Rating Dubya on the Presidential Charity Scale

When it comes to making charitable contributions, George W. Bush appears to be a nice man. Chatterbox is compelled to make this favorable judgment after scrutinizing the president’s tax returns, which were released on April 13. (Click here for the press release and here for the actual Form 1040.) Bush, it turns out, contributed 16 percent of his adjusted gross income, or $140,300, to charity. A little more than half of this consisted of royalties from Bush’s campaign autobiography, A Charge To Keep, which Bush donated to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. But even when you take the book royalties out, Bush’s charitable giving still adds up to a very respectable 7 percent of his adjusted gross income.

To make some comparisons, Chatterbox put in a little quality time at the Tax History Project’s Web page on presidential tax returns. Chatterbox can’t claim to be comprehensive; he went back only as far as Jimmy Carter and didn’t cover every year from this period. (Some of the tax documents either didn’t include the crucial Schedule A form, where charitable contributions are totaled, or didn’t have legible figures for adjusted gross income, and some years are missing altogether. Chatterbox didn’t have the patience to scan a news database for the missing information.) Still, based on the philanthropic percentages of adjusted gross income that Chatterbox was able to calculate, Dubya looks pretty good. On the scale of presidential generosity, the president seems about as nice as Bill Clinton, a little nicer than Bush pere, a lot nicer than the famously miserly Ronald Reagan, and slightly less nice than Jimmy Carter. Since these are necessarily subjective readings of the data, you may want to examine the numbers yourself:

Bill Clinton gave 7 percent ($19,452) of his adjusted gross income in 1992; 6 percent ($17,000) in 1993; 10 percent ($30,310) in 1995; 57 percent ($609,300–but almost all of it was royalties from Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes a Village) in 1996; 48 percent ($270,725–again, nearly all of it royalties from It Takes a Village) in 1997; 32 percent ($161,938–most of it book royalties) in 1998; and 9 percent ($39,200–about half of it book royalties) in 1999.

George Bush Sr. gave 8 percent ($37,272, a bit more than one-third of it book royalties from Bush’s autobiography, Looking Forward) in 1989; 9 percent ($38,997) in 1990; and 62 percent ($818,803–nearly all of it royalties from Barbara Bush’s Millie’s Book) in 1991.

Ronald Reagan gave 3 percent ($11,895) in 1981; 2 percent ($15,563) in 1982; and 6 percent ($23,298) in 1985.

Jimmy Carter gave 20 percent ($38,551) in 1977 and 7 percent ($18,636) in 1978.

Important caveat: To conclude that Dubya is a nice man when it comes to giving money to charity does not necessarily imply that he’s nice in other areas of his life. Indeed, the evidence, most especially Bush’s chilling mockery during the presidential campaign of Karla Faye Tucker’s plea not to be executed (as related by Tucker Carlson in Talk), seems mostly to point the other way.