Paul L. Caron

Friday, September 12, 2008

Biden Releases 10 Years of Tax Returns

Joe Biden today released ten years of his personal income tax returns, drawing further attention to the tax issues raised by Sarah Palin's tax problems associated with her per diem reimbursements while governor of Alaska.

I wonder, though, if the move might backfire because the returns show that the Bidens have been amazingly tight-fisted when it comes to their charitable giving.  Despite income ranging from $210,432 - $321,379 over the ten-year period, the Bidens have given only $120 - $995 per year to charity, which amounts to 0.06% - 0.31% of their income:


It is jarring that a couple earning over $200,000 per year would give as little as $2 per week to charity.  This giving compares very unfavorably to John McCain, whose tax returns show that he gave 27.3% - 28.6% of his income to charity in 2006-2007.  During the same period, the Obamas' tax returns show that they gave 5.8% - 6.1% of their income to charity.

Perhaps the Obama-Biden campaign needs a new slogan:  "Change You Can Believe In (As Long As Someone Else Pays For It)"

Update: Independent Sector reports that 89% of American households contribute to charity, with an average contribution of $1,620 -- 3.1% of income. 

IRS statistics reveal that the average taxpayer with AGI over $200,000 makes over $20,000 of charitable contributions:

  • $15,000-$30,000 AGI:  $1,916 average charitable deduction
  • $30,000-$50,000 AGI:  $2,158 average charitable deduction
  • $50,000-$100,000 AGI:  $2,703 average charitable deduction
  • $100,000-$200,000 AGI:  $4,057 average charitable deduction
  • $200,000 or more of AGI:  $20,434 average charitable deduction

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Jennifer Rubin wants to know: Who Vetted This Guy? Despite income ranging from $210,432 - $321,379 over the ten-year period, the Bidens have given only $120 - $995 per year to charity, which amounts to 0.06% - 0.31% of their income. [...] It is jarring... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 12, 2008 6:36:51 PM

» More double standards from the left from Common Sense Political Thought
From the Tax Professors Blog: Perhaps the Obama-Biden campaign needs a new slogan: Change You Can Believe In (As Long As Someone Else Pays For It) Biden Releases 10 Years of Tax Returns Joe Biden today released ten years of his p... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 16, 2008 3:12:44 AM


It's not the amount, but the percentage of income that is given to charity that really matters. My mom is a democrat and the largest donation that she gives is to the Humane Society. As a Catholic, dropping a dollar in the bucket was considered charitable. We live in such a selfish society nowadays. It is always better to give than to receive. I believe that these charitable statistics will conform with most who have voted for Obama. It appears that most are looking for a handout.

As a former missionary, I can say, that it is always the ones who have the most money that are the cheapest givers. It's the ones barely making ends meat that are the ones who give generously.

Posted by: chris | Nov 7, 2008 6:36:01 PM

Excuse me, buying your spot in heaven? Warren Buffet can't afford to buy a spot in heaven. You don't consider giving to a church as a charitable contribution, yeah its called a tithe. As to charity, churches are more likely to do the work that the government does, without the salary, retirement benefits, dental, or corruption. The do it more efficiently and effectively because they are working to solve problems, not buying votes. When the government does "charity" they steal from Peter, pay a small portion of it to Paul after they have taken their cut. But the government program will be done in a politically correct manner which perverts the intent of solving the problem; like fighting AIDS while promoting the gay rights agenda. Solving the problem has a lower priority than offending some voting block. God has the power to transform lives. Welfare has no redeeming values, it only entrenches those who are spiritual bankrupt to begin with. Introducing the lost to Christian values has redeemed more lives than all of the government programs combined. There is nothing charitable about government, there is only greed. Biden and Obama are prime examples.

Posted by: Michael | Oct 20, 2008 11:36:11 AM

Yeah, sure the fact that the average charitable giving for someone making $200k plus is suppose to be 10%- my boss tithes to his church (10%)and then claims that he is making a charitable donation because the church turns around and shares the money they are given. Sorry but that is not giving to charities, that is buying your spot in heaven as far as I am concerned. How much you want to bet that many people are doing the same thing?!

Posted by: Middle Middle-Class | Oct 7, 2008 7:12:05 PM

To R-Wing:

Just curious, what are some of the "other ways" you help others since you do not give to charity? Do you volunteer to work in a soup kitchen or visit kids in the hospital? What do YOU give, friend?

