2012 Election | Bill Maher | Mormon | Religion | Republican Party

Bill Maher On Mitt Romney's 'Charitable' Giving: VIDEO


Bill Maher's MO is to take one excellent idea and coat it with a fine dusting of nuttery. (Maher is, for example, vocally pro-science and pro-reason, but he's famously skeptical of the germ theory of disease and "Western Medicine" in general.) That's what he was up to on Friday, in a generally hilarious segment in which he pointed out that, despite Mitt Romney's claims to the contrary, the candidate doesn't really give huge, tax-deductable donations to "charity." He gives huge, tax-deductable donations to the Church of Latter Day Saints, which is very different. Contributing money to an organization which builds "castles" for itself (Maher's apt word for Mormon temples) and spends millions to deny rights to LGBT Americans is charity in only the most attenuated sense of the word.

Maher then suggests that donations to cultural institutions, such as symphonies, aren't really charity either, and shouldn't count as tax-write offs. That's probably a less valid point. (Culture really is a necessary public good, just like public education, and unlike the promulgation of somebody's favorite brand of divisive supernaturalism.) Whatever. The segment's cool anyway. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...


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  1. "(Culture really is a necessary public good, just like public education, and unlike the promulgation of somebody's favorite brand of divisive supernaturalism.)"

    That's ludicrous. There's no reason "culture" shouldn't be subject to the same market forces as everything else. I see no reason why the federal government should decide that classical music deserves a huge tax writeoff but music enjoyed by people who AREN'T white and rich doesn't. It's just another example of the 1% manipulating the system so the government will foot the bill for their pet cultural preferences.

    Posted by: Pender | May 6, 2012 4:11:16 PM

  2. i wasn't aware that classical music was only enjoyed by rich white people. this comes as a massive shock to me, as i was raised in a culturally-diverse, musically-rich, and yet economically working-class innercity school with a terrific music program where we all developed a real love and appreciation for classical music.

    the beautiful thing about publicly-funded arts is that it does, indeed, help to bring art and culture to those who DON'T come from wealthy homes.


    in other news, Maher is right. about the LDS thing.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 6, 2012 4:25:47 PM

  3. Yup: Mormon charity goes to Mormons, and sometimes the recipients are made to feel inferior beause they can't make it though life on their own. Most of the money goes for other purposes, I think.

    Somebody has to pay the cost of waving the Sword of Laban around.

    Posted by: gregory brown | May 6, 2012 4:31:20 PM

  4. I can no longer watch Maher just as I can't watch Rachel Maddow. I agree with 95% of what both say, but they're so smug about it, like they're the first people to come up with their ideas. In most cases their writers did and they're preaching to the choir anyway.

    Also, lately my Tivo has been recording Maher, and his guests have gone downhill. His show is repetitive in terms of jokes, policy discussions, and format. He's also sort of a jerk.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 6, 2012 4:33:48 PM

  5. But still Bill didn't quite get it right. Not only is it not charity, he doesn't "give", he tithes. To be able to stay a Mormon and get his planet after he dies, he MUST give a certain percentage of his income to the church. It's like suggesting our taxes are a gift or charity. It's religious blackmail, not any kind of good deed on Romney's part or a look into what kind of person he is (unless it's about someone who believes in magic underwear, his own heavenly planet and that Jesus visited the Indians and left special rules about polygamy before going to heaven)... Tithing to the church or be excommunicated, or whatever the Mormons do, is..not...charity. His "charitable" contribution was 10,000 to NOM.

    Posted by: Michaelandfred | May 6, 2012 4:46:32 PM

  6. I too like Maher and Maddow in small doses. I think the problem comes from having to fill a tv schedule day in day out.

    But the above rant or bit is spot on: Charity should not be a tax loophole. And, Mormons are very weird.

