Bill and Hillary Clinton have released their tax returns for 2000-2006, as well as preliminary figures for 2007. TaxProf has the breakdown. Since the end of 1999, the Clintons' combined income has topped $109,000,000.What caught my eye was this graph he made from the data. For every year, the Clintons' charitable contributions have been multiples more, percentage-wise, than the average American's. Generous Giving states,
Percentage Given: “The IRS reports that those who itemize deductions on their income tax returns have claimed, since 1975, that between 1.6 percent and 2.16 percent of their income went to charitable concerns. Gallup polls taken every two years for the organization Independent Sector have found charitable donations to run between 1.5 percent and 2 percent of income. Giving USA, a definitive report published by American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, says that giving has ranged between 1.7 percent and 1.95 percent of personal income over the last 20 years.”11So, except for 2002, the Clinton's charitable giving has been roughly twice to seven times as great, proportionally, as the average American.
So I say good on them!
But wait, there's more!
After Mr. and Mrs. Obama released their tax returns, the press quickly noticed that, between 2000 and 2004, they gave less than one percent of their income to charity, far lower than the national average. Their giving rose to a laudable five percent in 2005 and six percent in 2006, with the explosion of their annual income to near $1 million, and the advent of Mr. Obama’s national political aspirations (representing a rare case in which political ambition apparently led to social benefit). According to an Obama spokesman, the couple’s miserly charity until 2005 “was as generous as they could be at the time,” given their personal expenses. In other words, despite an annual average income over the period of about $244,000, they simply could not afford to give anything meaningful.TaxProf has that graph, too:
In 1996, the General Social Survey asked a large sample of Americans whether they agreed that, “The government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality.” Those who “disagreed strongly” with this statement gave an amazing twelve times more money to charity per year, on average, than those who “agreed strongly.” People disagreeing strongly also gave nine times more to secular causes than those agreeing strongly, and even gave more to traditionally progressive causes, such as the environment and the arts.TaxProf also notes that during the years of Bill Clinton's presidency, they gave half their income to charity during 1996 and 1997.
BTW, it's been well known for decades among economists that the more money people make, the less they give away proportional to their income. The Clintons, whatever else you may think of them, buck this trend and seem plenty generous. So I say for this matter, give credit where credit is due.