Posted by: aj | Oct 6, 2008 4:20:03 AM

Joe Biden is just pathetic in his charitable giving compared to his income. He loves to give money away, as long as it is someone elses

Posted by: suzanne | Oct 5, 2008 9:07:29 AM

I give away ZERO per cent of my family's combined under $75,000 annual income to charity - it's not required to give to charity in order to be an effective leader of This Once Great Nation, nor indeed to be a fine, upstanding, responsible citizen. Given the high per centage of so-called charities that spend the vast majority of the money they collect on "administrative costs", it's a perfectly reasonable decision to help those we choose to help in ways other than giving money to questionable "charities". In any event, it's totally inconsequential to the question of on being an able legislator or VP. That's the major problem in This Once Great Nation - too many of it's ill-informed citizens either don't vote at all or vote based on ridiculous "issues" like this. The ONLY questions are what are the stands & actions taken on issues that actually matter - i.e., illegal invasions and occupations of other nations, lying to the Congress and the public to facilitate such, systematic destruction of The Bill Of Rights, disregard for the Constitution - you know, things that ACTUALLY MATTER. All this other crap is just that - meaningless crap. Go read a freakin' gossip magazine or partake of the nonsense of the recycled myths in the "Holy Bible" & stay out of political discussions until you're ready to debat ACTUAL ISSUES rather than this non-sense. Who the hell cares who gives what to crooked "charities"?

Posted by: JadedMarty | Sep 28, 2008 1:23:30 PM

One of you asked about Cindy McCain charities... someone even said she just gave to her own, which is BS. There are very few that can even begin to have the caring heart for the less fortunate than Cindy, so I'll give you some examples.

Cindy McCain’s charities:
>> Cindy most recent trip was to Georgia to help with humanitarian aid after Russia nearly destroyed that tiny country of just 4,mil people. Someone had the gall to ask her if it was political… She said ‘NO’ that she would have gone sooner, but authorities thought it was too dangerous.
>> Cindy founded, funded, and ran the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) from 1988 to 1995. AVMT provided emergency medical and surgical care to impoverished children throughout the world….
>> As a member of the Board of Trustees for the HALO Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to landmine removal and weapons destruction in war-torn countries, Cindy has traveled to numerous countries to see firsthand; also traveled to Sri Lanka, Mozambique, and Angola…..
>> Cindy also serves on the Board of Directors for Operation Smile, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children around the world. Since 1982, Operation Smile has provided free reconstructive surgery to more than 100,000 children and young adults in 25 countries. Cindy has assisted on volunteer missions to Morocco, India, and Vietnam….
>> Cindy is currently on a leave of absence from the Board of Directors of CARE, USA, which works to fight global poverty, particularly among women. She traveled to Tanzania in February 2007 with CARE….
>> Other charities Cindy supports: Amigo for kids, No excuse for child abuse; Women for Women International, helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives; Cambodia Children’s Fund, nutrition and housing, as well as medical treatment, dental services and vaccinations; World Food Program; The Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem; Aspire Public School; AmeriCares; etc….
>> Cindy received her Master's in Special Education from the University of Southern California. As a student, Cindy participated in pilot programs testing Movement Therapy, which is now a widely accepted standard for working with severely disabled children. After receiving her degrees from USC, she began her teaching career at Agua Fria High School in Arizona where she continued her work with disabled children….

You can google the internet for her 2006 tax return... She hasn't filed 2007 yet. By the way John McCain gives all royalties from his 5 books to charity; he voted against a pay raise Congress gave themselves in the '90s, so he has given that raise to charity since then... just a small portion of the 27% he gives.
(For the record, Pres and Mrs. Bush gave 23% to charity out of their $740,000+ income for '07), Obama gave only 5.8% out of his $4+million. As a Whole, Reps have always been more charitable than Dems.

Posted by: R-Wing | Sep 28, 2008 4:06:37 AM

So bascially if Biden's Salary was 210,000 - 321,000 as a range, would that for the most park make it above the 250k Obama terms as the "wealthy" that have extra money to be taken by the government in heavy taxes. If he had so much extra money then why wouldn't he contribute more to charity? Or MAYBE he's trying to SAVE some like most Americans SHOULD do. Obama's principles sound great when you don't know basic economics but answer this dems..what do you think will happen once the "terrible greedy rich" start getting more of their money taken form them? They will stop giving to Charity, stop spending as much and slow the economy...or if they keep up with their spending/chairty habits, they won't invest as much and/or won't have as much saved. Chairity, investing, spending, saving...all things that we as americans need to keep our economy and households running. Oh, but I'm sorry, why doesn't Obama tax the rich and bail out the pooor so even more people won't be pushed to achieve the American dream and go to college, excell in their work, build a business to hopefully make it someday! The government will bail them out and there will be no drive to make something of themselves. I went to college, paid for it, worked HARD and worked my way up. Why should I be punished for my hard work? I don't live in America to by park of a socialist party.

Posted by: | Sep 25, 2008 7:21:31 AM

I'm surprised your readers don't understand percentage of income and quibble that Obama or McCain have more money. I'm a pensioner and I give 10% of my gross, not AGI. It's just not worth it to try to figure out what percentage of my pension I've already based a contribution on when I was working, so I do it the easy way. You can't outgive God, anyway.

