That's how much the new governor of New York gave to charity last year, according to his tax return. And it was just $150 worth of stuff donated to the Salvation Army, not cash. Governor David Patterson and his wife had income of $269,815 last year, so that is a tiny fraction of a percent of their earnings. As this New York Times article points out, this doesn't necessarily mean he didn't make any donations, it just means he didn't declare them on his tax return to get the deduction. So if we're going to go all judgmental on him, he's either a miser or he's stupid! (Or, less likely, he has some very noble ideas about voluntarily paying extra taxes.) Here's what a few people had to say about it:
Alitha Martinez, a comic book artist who lives in Manhattan, gave several hundred dollars’ worth of clothing that her 6-year-old son had outgrown to neighborhood charities last year. She also took a $1,000 tax deduction for donating an old Macintosh computer. And she occasionally sells her artwork and gives the proceeds to the Hero Fund, which provides scholarships to children of military personnel....
“That’s the equivalent of, ‘Let them eat cake,’ ” Ms. Martinez said [about Governor Patterson] as she went to mail her own return at the main post office near Pennsylvania Station on Tuesday morning. “That’s not cool.”***
Jennifer Fiore, 39, would not say what she does for a living, but she did say she took a deduction on her 2007 return of about $1,000 for donations of clothing that went to benefit breast cancer research, as well as furniture and electronics that were picked up by a group that helps Vietnam veterans.
“It’s almost an insult,” she said of the Patersons’ $150. “It’s not like he doesn’t have enough to give away.”***
“It’s up to an individual and someone’s conscience,” said Matthew Kelty, 38, who works at the New School and gave money last year to groups that included the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, CARE and Save the Children.
Still, he said, Mr. Paterson’s tax return made him wonder about the new governor’s character.
“It’s interesting that someone who we put our trust in doesn’t seem to care,” he said.
Just hit the "charity" category in the sidebar and you'll see how this same topic has become an issue for me, when some commenters felt I did not donate a large enough percentage of my income. Of course, giving is always a very personal decision: there is no "right" amount to give and people have different reasons for giving or not giving that may or may not seem valid to others. But just to put things in perspective, the Times article had this graphic about average deductions for charitable donations broken down by income range.
I'll save you the trouble of calculating how much the average giving amount is as a percentage of the average income:
I didn't find these percentages all that surprising. At the higher end of the income scale, people's basic needs and even luxuries are easily taken care of, so they can afford to donate to charity. At the lower end of the income scale, there is a certain dollar threshold below which people don't want to fall, but of course it is a larger percentage of their income. (Also, maybe they're more tempted to fudge it for the IRS because they desperately need the bigger tax refund.)
Then you have the people in between: Governor Patterson's income range has the lowest percentage for giving. People in these in between levels are the ones who are supposedly "wealthy," or maybe upper-middle-class, or just middle-class in places like New York City where the cost of living is so high. They're anxious about paying for all the expensive things they think they're supposed to have, they're buying homes and having kids and trying to save for retirement: they feel squeezed, and charity is getting squeezed out.
Of course, I should be saying "we," as my adjusted gross income of around $87,000 puts me in the lower range of this group and my charitable giving has so far been even less than these averages. But at least I coughed up more than $150!