Elsewhere online
August 20, 2012

Romney Comments Sharpen Debate on Equating Taxes and Giving

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments last week likening his charitable donations to his tax payments offer a window into a larger, ongoing philosophical debate between liberals and conservatives, The Washington Post writes.

The former Massachusetts governor, who has come under pressure from Democrats to release more of his past tax returns, said Thursday that he has never paid less than 13 percent of his income in taxes and continued, “If you add in, in addition, the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent.”

Mr. Romney made a similar equation in a January GOP candidates' debate, stating that for 2011 he and his wife paid about 40 percent of their income in taxes plus charity.

Michael Tanner, a scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, said, "Taxes are a form of charity," adding that conservatives such as Mr. Romney believe individuals make better choices about how society can benefit from their money than the government does.

Critics of that view, such as Ask.com founder Garrett Gruener, argue that government provides a way for citizens to decide collectively what society needs. "Charity is something I do on my own, and I don’t expect others to have the same priorities I do," said Mr. Gruener, a member of the group Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, which supports higher taxes for the very rich.