much money the Obamas did or didn't give to charity, but the way this campaign is going wjatever you throw out there is bound to come back at you. I hardly know where the boundaries are anymore, does anybody?

    Have to agree with you on that one (none / 0) (#16)
    by blogtopus on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:45:55 PM EST
    Now, if someone were to accuse Hillary of being uncharitable, THEN it would be a campaign issue.

    If it is something that a member of his church is supposed to do, then it is kinda embarassing for him, but it also lends credence to the theory that he doesn't really belong to it anyway, thus putting some distance between him and Wright.


    Considering all of the Rezko money (3.00 / 2) (#34)
    by ineedalife on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:57:13 PM EST
    that Obama has had to donate to charities the guy is a regular philanthropist.

    Of course since that money was ripped off the Illinois Teacher's Pension fund I guess the good teachers of Illinois should deduct it on their returns.

    obama's campaign gave the money to charity (none / 0) (#103)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:37:24 PM EST
    in 2007. Not relevant or even connected.

    He in the interview regarding Rev Wright controver (none / 0) (#5)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:33:15 PM EST
    Anchor: Have you attending the Church regularly
    BO    : Yes, except for the period when we had the child.

    Anchor: Have you donated regularly
    BO    : Yes


    Not necessarily (none / 0) (#9)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:37:20 PM EST
    We don't know that that isn't true.  I tithe quite regularly and I aim for 10% but if you looked at my tax return, you wouldn't see it there.  I have chosen not to write off my charitable giving.

    You enjoy paying more taxes than required? (none / 0) (#36)
    by RalphB on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:58:17 PM EST
    You really are a liberal Democrat.

    Haha... (none / 0) (#52)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:07:56 PM EST
    I suppose.  It just seems strange to me to write off charity.  It is money I take in and money I choose to use.  I don't see it as different then when I go buy a burrito.

    It does seem kind of funny (none / 0) (#60)
    by RalphB on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:13:02 PM EST
    but I still deduct it.  I must be a centrist  :-)

    You could have helped more people!! (none / 0) (#57)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:11:20 PM EST
    if you actually write off you charity you could have given more with the same net debt to you.. you could have helped more people.. Not sure why you would not write them off for the tax purpose..

    Hmmm (none / 0) (#65)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:16:24 PM EST
    I figure money going to the government is doing some good too, though, right?  I just assume pay taxes on my income and keep my giving records to myself.

    I'm OK with sending more money off as long as we have good progressives helping it get to the right places.  I am a big fan of Obama's transparency legislation.  I don't mind sending money to the government, I'd just like to know more about how they are using it.


    Well generally I don't disapprove of taxes... (none / 0) (#68)
    by Maria Garcia on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:19:40 PM EST
    ...but for the last 8 years or so I'm not too happy about what the government is doing with my tax dollars.

    Don't forget... (none / 0) (#74)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:24:45 PM EST
    they do good right along with the bad.  No one is ever totally happy.  Give to Caesar what is Caesar's though, you know?

    Why do you insist (none / 0) (#115)
    by independent voter on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 06:00:48 PM EST
    on bolding everything? Do you believe it makes what you assert more true? Or that people will take your comments more seriously?
    It is very distracting when reading all the posts.

    What charities? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Chimster on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:34:29 PM EST
    Does it say what charities they gave to? I'd love to know what charities the Obamas deem worthy of their income.

    The Names of the Charities (none / 0) (#26)
    by jsj20002 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:52:20 PM EST
    the Obamas donated to are not required to be listed on their Form 1040, Schedule A.  

    well you can check their past (none / 0) (#7)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:34:35 PM EST
    20 yrs or so returns.. I am sure the pattern would not change unlike the case here.

    The Clintons (1.00 / 1) (#33)
    by flyerhawk on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:57:06 PM EST
    haven't released their tax returns since Bill was Prez.

    And it seems to have worked for them (none / 0) (#43)
    by Chimster on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:03:13 PM EST
    No reason to rock the boat now.

    Once again (none / 0) (#75)
    by flyerhawk on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:26:59 PM EST
    I see someone can't follow the rules of the site...

    Commenters who low-rate comments based on point of view rather than quality of the comment will have all their ratings erased. They will be banned.

    Not that I expect much in the way of admonishment for your pointless low rating.