Posted by: Norma | Sep 23, 2008 6:20:22 AM

Why don't you Dems just acknowledge the truth? Dems want to do all they can with your money, but not theirs. It's called socialism, and it's the cornerstone of the Democrat party.

Posted by: Ron Bude | Sep 21, 2008 4:18:34 PM

We also now know he's NO PATRIOT by his own definition. Where's it show he 'patriotically' paid more taxes than he had to???

Posted by: BillFla | Sep 19, 2008 1:52:08 PM

I'm going to have to agree with Erika. With that said, it doesn't even look like Biden and Obama even tithe. For their sake, I would sure like to hear their respective church's speak up about that.

Obama and Biden, BFF until Biden makes an off color joke.

Posted by: William | Sep 19, 2008 12:19:24 PM

I don't need to compare Joe Biden's contributions to McCain's - I compare them to my own and others I know. He is just another hypocritical politician like Al Gore, whom I don't see driving around in a Prius!

Posted by: Erika | Sep 19, 2008 7:11:27 AM

I am confused. I am reading Barack's 06 tax return and it says his AGI was $900k and he gave $60k (which is still below 10%). Where are the numbers coming from?

Posted by: Jenny | Sep 18, 2008 4:34:20 PM

My thoughts are this. Giving comes from the heart (Although there are narcissistic people that give to be glorified.) Actions speak louder than words. People should be taking care of those that are less fortunate. McCain demonstrates that he cares about people by what he and his wife give. It sounds like Barack does too. It should be people taking care of people and not the government. Biden's giving or lack thereof shows his true colors.

Posted by: Thomas Coutouzis | Sep 17, 2008 12:40:01 PM

Recent research by Quinnipac showed that Evangelical Christians give and volunteer the most followed by other Christians. Republicans give and volunteer more than Democrats.

Liberals tend to promote giving others' money while Republicans give their own money. Christians give much more than any other group and Evangelicals give more than any other Christians.

We live in a society that encourages all of us to give freely or not give. It is up to us and our inner motivation.

Europe is different. They tend to expect the government to do everything for them and they volunteer and donate less than we. We have two different systems.

Follow the money!

Posted by: Gary | Sep 16, 2008 1:30:29 PM

The adjunct professor wrote:

First, you must be able to substantiate the amount given and it must be given to a qualified organization.

True enough -- which is why every Catholic parish of which I have been a member provides an envelope system, so that you can get a statement of your contributions.

Not that I need it: I enter all of my checks into Quicken, and use the categories to keep track of charitable contributions. I make far less than the Bidens, but contribute far more.

More, Mr Biden is an alumnus of toney Archmere Academy, which is very close to his home. Archmere certainly asks him for contributions, which would, again, be by check -- if he contributes at all.

The funniest part is the spike in contributions in 2007 -- which would be about the time he decided to run for president again! But, I'm sure that's a coincidence!

Posted by: Dana | Sep 15, 2008 3:08:49 PM

Glad to see that Joe wants other people to give its hard to live within your means
500K a year
Free Medical
Free gas on tax payer`s backs
Free transport
Free tax payer Junkets
Free tax payer paid trips outside the country
Free Dinners paid for by the tax payer
5 weeks paid vacation
and to top it off
Free Health care and a retierment package paid by the Tax payers
Lets not forget
Smoking Joes law practice he gets money from
And kick backs from tax collection( shake down money) thugs in his distric
Money funneld from the unions
Money from tax payers given to his sons buisness
So Joe`s gets more that 3 to 4 million a year in kick backs shady deals and goverment contracts and special interest,and other countrys looking to do buisness in the US that is moved thru his foundation maybe we need a big shake up in DC and rid the likes of George Soros that want to do harm to the US and its people!

Posted by: Chicago Slam | Sep 14, 2008 2:07:51 PM

"Folks... slow down and dont jump to conclusions.

Biden has a separate charitable foundation. The records are public."

Thanks for this information and setting us straight. What is the name of his charitable foundation, and where can I/we find out more? Anyone else know more on this? And why would he deduct $360 a year on average, but not the "charitable foundation" contributions?

Posted by: Tom | Sep 14, 2008 10:53:08 AM

There is no requirement that your donation to your church MUST be a tax deduction and if you take no deduction then nothing is reported to the IRS. This amounts to a true authentic gift to your church at no tax payer expense.

The McCain's appear to make substantial donations to their personal charitable organization.

Posted by: Chris | Sep 14, 2008 10:49:56 AM

Biden defenders are completely pathetic.

There is NO EXCUSE for this less than measly level of charitable giving - even if you are "sacrificing" your life as a public servant to the tune of $200,000-$300,000 annually, plus your wife's teaching salary.

