A recent family trip to "the sweetest place on earth" had me pondering, yet again, the left's relentless demonization of wealth and success. It occurred to me that they've chosen to define greed based only in the context of taxes. In other words, if you don't pay a vague and ever-changing percentage of your income — a.k.a. "fair share" — you are greedy.
Our family traveled to Hershey, Pa., and while there, we took a guided tour of the town that Milton Hershey built. With all due respect to our president...yes, he did build it — not just the company, but the entire town.
Hershey was and is the quintessential company town and was built to be a complete community surrounding a factory. A model town was built for employees that included comfortable homes, an inexpensive public transportation system and quality schools.
After perfecting the Hershey Milk Chocolate formula, Milton, who had almost gone broke four or five times previously, became fabulously wealthy. But, along the way, he made a lot of others fabulously wealthy, as well, and provided high-paying jobs for countless thousands of people.
In, 1910, he and his wife founded what is now known as Milton Hershey School — a pre-K through 12th-grade boarding school. In 1915 he signed over his personal fortune to the school, which still holds majority stockholder status of all Hershey Corporation holdings.
Currently, more than 1,800 students are enrolled there. The school has an endowment of more than $7.5 billion, spends about $110,000 per student per year, and based on academics and behavior, the average senior will graduate with about $80,000 in scholarships.
During the Great Depression, he began sort of a public-works project of his own. Rather than lay off Hershey employees, he paid them to work in and around the city, building parks and such — whatever was deemed necessary. Who wants to be the first in line to bash this evil, rich, white guy? (Sound of crickets chirping) I'm sure we can come up with something. Maybe, he didn't recycle.
Milton's story of philanthropy happens to be the rule rather than the exception. There are so many stories out there that mirror his, but, sadly, we seldom get to hear those. The left and their faithful companion — the main-stream media — are way too busy bashing the rich to highlight any redeeming virtues.
Which brings me back to my original point. Most reasonable and objective individuals would tell you that Milton Hershey was a very generous man and left a permanent legacy. But, let's forget about reasonable and objective. How would this modern political left have viewed him? Despite his many good works, he still might be considered pond scum — that is, if he didn't pay his "fair share".
So, if income tax rates are to be the sole determinant of one's greed or generosity, let's examine the men who seek to lead our nation during the next four years.
Page 2 of 2 - Barack Obama's 2011 tax return reports $789,000 total income, $162,000 paid in income taxes or 20.5 percent. The Obamas donated $172,000 to charity or about 21.7 percent. That's actually pretty impressive.
Mitt Romney's 2011 tax return reports almost $21 million total income, $3.2 million paid in income taxes or right at 15.3 percent. The Romneys also gave just more than $4 million in charitable donations or about 19.1 percent. That, my friends, is even more impressive.
Paul Ryan's 2011 tax return reports $323,000 total income, $64,000 in income taxes or about 20 percent. (Hey, he paid a higher rate than his boss. That's not fair.) The Ryans donated $13,000 to charity or about 4 percent.
Joe Biden's 2011 tax return reports $379,000 total income, $87,000 taxes paid or about 23.2 percent. (Hey, he paid a higher rate than his boss. That's not fair.) The Bidens donated a whopping $5,000 to charity or 1.4 percent. I bet he's a big tipper, too.
So who's the least greedy of this group? Based on the left's kooky definition, it would have to be Joe Biden, who paid the highest effective tax rate. However, to the casual observer, his charitable donations might suggest otherwise.
And, based on that same definition, it's clear that Romney is the greedy one, as he paid the lowest effective tax rate. But, again, might his charitable donations tell a different story?
Romney paid almost 20 times as much in federal taxes as Obama did, and gave more than 23 times as much in charitable donations. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that the left and their faithful companion — the main-stream media — will find a way to minimize those facts...and still brand him pond scum.
So, why does the left tend to look so favorably on taxes and view with indifference charitable giving? The answer seems pretty simple. Faith-based and other charitable organizations have the annoying habit of providing assistance directly to those individuals who need it most.
Every dollar that goes to these organizations means one less dollar that can be used to increase the size of government, bloat a federal bureaucracy, create dependency and buy votes.
Les Mason is McPherson resident.