    What does (5.00 / 0) (#83)
    by Marvin42 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:37:01 PM EST
    The Clintons tax return have to do with the analysis of Obamas tax return? Everything is NOT "but they did xyz."

    Honestly I personally think posts of "Clinton did this" on this thread to be entirely off topic. Its just smoke.


    I was not the one (none / 0) (#110)
    by flyerhawk on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:51:57 PM EST
    who brought up the Clintons.  Someone said we could look at the Clintons tax returns for the past 20 years.  I pointed out that this was not true.  You troll rated the comment because you didn't like that being mentioned.

    Do not (none / 0) (#139)
    by Marvin42 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 11:11:06 PM EST
    tell me what I did or what. It has nothing to do with liking what you said. Off topic is off topic, plain and simple.

    I am just saying to campare their pattern (none / 0) (#25)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:52:11 PM EST
    you got returns for as much as 20 yrs.. you cannot question a person who has given his 20yrs record of tax returns, schedules and other stuff and question why are you not giving more.. all the while sitting on your own past records for the same documents for those past years..

    not sure if that help (5.00 / 0) (#53)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:08:09 PM EST
    Obama still does not have disclosed his returns for that time period.. just because Clinton were in not a good financial position (per your comment).. doesn't mean that their return is less/more important than Obama's.. Obama has to show his own returns and schedules for the time he has spent in public office if he can demand the same from others.. no excuses like "I don't have them.. lost them.. did not have staff to keep them" will work.!!

    Perhaps because... (none / 0) (#30)
    by Chimster on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:56:10 PM EST
    the public and MSM can make a story out of a non-story. I can't imagine having the Clinton's release their tax information and not have media connecting dots where there may be no connection at all. If you think making Barrack look uncharitable from his tax returns is bad, just wait till you see what they do to Hillary.

    At least we know... (none / 0) (#8)
    by proseandpromise on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:36:19 PM EST
    that all of the commentators who were shouting about Obama giving money to Wright weren't dead on.  It looks like he gave some, but not a lot.

    Although, if you looked at my tax return, you wouldn't see any of the money I tithe.  I have a hard time using the money I offer up as a write-off.  So I don't know if we can call the return totally accurate.  

    Oh boy, (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:37:38 PM EST
    I hope you have a pretty good idea that the Clintons have been "more charitable" otherwise all hell will break loose when they release their tax returns.

    I know, I know, Clinton is demonstrably much less in-your-face about her faith, but I think the reality is that that probably won't matter to many people...

    Wow! (none / 0) (#24)
    by Dave B on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:50:45 PM EST
    I gave more to charity back when I only made 45,000/year!

    Well (none / 0) (#28)
    by Claw on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:52:46 PM EST
    I guess Obama's done.  He used cocaine and said he regretted it, and now THIS?!  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  I'm waiting for the "Obama only tips waiter 18%...Shouldn't we expect 20% from a Presidential candidate?" Post.

    Actually. . . (5.00 / 1) (#73)
    by LarryInNYC on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:24:25 PM EST
    as I recall, the issue of how much candidates tip in restaurants was a major political issue last year.  Of course, in that case is was Clinton who was in the spotlight, so presumably it was different.

    True (5.00 / 1) (#78)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:31:15 PM EST
    Clinton sketchy, but Obama is a big tipper:

    When Barack Obama and Mayor Bloomberg ate breakfast at a Manhattan diner Friday, it was their waitress who made out like a champ.
    She got a whopping $10 tip for service on the power duo's $17.34 meal.


    Perez brought them eggs over easy - and bacon for Obama. For the record, Obama, not the billionaire mayor, picked up the tab and the tip.


    Settles it for me....  


    Student loan debt for 2 law school grads... (none / 0) (#29)
    by mike in dc on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 02:53:52 PM EST
    ...with two kids, neither of them making what they could be making with those pedigrees, would quite adequately explain this.  They said they didn't really finish paying off their debt until his second book was published.  

    I will have around 200k in loan debt when I finish at GWU.  My wife, when she finishes her grad program, will add another 50-60k to that total.  Non-trivial sums, especially since that means we'll be paying back around half a mil over a ten year period.  I'm assuming the Obamas were in a similar predicament.

    good point, that may well also (5.00 / 2) (#47)
    by cpinva on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:05:49 PM EST
    explain the apparent lack of investment income one would ordinarily expect to see with two high earners.