Oh, and how much did his lobbyist son make during this time? Hopefully, he wasn't being requested to make the same sacrifice. More likely, if he is even an average Washingtonian nepotist, he is trading on his father's elected office to acquire more than a million dollars annually. These guys know how to "Rangel" the extra bucks.

I don't think there's a Catholic parish in the world that would want to trade up for Shoeless Joe Biden. Joe Biden doesn't even qualify for the Pee Wee Donor League.

So much for leading by example.

But, at least the Washington D.C. liberal left's charitable giving average went up when Al Gore left town to enrich himself on global waming. We can now forget how to spell "zilch."

Posted by: Ross | Sep 14, 2008 12:16:58 AM

Folks... slow down and dont jump to conclusions.

Biden has a separate charitable foundation. The records are public.

Posted by: RickA | Sep 13, 2008 11:09:33 PM

I totally agree with all those who defend liberals, no matter what the issue. Liberals, after all, are far superior people and should be treated as such.
Conservatives, on the other hand, should be investigated, insulted and lied about. Always give the benefit of the doubt to liberals, they're good as gold while conservatives are mean-spirited people who set ethical and behavioral standards for themselves and believe in doing what is right. Liberals can do no wrong because, to them, nothing is wrong.

Posted by: arabian stallion | Sep 13, 2008 10:01:30 PM

The attempts to defend Biden in this forum are patently absurd. Biden claims to be a devout Catholic. A guy who just attends mass and puts $20 per Sunday in the collection basket can claim a deduction of over $1000. Parishioners who are registered get an end of year statement for their taxes. By these numbers in the years disclosed, Biden gave virtually nothing to his church, 9/11 relief, Tsunami aid, and plenty of other worthy (and urgent) causes. For a guy who makes his political bones portraying 6-figure earnings as rich fat cats who don't pay their fair share, this $200k-$300k earner is astounding hypocritical.

The man's record is a disgrace, and apologists for him are grasping at straws.

Posted by: J. Philip | Sep 13, 2008 5:06:31 PM

All our Dem. representatives are poor working stiffs just trying to get by, but those evil Republicans…


Rank Name Minimum Net Worth Average Maximum Net Worth
1 Jane Harman (D-Calif) $222,175,772 $409,426,887 $596,678,002
2 Darrell Issa (R-Calif) $158,580,056 $337,440,028 $516,300,001
3 John Kerry (D-Mass) $221,589,484 $267,789,805 $313,990,127
4 Vernon Buchanan (R-Fla) $-24,520,706 $191,695,634 $407,911,974
5 Herb Kohl (D-Wis) $117,798,026 $171,423,011 $225,047,997
6 Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass) $43,351,040 $102,822,519 $162,293,999
7 Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa) $55,878,022 $91,713,012 $127,548,003
8 Robin Hayes (R-NC) $32,122,164 $82,552,081 $132,981,999
9 Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) $49,392,297 $79,555,657 $109,719,018
10 Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) $45,501,164 $79,051,090 $112,601,017
11 Charles H. Taylor (R-NC) $56,056,018 $66,698,509 $77,341,001
12 Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) $22,766,190 $49,515,595 $76,265,000
13 Michael McCaul (R-Texas) $17,409,136 $46,648,568 $75,888,000
14 Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) $18,523,145 $43,867,072 $69,211,000
15 Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) $15,326,725 $39,753,196 $64,179,668
16 Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) $-9,292,881 $38,539,554 $86,371,990
17 John McCain (R-Ariz) $27,817,187 $36,431,099 $45,045,011
18 Tom Petri (R-Wis) $9,724,038 $35,918,018 $62,111,999
19 Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) $10,960,095 $34,069,544 $57,178,994
20 John Campbell (R-Calif) $13,504,082 $32,846,041 $52,188,000
21 Bob Beauprez (R-Colo) $9,419,013 $32,392,002 $55,364,991
22 Denny Rehberg (R-Mont) $6,348,013 $31,046,505 $55,744,997
23 Hillary Clinton (D-NY) $10,360,009 $30,691,003 $51,021,998
24 Gary Miller (R-Calif) $2,687,042 $28,244,520 $53,801,998
25 Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) $11,622,675 $27,800,155 $43,977,636
Note: Senate, House and Executive branch rules require the disclosure of items belonging to the filer’s spouse and/or dependent children. When present, those items are displayed on this page and are included in all calculations throughout this section.

Posted by: xanthrope | Sep 13, 2008 9:54:54 AM

The most astounding thing in the whole article was the amount given by those in the $15K to $30K range. They give at three times the rate that those making six figures make, and without the tax savings incentive. The article is deceptive in that it doesn't let us know what the average income is of the top 3% of Americans make, just that it starts at $200K. a $20K average is a poor showing for a group that includes Gates and Buffet.

