Silly Commentary on Mitt, Money, and Mormonism in the Washington Post

Given that the Olympics are looming, I think I’m going to use a medal system to rate the silly Mainstream Media commentary directed at Mitt’s faith.  A gold goes to epic displays of bigotry and ignorance, a silver to mild malice and moderate ignorance, while mere garden-variety ignorance earns a bronze.  This weekend the Washington Post delivered a classic silver-medal effort with Lisa Miller’s column entitled “Can Romney reconcile his wealth and his faith?”

The intent here is clear, to somehow impugn the integrity of a wealthy believer by cherry-picking verses and religious teachings that seem — taken alone — to condemn the wealth only for their wealth.  Ms. Miller gets off to a good start, quoting the Book of Mormon’s declaration, “Wo unto the rich . . . Their hearts are on their treasures.”  Such a verse may well put an evangelical on the defensive.  After all, the evangelical church is so diverse and fractious that you can easily find a prominent Christian willing to condemn any accumulation of wealth beyond a given, arbitrary, cutoff.  But this is the LDS church, and the LDS church is a bit more disciplined, putting out guidelines on prudent financial management and necessary giving.  Ms. Miller acknowledges as much:

A guide called “Provident Living” describes the church’s preferred approach to money matters. Mormons should be frugal, industrious, debt-free and self-reliant. They should keep three months of food and water in storage and have a family-emergency-action plan in place in order to be prepared for any eventuality.

In addition, according to “Provident Living” and other materials, LDS members should tithe. They should use credit cards sparingly and to buy used goods until they can afford quality new ones.

. . .

To live providently means to save money, according to LDS materials. Members should have at least three months’ cash in reserve in their bank accounts. “Set your houses in order. If you have paid your debts, if you have a reserve, even though it be small, then should storms howl about your head, you will have shelter for your wives and children and peace in your hearts,” then-LDS President Gordon Hinckley said in 1998.

Along with being fiscally responsible, Mormons should care for the poor and serve others, according to the tenets of “Provident Living.”

Ms. Miller then goes on to describe how Mitt actually lives up to every one of the prescribed tenets.  He tithes, he’s frugal, he saves . . . the list goes on an on.  In fact, she even notes that he refused a salary to manage the Olympics and refused a salary as governor of Massachusetts.  What then is his sin (according to Mormon doctrine)?

But his career at Bain suggests a lack of concern for people affected by his actions. And the tax returns he has released reveal a disinclination to share his wealth with his fellow citizens.

What?  This is utterly absurd.  Mitt built a businesses that have employed tens of thousands, tried to rescue failing businesses, and brought astounding returns to his investors.  One begins to wonder if Ms. Miller has the slightest idea what Mitt did when he worked at Bain.  As for the “sharing his wealth” nonsense, what does she think he’s been doing with his multi-million dollar charitable gifts, totaling well over 10% of his income, including an estimated 19% last year?  His foundation has made substantial additional gifts:

1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: $4,781,000
2. Brigham Young University: $525,000
3. The United Way: $177,000
4. Right to Play: $111,500
5. The George W. Bush Library: $100,000
6. Operation Kids: $85,000
7. Center For Treatment of Pediatric MS: $75,000
8. Harvard Business School: $70,000
9. City Year: $65,000
10. Deseret International: $50,000
Weber State University: $50,000

Is nearly doubling the tithe not enough?  How about tripling?  One suspects that so long as Mitt remained wealthy that no giving percentage would truly suffice.

So let’s recap, Ms. Miller writes an article describing in detail how Mitt has met or exceeded every single standard for frugality and generosity outlined by his church, provides zero evidence that his riches have made him “proud” yet still concludes with the following:

If he is elected president, how can reconciling his tax and spending policies with his faith be anything less than challenging?

I’m not sure . . . it seems that his record of remarkable generosity and personal frugality that she just described may help us understand how he’ll meet that “challenge.”  When a church member meets every single objective test for compliance with church teaching yet still is found wanting by the Mainstream Media on the basis of that same faith, one starts to sense just a hint of media bias.