    They said they didn't really finish paying off their debt until his second book was published.

    full disclosure: i am a firm supporter of sen. clinton, but surely there are more substantive issues to discuss than this.


    But I would expect to see, and don't see (none / 0) (#100)
    by Cream City on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:31:37 PM EST
    the deduction for student loan interest, then.

    And let's remember that deduction disappeared for more than a decade but was brought back by -- Bill Clinton in the '90s.  (Too late for me, but I bless him for it, anyway -- that and the Hope and Lifetime Learning programs are helping a lot of students and their families doing taxes right now. . . .)


    I Think (none / 0) (#109)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:50:18 PM EST
    That over $65,000 or so, you can no longer deduct student loan interest.

    $130,000 AGI for combined return (none / 0) (#114)
    by Cream City on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 05:54:05 PM EST
    but yes, it looks like they 'way exceeded that even in the earliest years.  Good catch.  I never noticed that . . . because I'm an academic, so I'll never make that much.

    Not surprising... (none / 0) (#48)
    by alsace on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:06:15 PM EST
    Back in the 50s, when the marginal tax rate was 90%, it cost the moneyed class a dime to give a dollar.  Marginal rates for the wealthy have been dropping - LBJ got JFK's cuts passed, then Reagan's cuts and now Bush's - so that today it costs them 65 cents to give a dollar (85 cents if their income is from dividends.)  So they are less generous these days, notwithstanding Saint Ronald's claim that they would give more if only their taxes were cut.

    charitable giving (none / 0) (#49)
    by judyo on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:06:39 PM EST
    How silly.  Have you checked out Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield/Rice?
    Are you all Democrats/Indies, lean dem or are you partisan?
    What I see is the Democratic Party grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.
    We're either FOR a change or we're NOT.  The more haggling, the more people will just vote for McCain without knowing why except that at least he's a "contender".

    Tithing (none / 0) (#71)
    by EZSmirkzz on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:22:46 PM EST
    Is not required in all churches, and in any case the money would go to the church, not a charity, although that would show up on the TR if the church sent out the correct forms to its' congregants.

    From the Trinity United Church of Christ (none / 0) (#76)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:28:47 PM EST
    Online Contributions

    Thanks for your interest in contributing to Trinity United Church of Christ. Here you can make a secure online contribution using a major credit card. Afterwards, you'll receive a receipt detailing your contribution. Please enter the following information.

    (Format: 123.45)(No $ Symbol)

    Lifestyle CS Campaign  
    Deacon Benevolence  
    Ash Wednesday  
    Maundy Thursday  
    Good Friday  
    Easter Gift  
    Women's Week  
    Annual Revival  
    Men's Week  
    Christmas Gift  
    Watch Meeting  
    Guest Minister  
    Food Share  
    TV Ministry Gift  


    You can deduct that though, churches are... (none / 0) (#79)
    by Maria Garcia on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:31:32 PM EST
    ...nonprofits. At least I hope so cause I've been deducting my church contributions for years. LOL.

    Huh? (none / 0) (#84)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:37:19 PM EST
    Aren't Churches considered charities?  

    Yes, for tax deduction purposes n/t (none / 0) (#125)
    by geordie on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 07:23:23 PM EST
    this is such a silly story (none / 0) (#91)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:55:48 PM EST
    Honestly, where is this type of nitpicking getting the Democrats?  Nowhere.  I think a vigorously contested primary is good preparation for the general election because it does get a lot of issues out there and tests how a candidate can respond, but in my opinion, we have gone way past that at this point.  I feel us snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as each side, bloggers, pundits, etc. attack one another over such crazy things.  

    As to the specific facts on this issue, what strikes me is that they have very little investment or interest income to match their very little "claimed" charitable giving.  Absent some evidence that they're buying lots of fancy cars and home electronicsl, that indicates to me that they are using a lot of money to pay off large student loans which makes sense.

    I also know a lot of people who don't deduct what they give to their church.  I know others who never ask for a receipt for their giving and only report what gets sent to them by groups that send out an annual receipt letter.  

    this nitpicking brings unity (none / 0) (#105)
    by dem08 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:40:24 PM EST
    and shows how great we Democrats are. "Get out of our way: we give to Charity!"