Posted by: Toon | Sep 13, 2008 9:29:12 AM

well considering i make barely over a tenth of what biden makes annually plus i have a mortgage and car payment i still give more in dollars than he does annually in fact from 2004 to 2006 i gave almost twice as much to charity than he has gave in the last 10 years.

Posted by: Mac | Sep 13, 2008 6:19:59 AM

This is a cheap shot.

How many American households that report similar income give to charity?

The Bidens are on the bottom of the wealth list in Congress.

Why don't you investigate those at the top, who are mostly GOPers???

Posted by: Rick | Sep 13, 2008 6:12:35 AM

Let not your left hand know what your right hand gives.......isn't this paraphrased from the New Testament?

Posted by: justwondering | Sep 13, 2008 6:01:13 AM

If Senator Biden tithes and doesn't report it or the tax deduction, that's great - he's more noble than most believers. But then, why whould he report the paltry charitable contributions at all? Personally, I'd like someone in the media to ask him which it is; "Do you tithe and not report it, or are you not really a practicing Catholic, as you claim you are."

Posted by: Tom | Sep 13, 2008 5:49:20 AM

Hey Ben, could you explain the comment "Look, if you earn that income and donate that to charity, you have screwed up priorities, period." Is it your opinion that tithing is now done through the state?

Posted by: Tom | Sep 13, 2008 5:28:44 AM

Perhaps the Obama-Biden campaign needs a new slogan: "Change You Can Believe In (As Long As Someone Else Pays For It)"

The closing statement accurately captures the mindset of all politicians- but especially Democratic candidates intent on social re-engineering. This is not to say that Republicans do not have their issues spending taxpayer $$$.

Posted by: robert | Sep 13, 2008 4:33:57 AM

Maybe someone who check to see who actually owns Bidens' house on Barley Mill Road in Greenville, DE.

There is some speculation in DE that he is not the owner.

In any event he makes Algore's charitable contributions look generous. Maybe he could borrow some money from
"Hunter" Biden, his Hedge Fund Expert/Lobbyist son.

Posted by: templetonpeck | Sep 13, 2008 4:28:46 AM

Biden earns a senators salary, his wife is a teacher, seems to me that they already give in their service.

Posted by: pitbullstew | Sep 13, 2008 3:57:00 AM

You have absolutely no idea how much Biden gives to charity. You do know how much he deducted on his income tax form. You don't know how good his records are. Maybe he donates to charity because he cares about charity, rather than donating because he gets a tax break. This is ridiculously presumptuous.

And why does your form claim that email addresses are not displayed with comments, when you do display them? Thanks for the spam.

Posted by: Omari | Sep 13, 2008 3:37:35 AM

> To those who defend him with "we don't know everything he does". No, we don't. But we DO know one thing he DOESN'T do....he doesn't donate to charity.
No, you're wrong. The original post is very misleading. In point of fact, the only thing that is known is how much charitable giving Biden declares on his tax forms. Everything else is pure speculation.

Posted by: anon | Sep 13, 2008 1:46:27 AM

joe clearly comes across as tight wad with this, looks like the guy is cheap or uncharitable.

but the numbers used here are a skewed.

joe makes just above the top "$200,000 or more" bracket used in these statistics.

that bracket includes people making $1, 2, 3, - 10, 20 million dollars a year. People who pull in that kind of scratch can afford to be generous. They can afford to pay for good schools for the kids, live in nice homes and live "the good life."

McCain's wife's ownership in her family's business brings the luxury of being much more generous.

That said, using a fair trending from these numbers, Biden should "average" something closer to $6,000 last year.... Lame.

Posted by: ObamaGuy | Sep 12, 2008 11:51:22 PM

It means nothing about nothing, so what, as long as the people are honest............

Posted by: Jules | Sep 12, 2008 10:50:37 PM

Look, if you earn that income and donate that to charity, you have screwed up priorities, period.
Continuing to live beyond your means when you have high school or college age children is childish.

Posted by: John | Sep 12, 2008 8:35:07 PM

I don't always report my tithe in my taxes. I sorta feel like it is telling the right hand what the other is doing. I always report gifts to other organizations. It is entirely possible he is tithing but not reporting.

Posted by: Ben | Sep 12, 2008 7:54:08 PM

This is curious to me as a voter, because Senator Biden mentions his Catholic faith in every speech, but his tax returns do not bear out the tithing one would expect to find of a practicing Catholic. I take the senator at his word as an honest man, so there must be some explanation. Either;
1) He puts cash in the plate on Sundays, and keeps no records
2) He puts a check in the plate, but doesn't take the deduction to reduce his tax bill, or
3) He puts a check for $180 in the plate each time, but only attends on Easter and Christmas

Posted by: Tom | Sep 12, 2008 6:18:03 PM

I have given much, some years 10% of my income, to our local Catholic Worker Community which runs a soup kitchen and takes in homeless families, but I cannot claim that donation on my taxes as they do not run their organization as a non-profit. for more info. Catholic Workers live a simple lifestyle in community, serve the poor...