I eagerly await the Post’s analysis of Barack Obama’s personal finances in light of Jeremiah Wright’s theology.  I have a feeling I’ll be waiting a very long time.

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  • David Walser

    I think Ms. Miller conflates the amount Romney “gives” via taxes with his willingness to “share his wealth with his fellow citizens.” I doubt Romney views what he pays in taxes as having anything to do with his religious duty to help the poor. Ms. Miller evidently does. One’s view on taxes is the only sure measure of compassion. As long as Romney (selfishly) insists on determining where his charitable dollars go, the Millers of the world will insist he’s selfish because he’s preventing them from (selflessly) spending his wealth on their priorities.

    • David French

      Great comment, David.

    • http://www.katrinalantznovelist.blogspot.com Katrina in CA

      Very great comment, David Walser!

    • Wanda

      Amen!

  • Phil Peterson

    Ms. Miller also neglects to mention that Mitts taxes paid are Capital Gains. He already paid 50% on that money when it came out of his company as income. Now the income he receives is interest and cap gain primarily. While interest is taxed at the incremental tax rate, cap gains is a fixed lower rate. It is deceiptful to suggest that he is cheating. Folks like Mitt are audited all the time. They can’t afford to make mistakes and they don’t. I absolutely hate liberal hacks.

  • http://Yahoo Grace Jones

    Google “Why Should I Vote for a Mormon?” to learn more positive attributes regarding Mitt’s beliefs and why he does what he does.

    • http://yahoo shaun williams

      Are you really so blind as to want four more years of Obama? Are you really so ignorant that you would not vote for a man simply because he may belive differently than you? You demand that others respect what you belive but yet you refuse to respect the belief of others? Mitt may not be perfect but considering the next four years under Obama, this country will be ruined and our freedoms destroyed and once those rights are gone are you really so ignorant to think that we will ever get them back? Just the national debt alone is reason to vote for Romney, I feel sorry for you that you are supporting Obama again, what a shame you can’t or will not see him for what he really is.

  • Mike

    Ms. Miller’s second article should start with “how I tried to pull out a mote with a beam in my eye!”

  • Terry

    Echoes in the Forest

    Some articles are not worth commenting on. No matter what Mitt does under whatever circumstances, his actions will never be satisfactory to the writer of the article. I can picture Mrs. Miller, after having extolled certain virtues or actions performed by Mitt, imagining–as she penned the unexpected and startling “but” or “however” conclusion of the closing paragraph–picturing the readers she so skillfully led down that literary path, grimacing in concern as they mumble “that’s certainly going to be an issue, alright”. One wonders if the author may reflect back on the article with an attitude that her brilliant summary “will certainly be of troubling concern to those who read it, but it had to be said”. Perhaps she even imagines that she has a small amount of remorse herself for having had to point out the issue to the uninformed masses in the first place.

    With a final blow of the ax, the author fells yet another giant tree in the forest and watches it fall, but no one is gasping in dismay. They only groan in disbelief.

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  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    In both shear dollars and percentage of income, Romney is far more generous with his income than Obama, Biden, and any ten Democrats in Congress. My guess is that the only one who comes close might be Harry Reid.

    The article reflects the thinking of Obama: You have no real right to control the money you earned, it all belongs by right to President Obama, who decides what your living allowance should be. After all, he is the representative on earth of Jesus, the tax collector! We are being initiated into the Fidel Castro school of socialism.

  • Michael

    I notice Mr French and all other posters have not noted the biblical passage from Matthew 19.24 about the ability of a rich man to enter heaven. And then there is the little matter of Mr Romney apparently being unable to tell the truth about pretty much everything and being able to insult all who are not rich and white.

    • Evan Maughan

      So does this mean Abraham is damned to Hell because he was rich? What about Job who gained twice what he had after passing through his tests? Joseph of Eygypt was one of the riches men in the known world – damnation for him? Should you be damned to Hell for the sin of envy or judging your neighbor? Who is the ultimate judge – you, or the only one who has felt the pain, sorrows, sins and anguish of all mankind?