    It is a great slogan.


    this nitpicking brings unity (none / 0) (#106)
    by dem08 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:40:53 PM EST
    and shows how great we Democrats are. "Get out of our way: we give to Charity!"

    It is a great slogan.


    earmarks for the Illinois Senate (none / 0) (#93)
    by glennmcgahee on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:04:23 PM EST
    I would consider that the earmarks Obama streamed to his mentor's district in Illinois when he got to the Senate as charitable giving.
    With all the poor people in Obama's district, maybe he paid for some space heaters for the poor folks in the Rezko properties. That wouldn't have been deductible you know. We should ask Rezko or maybe some of those tenants. BTW, why haven't we heard from those people who were living in the reported squalor? Are they afraid to speak? Or does the MSM not know where Chicago is.

    Charity (none / 0) (#95)
    by debinKY on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:16:23 PM EST
    Mercy, I'm an "average" American and I give more money annually to charity than the Obamas. What a disgrace!
    "Yes We Can" apparently does not involve his money.

    I'm just curious if you (none / 0) (#121)
    by dannyinla on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 06:55:45 PM EST
    have student loans and kids.

    Well, considering how poor (none / 0) (#96)
    by NJDem on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:24:28 PM EST
    the Obama's are, it now makes sense why they needed Rezko's help to buy that mansion.  I mean, which one is it?  Also, it doesn't help that he's now on this nice vacation.

    And only $1000?  I realize they may not have reported everything, but that's still pretty low.  I believe a report showed the most generous American's come from the Deep South--not the "wealthy" states.

    Also, have we forgotten that Al Gore was also criticized  for not giving more to charity, this is not a new issue.  Now I'm curious what the Clinton's returns will look like...  

    Yes, and (Obama's) Midwest is 2nd (none / 0) (#102)
    by Cream City on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:37:23 PM EST
    From a study of 2005, published in 2007: Southerners gave 2.1 percent of their available income to charity, those in the Midwest 2 percent, those in the West 1.5 percent and those in the Northeast 1.2 percent. In terms of dollars, that came to an average annual donation by U.S. households of $978.71. Households in the South gave $1,077.70 each, followed closely by Midwesterners at $1,068.80 per household. Those in the West gave $948.28 and those in the Northeast gave $718.61.

    Contributions to churches and religious organizations was the largest category by far in all four regions. With an average donation of $706.81 to churches and religious organizations by U.S. households, the South again led with $816.81 for each household, while those in the Northeast contributed $453.84. The Midwest was second at $784.15 per household and the West third, at $665.61.


    if would be interesting if someone could give the (none / 0) (#124)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 07:20:55 PM EST
    numbers based on income groups..

    Reality Check! (none / 0) (#101)
    by Chimster on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:31:59 PM EST
    This just in... At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Clinton announced that she would be moving up the release date of her tax returns, and might make the documents public within the week.

    everyone should publicly (none / 0) (#104)
    by dem08 on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 04:39:04 PM EST
    give. The more in per-centage terms that a person gives to charity and the more publicity this giving receives the better that person is.

    We need an Agency Of Giving that would allow Public Figures to show that they are giving 10% of their income. Maybe a Parade featuring needy people lining the streets shouting "Thank You!"

    I really think this is the issue that will put Hillary in The White House, especially if it turns out that Bill often devotes 10% of his speaking fees to charity: that is about 10 or 15 thousand dollars. When you measure that against Obama: the choice is clear.

    Go Hillary!

    please don't shill (none / 0) (#113)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 05:07:22 PM EST
    by adding "go hillary" or "go obama" at the end of comments. Just make your comment relative to the post. That's shilling, whichever side you are on.

    how any post... (none / 0) (#123)
    by alexei on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 07:19:22 PM EST
    is just an excuse for Obama supporters to say the tired old line "it's over for Clinton".  Just cause you say it a million times, doesn't make it true - a platitude, but one that actually is apropos.

    Obama would not be attacking with so much force if he really believed that it was over.  This is another propaganda tool to get the results you want.  So, please, stop with your propagandistic posts and stick to the topic - oh yeah, the Obamas miniscule charity giving.