    Posted by: Savage Lover | May 6, 2012 4:48:44 PM

  7. i think the reason some people tire of maddow, maher, etc is actually this: at some point everyone ends up repeating the same points. why? because the truth doesn't change, and the plebes who ignore the truth keep trumpeting the same nonsense.

    it's hard not become smugly repetitive after a while when in reality there same factual point remains just that - the same factual point.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 6, 2012 4:53:31 PM

  8. Romney uses his own money. Obama uses yours.

    Posted by: Max | May 6, 2012 5:06:32 PM

  9. Obama supports LGBT families. Max's family doesn't.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 6, 2012 5:14:42 PM

  10. My complaint about Maher 2012 is that he invites TeaParty/GOP hacks who have nothing interesting to say about anything but speak over the others all the time. Based on his guests, I wouldn't be surprised to see the digusting torturer who got an hour on 60 Minutes instead of being in a prison cell.

    It sounds like work but why doesn't he talk about real issues like GOP denial of voting rights to the poor and elderly? Bloated out of control War Department? Domestic spying? The list is long.

    Posted by: Hue-Man | May 6, 2012 5:16:00 PM

  11. Kiwi, mine was funnier and more accurate.

    Posted by: Max | May 6, 2012 5:21:02 PM

  12. Max, actually mine was. At some point you're gonna have to realize it's not Obama's fault that your family is embarrassed to be related to a homo.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | May 6, 2012 5:24:45 PM

  13. "(Culture really is a necessary public good, just like public education, and unlike the promulgation of somebody's favorite brand of divisive supernaturalism.)"

    Culture embodies a far broader set of ideas and values than activities you allude to.

    The validity of sanctioning some activities as culturally-significant while ignoring or denigrating others is a debatable policy choice, given that it deviates from the basic neutrality guideline in tax policy. It also arguably violates the simplicity guideline.

    Subjecting the aforementioned cultural institutions to the same market forces as other cultural institutions would at least help determine their continued relevance to modern culture, as opposed to the current distortions caused by inconsistent tax policies.

    "Bill Maher's MO is to take one excellent idea and coat it with a fine dusting of nuttery. (Maher is, for example, vocally pro-science and pro-reason, but he's famously skeptical of the germ theory of disease and "Western Medicine" in general.)"

    It's a significant intellectual failure of an obviously intelligent individual. But it's always a shame when you see someone so readily abandon their critical-thinking capacities in certain circumstances.

    Posted by: Nat | May 6, 2012 6:01:08 PM

  14. "It sounds like work but why doesn't he talk about real issues like GOP denial of voting rights to the poor and elderly? Bloated out of control War Department? Domestic spying? The list is long."

    Because Maher is a comedian, and he discusses politics, not policy. He's obviously intelligent, but the format he engages in was never meant to substantively address issues.

    Posted by: Nat | May 6, 2012 6:03:33 PM

  15. The problem with culture being subjected to market forces is that art would be limited to that "painter of light" schlock, movies would all be "transformers" sequels, documentaries would be about monster truck rallies, and the only music available would be country and Katy Perry.

    My awareness and love of classical music did not come from my having been taken to concerts by my impoverished parents. It came from watching PBS. It came from concerts made available to school children. Without those sources, I would have had very little exposure. Same goes for art museums. Without donations and public support, I doubt that we'd have very many of them.

    Supporting the arts really does benefit more than the 1%. It makes the world a better place to live, for everyone.

    Posted by: TJ | May 6, 2012 6:15:09 PM

  16. I enjoy almost everything Maher does, but calling him pro science is a stretch. He is vocally anti-vaccine. He has yet to correct that anti science stance. Just didnt like reading that little blurb of it.