Posted by: Canoe | Sep 12, 2008 6:12:55 PM

Five family member household:

3 kids' college tuitions
2 kids' law school tuitions
Expenses to run ONE home
Amtrak cost x at least 260 days/year

Give us a break. The guy's lucky he can afford dry cleaning. This country is doomed unless and until we get working class people back in power.

Posted by: pfree | Sep 12, 2008 5:45:20 PM

What does charity have to do with wealth? My parents had one meager income that would now be equivalent to $60k. With three kids, they still contributed over 10% a year to church and then some to Boy Scouts and the Red Cross. Its about choices and a sense of responsibility to society. For many its a requirement by God to do justice and help the poor with our time, talents and money. Not the governments. I was shocked to see that conservatives contribute more than liberals. I really thought it was the other way around.

Posted by: bill | Sep 12, 2008 5:40:32 PM

Our income is 180K to 250K over the last 5 years and our charitable giving percentages are almost identical.

Does that mean we are cheap? Considering our lack of savings, and living pay check to pay check, I don't think so.

My wife and I both work, we have 3 kids, require day care/nanny. Bought a (small) house outside Boston at the top of the market and don't even have money left over for my 401k or any real savings. No vacations, no credit cards, but huge percentage of our income goes to mortgage, nanny and school loans (undergrad and graduate).

Posted by: Mike | Sep 12, 2008 4:10:22 PM

A few thoughts:

1) Remember 2001. Did an event of any national significance happen that year? Remember September 11th? On September 12th and for the rest of that month, most Americans cracked open their checkbooks to give to 9/11 relief funds. Apparently Joe Biden wasn't one of them. You are a US Senator and you don't give a couple hundred to the Red Cross for Sept. 11th relief?

2) It is 2005 and you are pretty sure you are running for President in 2008. Don't you know your tax returns will become public knowledge, particularly if you have all this "experience"? If so, don't you have a conversation with the spouse that goes "Hey hun, I'm running for President in a couple of years. We probably should throw a couple thousand every year to the American Cancer Society. Okay?"

Do we want someone who was running for President and didn't have the common sense to make somewhat average charitable contributions as our Vice President? As a prominent advisor to a President Obama?

Can Sarah Palin be anywhere near this lacking in common sense?

Posted by: anon | Sep 12, 2008 3:14:14 PM

First of all, in response to all of you assuming McCain would seem less generous if combined with his wife-- Cindy is known for giving a lot of money to charity AND spending extensive amounts of her time volunteering for children around the world. The McCain's ADOPTED a girl (I believe from Bangladesh) when nobody there could/would support her medical needs. Granted, that's not going to get a charitable deduction, but do we have ANY evidence the Biden's are concerned about the poor/downtrodden?

Secondly, as was helpfully mentioned above, Biden as a "catholic" should be giving 10% of his income to the church-- and trust me, modern religious organizations make it VERY easy for you to take the deduction if you gave it. To those of you who have commented that he might not have wanted to claim the deduction -- then why did he bother to take a few hundred dollars in the first place? If Biden doesn't know the tax code well enough to take appropriate deductions, maybe he shouldn't be running for a job in which he will have responsibility for fixing it.

Lastly, as has been mentioned by fellow posters, many of us, making less than 100 or even 50k, are managing to give 5-10% of what we make back to charity. Not only is biden giving less than 1% of his income back, he hasn't managed to save or invest any of his income, even though he is in the top 1% (maybe 5%) of American households. Even without giving to charity, Joe Biden cannot afford Joe Biden--- why give him access to more taxpayer $$$? America cannot afford Joe Biden. (Is it too late to swap in HRC?)

Posted by: West Coast Lawyerette | Sep 12, 2008 2:26:11 PM

I believe there is a study showing that conservative Republicans give more to charity than liberal Democrats. Perhaps the Bidens can only enjoy giving if others are compelled to give, also. There may be an economic logic to this, but it is certainly uninspiring politically.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Sep 12, 2008 2:23:37 PM

Hey, JD, I probably should be embarrassed to say I've got you beat. $18K income, about $1000 charitable giving. I'm semi-retired, house paid for, etc. It's not easy, but then I don't live a grand lifestyle either.

Biden should be deeply ashamed of these numbers. To those who defend him with "we don't know everything he does". No, we don't. But we DO know one thing he DOESN'T do....he doesn't donate to charity. I'd like to see if there's any video of Biden exhorting all of us to donate during the tsunami or something. He apparently didn't feel the need to do so.