    This isn't "nitpicking" (none / 0) (#126)
    by geordie on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 07:29:46 PM EST
    it's analysis of the released return, and it's the kind of scrutiny EVERY candidate's returns get from tax experts.  Paul Caron is a friend of mine, as it happens, and I don't think he's promoting anything here one way or the other - I don't even know if he's a Democrat (I kind of suspect he might be a Republican, but I've never asked), but I'm pretty sure he's not ginning up any story here for one side or the other.  This is what tax professors do - they look at the data, and say, hum, this is interesting in connection with this highly controversial preacher stuff.  He'd do the same thing with Clinton's return - and has in the past.

    Caron's article is fair (none / 0) (#128)
    by dannyinla on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 08:13:24 PM EST
    What's loaded is Jeralyn's use of the word "pittance."

    And, might I add, (none / 0) (#129)
    by dannyinla on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 08:14:31 PM EST
    4.7% in 2005 and 6.1% in 2006 is far from a pittance.

    So Obama Camp tries to tone this down.. (none / 0) (#130)
    by TalkRight on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 08:26:08 PM EST
    Clearly feeling a bit stung by our earlier note that according to their 2000-2004 tax returns, Barack and Michelle Obama gave less than 1% of their income to charity, Obama campaign spox Tommy Vietor writes to note that even though their 2007 tax return is not yet ready, the Obamas "gave $240,000 to charity in 2007."

    but they still fail to address the issue why less than 1% during the 2000-2004 time period even though their total earnings totaled 250,000.00

    Not all gifts are deductible (none / 0) (#132)
    by Munibond on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 08:39:42 PM EST
    Your hundreds of dollars in envelopes to someone would not be deductible anyway.  Do you even itemize?

    $200-$400, as I recall, is deductible (none / 0) (#140)
    by Cream City on Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 10:01:16 AM EST
    as miscellaneous gifts, no records needed.  $200 for single return, $400 for joint return, or about that.  (You can tell I haven't looked at my tax form yet this year.:-)

    Givers and takers (none / 0) (#133)
    by Munibond on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 08:54:58 PM EST
    The Obamas seem like any number of striving professional couples that I have known, who always live beyond their means and for whom charitable giving is a low priority.  I am amused by the posts of those who think having student loans for their Columbia/Princeton/Harvard law degrees and young children excuses a family with $200,000+ AGI from charitable giving.  These are people to whom much has been given, and I think it is perfectly fair to note their record of meager contributions.

    Michelle said at a presentation (none / 0) (#136)
    by Natal on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 09:32:57 PM EST
    I attended in Iowa that their student loans were equivalent to the mortgage on their dwelling they had. And they had just a few years ago paid them off.

    No sympathy (none / 0) (#137)
    by Munibond on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 09:49:23 PM EST
    for someone making over $300,000/yr in job for which she has no training or experience and who continues to kvetch about how tough it is making ends meet.  Having apparently washed out as a law firm associate, she is lucky indeed to have been subsequently hired as assistant to mayor and then by a beneficiary of her husband's earmarking largesse.

    New York Times has more (none / 0) (#138)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 10:40:50 PM EST
    on this. They make these points:

    The Obamas' returns are striking on a number of levels. They show that the couple made very few charitable contributions, sometimes less than 1 percent of taxable income, until Mr. Obama began his run for the White House.

    In 2004, before Mr. Obama entered the Senate, he and his wife gave $2,500 to charity, 1.2 percent of the taxable income. The next year, the donations jumped, to $77,315, or nearly 5 percent of the taxable income.

    "Their charitable giving only went up when it looked like he was campaigning for the presidential office," said Paul L. Caron, a professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and editor of the TaxProf Blog, which examines tax questions and has posted the returns.

    And then there's the matter of Obama wrongfully deducting a contribution and having to file an amended return:

    The 2006 return also show a charitable deduction for a $13,000 donation to the Congressional Black Caucus. It is illegal to deduct political contributions as charitable contributions. The campaign said Mr. Obama had filed an amended return to eliminate that item as a deduction.

    CPA error (none / 0) (#141)
    by Natal on Wed Mar 26, 2008 at 02:17:16 PM EST
    Mostly likely his CPA made the error. But I guess he signed the return and therefore is responsible according to IRS regulations.