Rick Perry’s Tax Return: Reading too much into it?

Texas governor Rick Perry’s plans to host a day of prayer and fasting in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on August 6th have – not surprisingly – evoked a wide range of reactions. Some are accusing the governor of crossing the line between church and state, some are suing to stop the gathering, and some are applauding his initiative.

The local NBC television affiliate posted a question via Facebook, asking for opinions regarding the event and whether it should be called off. My non-scientific tally indicated that a pretty big (that’s a statistical term of art, in case you’re wondering) majority of respondents were supportive of the event. But to my mind, one of the more interesting comments accused Perry of hypocrisy, citing this report revealing that the governor has given only $14,243 to churches and religious organizations – out of total earnings of $2.68 million – during the period 2000-2009. This report, based on Perry’s federal income tax returns, is leading some to conclude that he doesn’t “walk the talk.”

While I won’t dispute that such a report does raise questions, I’m pretty sure there’s no law that requires one to report all charitable deductions on one’s tax return. My point? We need to be cautious in drawing conclusions about a public official’s moral, ethical, religious, or any other kind of behavior and/or motivation with no other support than what’s found in that official’s tax return.

So, why wouldn’t one report all possible deductions, as a means of lowering one’s tax liability? (This question is particularly relevant to Perry, a strong advocate of smaller federal government, and state’s rights; you’d think he’d be at the head of the line of those wishing to give the feds as little money as possible.) I don’t have an answer to that, other than to observe that we all have our own priorities and motivations, and they’re not necessarily intended for public consumption.

For example, my wife and I don’t include any cash donations under $25 in our tax returns, nor do we ever include the value of non-monetary items (such as clothing and food) we donate to local charities. Why not? Well, that’s our business, not yours, although I’m not offended by the question.

Anyway, while it’s interesting to inspect someone else’s financial records and speculate on the meanings between the lines, the numbers don’t necessarily paint an accurate or complete picture. We’re all more than the sum of our tax returns.


  1. Rick Perry has no chance of becoming POTUS. None whatsoever. He’s nothing but a poser. Sure, he looks okay in his expensive suits and hs $40 haircut. But, no one will ever accuse him of always saying the right thing.
    His claims on becoming Mr Holier-Than-Thou are a myth. Here’s a link to an article that goes into substantial detail about his making donations.
    For someone who claims born-again status he seems to have not heard the message about tithing.
    The far right and more than just a few libertarians, labor under the illusion that if you get rid of government supported social services that all the charities in the country will miraculously take up the slack. The rationale is that, Joe Everyman will suddenly have so much money and will be overcome with desire to make charitable contributions.
    He’s in favor of extending the Bush tax break for a while longer – like a thousand years or so. After all, it’s created so many jobs that he feels we can’t afford NOT to extend it. He’s against welfare but, only for the poor.
    And this from a non-tither whose wife buys $7,500 dresses.
    Apparently, taxes are only for the other guy…….

  2. I addressed Perry’s charitable donations issue here last month.
    I have never heard him (or any other conservative) claim that ALL government social services should be defunded; please provide some references if you’ve got them. What they do contend – and I agree – is that we’ve created a sense of entitlement on the part of a large segment of the population who have lost any motivation to become contributing members of society. That’s not good for anyone.
    As to Perry’s chances for election, I have no opinion at this point. A lot can happen in 15 months.

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