I'm sure he tells himself he's a generous guy because he does so much for "the less fortunate" with government funds...i.e. your money and mine. Be nice if he put a little of his money where his mouth is.

Posted by: jeanneb | Sep 12, 2008 2:06:43 PM

Certainly nothing to brag about, but I've got you beat. And I beat Biden by miles. What a stingy miser.

I make $18K per year and give about 8%. I'm semi-retired, house is paid for, etc. It's not hard. But then, I don't live in a grand style either.

As for those defending Biden with "we don't know all he did". Well, no, we don't. But we DO know he didn't give much money to charity. I'd bet he's convinced he's a generous guy because he "gives away" so much through gov't spending (i.e., your money and mine).

Posted by: jeanneb | Sep 12, 2008 1:57:05 PM

"He did not deduct the cost of th train to DC every day...unlike some one else nor did he get reimbursed.
Posted by: sscohen | Sep 12, 2008 12:00:45 PM"

Pretty sure he was reimbursed. You might need to retract that

Here is a link for JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. (D) Expenditures Details: Travel

Posted by: Sunflower | Sep 12, 2008 1:43:24 PM

I wouldn't assume that the amount reported on the tax return is all the charitable giving that Biden does.... my wife and I help support one of our poorer missionary friends through theological school. None of that is tax-deductible, but we do it any way because we discern a need for more Christian missionaries in the world.

Posted by: ADB | Sep 12, 2008 1:35:35 PM

You realize, of course, that most of John & Cindy McCain's charitable "giving" is to the John & Cindy McCain Foundation, from which they make large gifts to their children's private schools.

They are skinflints compared to the Bidens.

Posted by: truth | Sep 12, 2008 1:35:25 PM

Damn, I'm cutting back.

Posted by: Thoughtful | Sep 12, 2008 1:21:39 PM

So this is critical of how much he claims? I for one tend to underestimate my charitable contributions, because we have plenty of other ones, and I don't need the IRS poking into how much they think might be too much for us to give. (But we are freelances and have been audited twice now with no changes, so I tend to be very conservative on deductions).

Posted by: nobody | Sep 12, 2008 1:18:45 PM

Does having kids in college while not being a multi-millionaire like John McCain mean anything to you?

Posted by: The Other Ed | Sep 12, 2008 1:16:45 PM

Biden is at the bottom in terms of wealth in the senate. He doesn't have 7 houses like John McCain.

Posted by: Paleo | Sep 12, 2008 1:11:09 PM

I really am curious to see what Biden's response to this might be. I make a paltry $24K a year (yeah, I know, I could make more as a waitress or secretary, so sue me, I love my field), but I have given about $100 to charity so far this year. It's not a lot of money, at all, but percentage-wise, I'm looking pretty good compared to Biden.
Yet having met the man and heard him speak a dozen or so times, I believe he's a warm and compassionate person who would give freely to charities.
It may be that he chose not to deduct his contributions.

Posted by: JD | Sep 12, 2008 12:49:47 PM

When you factor in the fact that McCain files separately, the McCains, as a couple, are probably not as generous as the Obamas are if generosity is expressed as a percentage of annual income of the couple as reported on tax returns (at least for 2006).

In 2006, John McCain had AGI of $338,809 and Mrs. McCain had AGI of $6,066,431. If the couple had a total AGI it would be $6,405,240.

On his 2006 tax return, John McCain claimed that he made charitable contributions of $64,695 from an allocation of marital community property (in 2006, John McCain also claimed a carryover of $32,063 in charitable contributions from prior year). We cannot be certain of Mrs. McCain's charitable contributions because her Schedule A has not been made available. However, according to the McCain campaign Mrs. McCain contributed the same amount as John McCain. If that is the case the McCains, as a couple, reported charitable contributions of $129,390.

If my math is correct (and I readily admit I may be wrong) the Gifts/AGI calculation for the couple would be 2.02% (if you include the carryover the percent increases to 2.52%).

That doesn't detract from whether or not Biden is off the charts stingy when it comes to charity (again if we confine charity to what is reported on one's tax returns).

Posted by: Too Many Jims | Sep 12, 2008 12:40:45 PM

One more point on the difference between what you "gave" to charity and what you can deduct. You cannot deduct services rendered to charity. So helping out soup kitchen or volunteering at a blood drive is not deductible.

Again, I don't know what Biden did or did not do that might be charitable but not deductible. But you cannot simply equate an amount listed on a return with the "amount" that person "gave" to charity.

Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof | Sep 12, 2008 11:52:56 AM

It has been reported that Sen. Biden was chosen to run with Sen Obama in part because he could attract the vote of Catholics. This presumes that he is a believing Catholic, which requires regular church attendance. The amount of charitiable contributions seems to establish that Sen. Biden does not attend church regularly. Even if he put put only $10 per week in the collection box, this alone would allow him a charitable deduction of $520.