      The one who focuses on riches before God will never truely be able to find God. Having two masters makes that impossible. The one who focuses on God before all else will not let money or lack of money take him away from the love of the Lord – he has chosen his master.

    • Lentze

      Michael, you should have read a little farther to Matthew 19:26, which states that for followers of Jesus Christ it is possible for all men, not just the rich man, to make it to the kingdom of heaven. Mitt Romney professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ and shows it by his actions as well as his words. If you believe he lies, I think you are listening to the father of lies and his followers–those who deceive for their own personal gain. You have given Mitt Romney a blanket insult with no proof. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you have been fooled and have not knowingly broken the commandment in Exodus 20:16.

      • Mark Anderson

        Geez, Mitt professes everything, all you have to do is look at youtube to find him pontificating on the exact opposite of every position her currently holds, or does he?

    • Terry

      Michael–try this on for size: “…Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29) As for the rest of your post, a few examples of what you so emptily accuse Mitt of, would give you at least of modicum of credibility. Not much of course, but enough to perhaps rise to the level of “minuscule”. (Just some advice from your friendly JediMormon.)

      • Michael

        See Politifact, the “Not True” to Pants on Fire” ratings for Mitt Romney constitute 42% of his ratings. “Half True” which of course means half false is another 28%. Do not think that reflects particularly well. Plus his campaign has had various spokesmen at various times say plainly that facts do not matter. Quiz me this, when exactly did Romnety retroactively leave Bain as a for instance. As to other’ s remarks, I view Adam Smith as a far more reliable commentator on life than any part of the Bible. When you look at “Moral Sentiment”‘ and “Wealth of Nations” you will find a prudent view as to the dangers of accumulated wealth and power to the detriment of the general society.

  • Green Eyeshades

    So according to his estimated return, Mitt is paying $3,226,623 is income tax which includes $224,425 of Alternative Minimum Tax that kicks in when taxpayers have too much in “preference” items such as portfolio and capital gains income for an effective tax rate of 21% (so much for 15%). That’s more than he gave in charitable contributions to causes he supports, yet somehow, according to Ms. Miller, that still demonstrates, “a disinclination to share his wealth with his fellow citizens.” So tell us, Ms. Miller, what is enough? Where exactly does the Mormon Church say to pay more in taxes than what the law requires?

    And to Michael who thinks all of us Romney supports are shying away from Mathew 19:24 I would ask you, what does it mean to be rich? Was Jesus referring to someone with abundant wealth or was he referring to an attitude and state of mind; the Ebenezer Scrooges who spend their days counting their money, unwilling to give to the poor? You and I both know it’s the latter. Through Mitt’s success, many lives have been blessed through his job creation talents, his salary deferrals, and his charitable giving. After you have given as much or more as he has, both in terms of actual dollars and percentage of income, then you might have a right to comment on his wealth.

  • http://j1.com Jesus

    What makes any of you an expert at discernment or judgment — none of you are Me, none of you are Love, therefore none of you are Free to discern or judge what money, itself, is for in your world. If any of My children receive, it doesn’t matter where it comes from — your so-called taxes or charitable this and that. Stop labeling what is only the outlaying of cash. Stop getting hung up on the labeling of a process. Just Love everyone and get over your silly man-made “laws.” Didn’t My crucifixion show you anything — or are you still clinging to the plank in your brother’s eye, insisting he pay YOU for its removal when I can do a much better job than any of you at that?

  • Phillip C. Smith

    The associated nonsense that wealthy politicians cannot relate to or empathize with the middle class and poor does not stand up. Let us look at three wealthy Presidents and ask, did they understand and empathize with the poor?
    George Washington – probably the wealthiest American for his time. Compassion for the poor?
    Franklin D. Roosevelt – Wealthy, lived off investments? Sympathy for the poor?
    John F. Kennedy – very wealthy. Sympathy for the middle class and poor?
    Let us all, including the Obama people and their surrogates, reject the wealthy-no compassion nonsense.

    Phillip C. Smith, Ph.D.


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