The problem with a presidential candidate releasing his past tax returns is that everyone gets to see the past tax returns of the presidential candidate. This might be the point of what they’re doing but it’s also the danger. So it is with Beto O’Rourke who seems to be running on the basis that everyone loves a loser. For his tax returns seem to show a charitable donation rate of 0.3%. That’s not something that Americans tend to view kindly.
No, it doesn’t matter here that other places do it differently, this is Americans in America. There’s a general societal assumption that you should indeed be, if not generous, then at least not parsimonious, with your money and time to charitable causes. Especially if you’ve climbed up that income tree.
What’s worse though is how Beto has defended this:
Speaking to reporters in Virginia on Wednesday, O’Rourke defended his relatively meager giving rate by saying he “didn’t expect to release his taxes because I never thought I’d be running for president.”
If you’d known people might find out you’d have given more? That’s a real expression of principle, isn’t it?
Beto’s also tried another excuse, that running for office is in itself a charitable contribution:
He does not see it that way, though. You see, running for office is itself kind of like making a charitable contribution, O’Rourke said this week. The White House hopeful was asked Tuesday evening during a campaign event in Charlottesville, Va., to explain his paltry charitable donations. The questioner mentioned that O’Rourke’s sister donates far more despite making far less. “I served in public office since 2005. I do my best to contribute to the success of my community, my state, and now my country. There are ways that I do this that are measurable … There are charities that we donate to that we’ve recorded and itemized — others that we’ve donated to that we have not,” the former congressman said.
A political campaign is a job interview. We’re trying to decide whether we’ll pay you a salary to handle society’s scut work for us. And no, that’s not charity, you applying for said job. No more than a job application to take out the physical garbage is.
But then this whole releasing tax returns thing is fraught with difficulties. Who knew that the three Democratic front runners were all fully paid up members of the 1%?
One of the interesting things about this mania for dropping tax returns among the Democratic runners is how many of them are part of that 1% they so rail against. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, they’re all there, securely in the top 1% of family or household incomes for the US. They all also rail against the incomes and inequality of the one percent which must take a certain amount of mental contortion.
Maybe Trump actually has the right idea here. You can ask but I’ll not tell?