This blog is for my dear friends and beloved relatives who will be voting for the reelection of the incumbent President of the United States.
First of all, progress in human society is like walking. Putting one foot ahead of the other. Shifting the balance from left to right, right to left.
Saint Thomas Aquinas called it ‘the common good.’ The Constitution of the United States calls it the general welfare. The Pope calls it social justice.
And some conservatives call it redistribution of the wealth.
It is the panoply of causes that need support. It is that vast array of things we spend money on which conscience and sound public policy require.
The poor. The sick. The elderly. Kids. Schools. Universities. Hospitals. Libraries. The environment. Drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation. Science. Religion. Research. The Arts. The list goes on and on.
Some voices on the left have decried the fact that Mitt Romney has not made all of his income tax returns public. That complaint has been central to a narrative that defines him as a greedy, self-centered capitalist, who writes off 47 percent of the American people because they don’t pay income taxes.
I think that most fair minded people would assume that the numbers on Romney’s recent tax returns probably reflect the numbers on his tax returns generally.
That said, here’s what we know: last year he made 13.7 million dollars. He paid 1.94 million in federal income tax. He donated 4 million dollars to charities.
The word ‘charity ‘comes from the Latin for ‘love.’
It means giving freely and generously because we care. It means giving out of a sense of social responsibility. It means answering the conscience-bound call for social justice.
Charity is the personal response to the call of the common good. It is how we share what we have with less fortunate neighbors. It is how we contribute to the general welfare.
So why don’t we add up income taxes and charitable contributions to determine somebody’s ‘social justice quotient’ ?
I submit that in 2011, Mitt Romney’s contribution to the common good, his participation in promoting the general welfare, amounted to 43% of his total income.
That doesn’t really sound like a greedy capitalist.
But it does make us focus on an underlying difference in political thought.
Is the common good the exclusive province of government, and particularly, the federal government?
Do a free people retain a prerogative to decide for themselves how to promote the general welfare?
Or have we relinquished our sense of social justice and the fulfillment of our responsibilities to each other to a distant, monolithic bureaucracy?
An important factor in our charitable giving is always an assessment of efficiency.
How much of our money actually gets to the people and causes we are trying to help?
When administrative costs and fund raising expenses dwarf the bottom line that reaches the needy, we stop giving.
The federal government has the same responsibility to shore up confidence in the taxpayers as the United Way has to convince the public of its efficiency.
How much energy does the Department of Energy generate?
How much education does the Department of Education deliver?
Is the taxpayer getting a bang for his buck? Are food stamps better than meals on wheels? What services are so critical to the common good that we keep providing them even if it means borrowing from China to do it?
These might be good questions for a Presidential debate.