    Posted by: COldie | May 6, 2012 7:37:35 PM

  17. Bill Maher is fantastic. He is dead right in his criticism of the Mormon Church. I think he is sometimes too easy on the Catholic Church. He correctly makes fun of the Mormon underware. However, the craziest idea in any religion is the Catholic doctrine of TRANSUBSTANTION. The Catholic church teaches that when a priest says the words of "consecration" over a piece of bread and cup of wine it becomes the creator of the billion gallaxy universe. Yep! They teach that the bread and wine are CHANGED into "The body and blood, soul and divinity of jesus christ". And they have the congreation kneel and adore the piece of bread up on the altar. As Jack Paar would say, "I kid you not"

    Posted by: jack | May 6, 2012 9:40:24 PM

  18. The two Mormom guys in that picture are obviously gay and the one on the right is cute.

    Posted by: Jase | May 6, 2012 10:57:47 PM

  19. @Pender: I totally agree with you. It should come as no shock to anyone that in the USA, upper class folks, mostly white, are the main listeners and fans of classical music. The arts should be subject to the forces of the market place.

    Posted by: jack | May 6, 2012 11:20:03 PM

  20. So JACK, let's forget about our past and legacy re: the Arts. Let's just go with what's popular. Everyone likes McDonalds, so why eat anything else? That certainly seemed the feeling I got years ago when I went to a supermarket in Kansas. Lots of iceberg lettuce and hamburger. Why aspire to anything more? And while Yo Yo Ma might support your supposition of class, Leontyne Price probably wouldn't, so there's that. I'm white, but grew up poor, and can probably credit exposure to arts for much of my drive for something more than what I knew and what I was surrounded by, so there's that, too.

    Why have public museums? Who needs what was great in the past to inspire the future? Let's just let the art on Ed Hardy t-shirts suffice. Who needs more art in their homes than can be purchased at Starving Artists sale. Sofa sized paintings! No public support, no tax credit for donations. No tours for school children. Kids don't need to be inspired by anything more than computer games anyway.

    Let's close public libraries while we're at it. No one wants to read more than a Twitter post anyways. Let's just turn it all into a Walmart Superstore, or Target. Or Best Buy, where the selection of classical music and jazz sucks azz. No one has heard that crap anyway.

    Posted by: TJ | May 6, 2012 11:52:33 PM

  21. New Rules is the only segment worth watching anymore. I thought you hated Bill Maher, Brandon. Anyway, high culture is hardly necessary. At least low culture gets people through the day.

    Posted by: Richard | May 7, 2012 12:08:36 AM

  22. Wow, elitists get really upset when you talk about taking away their handouts.

    Posted by: Richard | May 7, 2012 12:30:45 AM

  23. Because "high culture" doesn't, RICHARD? Because the beauty of the past, the talent of masters, does nothing for anyone except "eliteists?" Because anything that is remotely complex is too much homework? What? Is appreciating art too high brow, too effeminate? Is it bad because the cool kids made fun of it? What?

    I love the scene from the original "Time Machine" movie from the 60's. Books on shelves, turned to dust. So prescient. Sad that an appreciation of the arts and the value of preserving them happened so much sooner than predicted.

    Posted by: TJ | May 7, 2012 12:55:54 AM

  24. @TJ: Some of your examples miss the mark. All different kinds of restaurants survive because people pay to eat in them. Supermarkets sell what the people in their area will buy. Museums charge admissions, at least those around here. Libraries are becoming obsolete. I think that as much as possible government should fund as few of the arts as possible. I am not an absolutist.

    Posted by: jack | May 7, 2012 2:42:15 AM

  25. @TJ, I don't think anyone is saying that we shouldn't have public museums and libraries, etc. What Maher, and some of us here are saying is that those who choose to donate to them shouldn't receive a tax credit for said donation.
    And to whomever said they didn't realize that classical music was only enjoyed by rich white people....when's the last time you bought a ticket to any major symphony? Last time I did it cost well over a hundred bucks (and that was for a lousy seat way in the back). Again, we all know that some poor people also enjoy classical music but I don't think they are filling the seats at Avery Fisher Hall.

    Posted by: Oliver | May 7, 2012 3:39:57 AM

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