Posted by: George | Sep 12, 2008 11:31:56 AM

The problem is not simply that Biden didn't give much of his own money, but that he feels free to give away taxpayer money through appropriations and earmarks.

Posted by: PBS | Sep 12, 2008 11:25:11 AM

Many Federal employees (including those in the legislative branch) give back every day by accepting below market wages. Biden's income seems like no exception, considering the extent of his knowledge and experience.

Posted by: Mark S | Sep 12, 2008 10:47:59 AM

I give 12% of my AGI to charity and my AGI is below $100k.

Posted by: anon | Sep 12, 2008 10:44:37 AM

I see a lot of comments about how Obama and McCain had greater resources, etc. to give higher percentages to charity... but I must wonder if those who read this had an income like Biden's AGI of $319,000, would they give as little as he did?

If each one posting here gave only 0.31% of their AGI, what would your giving amount equate to?

Posted by: Poiema | Sep 12, 2008 10:39:01 AM

There is a difference between what you gave to charity and what you can deduct.

First, you must be able to substantiate the amount given and it must be given to a qualified organization. You can't deduct giving a cup of coffee or a buck to a homeless person on the street. Nowadays you can't even deduct a buck you put in the collection plate without a receipt.

Also, for larger property donations you cannot deduct the amounts without a qualified appraisal--which might not be worth the hassle.

I am not saying that Biden actually did any of these things. But you cannot simply equate an amount listed on a return (imagine if he didn't itemize--that wouldn't mean that he did not give anything to charity) with the total amount given to charity. There may be a high correlation, but you don't know whether or not he dropped a quarter into the cup of the guy standing by METRO or Union Station.

Better to be conservative and list a low number that you absolutely can substantiate and justify than list something on your return that is inaccurate or that you cannot substantiate.

Posted by: Adjunct Law Prof | Sep 12, 2008 10:35:57 AM

Granted, it's probably a lot easier for John and Cindy McCain to donate large percentages to charity. But I'm not interested in comparing Biden to them--he is stingy compared to ME and a number of people I know. My AGI is WAY less than $319K and my charitable giving is WAY more. I would infer that Biden is interested in helping the poor with government money but not all that crazy about using his own for the same purpose.

Posted by: Amanda | Sep 12, 2008 10:31:36 AM

I make CONSIDERABLY less than Joe, raise three boys and yet we give an average of 12% to various charities. It's not hard to be charitable. I think Joe's charitable giving from 1998 to 2006 is much more telling. Living with a top 10% income and can't even give enough money to feed a family of four for one month to charity? What about the local food bank, homeless shelter, United Way, or American Red Cross post Katrina or 9/11?We're supposed to give more in taxes to do the same thing? Lead by example.

Posted by: RL | Sep 12, 2008 10:23:18 AM

While adding information about the amount of money that the McCain's and Obama's earn is useful information, the Biden's charitable giving is paltry by just about any standard.

I'm unsure what the relevance of charitable giving is for whether someone is qualified to be President. In contrast, the questions about the Palin tax returns certainly raise issues of willful noncompliance (or, at a minimum, a quite extraordinarily aggressive tax position).

Posted by: BG | Sep 12, 2008 10:21:03 AM

I appreciate the need for some of the commentators to defend the indefensible, but, guys, seriously, a man who makes $200,000 could give away more than $200. It would be better to admit that and retain some credibility.

Posted by: y81 | Sep 12, 2008 10:17:19 AM

1. Of course McCain can be generous with his income. His wife is incredibly rich.

2. The parting snark is a cheap shot (and a non-sequitor). What does seeking to change policies in Washington have to do with a person's charitable donations?

Posted by: cy | Sep 12, 2008 9:43:18 AM

There is a difference when your spouse is sitting on $100 mil worth of can be a tad bit more generous

Posted by: Rover | Sep 12, 2008 9:31:24 AM

A couple points: I realize you're talking about percentages, but the Obamas and, a fortiori, the McCains had a good deal more money to give away. Their after-gift wealth would still be significantly more than the Bidens'. Note also that we don't know anything about Cindy McCain's charitable gifts. It's unfair, isn't it, to compare the Biden family's returns to John McCain's alone without noting that point? Presumably Sen. McCain could have given away all his income and the family would still have been fairly comfortable.

Posted by: PF | Sep 12, 2008 9:28:04 AM

While I agree, Biden's paltry giving does not look good, it should also be considered that John McCain has the greatest freedom to give his money away. His wife, who files her tax returns separately, is a multi-millionare. He could be giving his entire salary and still be living comfortably on his wife's salary.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 12, 2008 9:14:11 AM

He did not deduct the cost of th train to DC every day...unlike some one else nor did he get reimbursed.

Posted by: sscohen | Sep 12, 2008 9:00:45 AM