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My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving
March 27th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving

Editor’s Note: Glenn Beck is a radio and television host and is founder of The Blaze, a news and opinion website, and GBTV.

By Glenn Beck, Special to CNN

I have never felt particularly charitable on April 15.

Instead, I typically feel like the victim of the most sophisticated burglary in world history. Yet it is on Tax Day that we learn a lot about the giving nature of our political leaders, at least those who release their tax records. Those documents provide a lens into politicians’ financial priorities and benevolence.

While the American people certainly don’t have a “right” to see the tax returns of any private individual, the public has grown to expect that those running for the highest office in the land will voluntarily allow us to view their filings.

Each election cycle, the media and general public take voyeuristic pleasure in examining how candidates made money and the charities they supported before knowing that the national microscope would be on them.

According to his tax records, President Obama gave about 14% to charity last year, a laudable amount by any measure. However, that’s about 12 times the rate he gave before he arrived in the Senate in 2004 and over 35 times the rate at which he gave in 2002 (when he managed to donate only 0.4% of his quarter million dollar income).

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This raises questions about how much of the president’s recent charitable contributions can be chalked up to political calculation.

When charitable giving is at a high rate for an extended period of time, as is the case with Mitt Romney, the media tend to ignore the trend. While nearly every outlet on the planet wrote about Romney’s 15% income tax rate when he released tax filings earlier this year, almost none covered the 15 % he gave voluntarily to charity.

Explainer: Mormon tithing

(While Romney and Obama lead the current presidential pack in personal giving, they are troublingly the only two remaining candidates supporting a partial elimination of the federal deduction for charity, which would cost non-profits far more than either man could personally give in a lifetime.)

Rick Santorum, whom I firmly believe would be the best president out of the current crop of candidates, does not back down when questioned about the influence of faith on his life. But the devout Catholic has understandably faced some criticism due to the fact that his charitable giving, about 3% of his income in recent years, lags behind both Romney and post-rise-to-national-prominence-Obama.

While Santorum’s donations compare favorably to the average American, they’re not up to the levels that many would expect from a man of such deep faith.

It should be noted that Santorum is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, which does not require a specific 10 percent tithe, as many other traditions do.

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Regardless, it’s fair to wonder why Santorum hasn’t willingly given more - which is why I recently asked him about it.

While noting that many of his charitable acts, such as volunteering time and raising money through speaking appearances at charitable fundraisers, are not reflected in his tax returns, Santorum admitted: “I need to do better and I should be better and I fell short.”

In comparison to what other politicians have been caught doing, this is admittedly a minor offense. But it’s encouraging that Santorum takes it seriously.

At the end of the day, the lesson - that it’s important to pitch in and give to help those in need - doesn’t just apply to presidential candidates; it applies to all of us, but particularly to conservatives.

Although studies have shown that conservatives already give more to charity than their liberal counterparts, the need is still great and requires much of everyone who is able to assist.

The idea that individuals are the key to helping others is a conservative one. It’s why I have never been shocked at Vice President Joe Biden’s lack of charitable giving over the years.

Biden averaged giving 0.2% over an entire decade of six-figure incomes in the Senate, 1/13th of what Santorum is criticized for today.

Unlike President Obama, Biden’s low charitable giving is a picture of stability. Even under the microscope of the Vice Presidency he still only gave 1% to charity last year.

And yet this is oddly consistent with his political philosophy. Progressives believe the government does a better job with your money than you can. So, why give any money to charity? Why doesn’t President Obama just give an extra 14% to the government?

It’s the responsibility of individuals to help others. Mercury One is a charity that I started in 2011 that attempts to take that morsel of ideology and turn it into action. The goal is to show that the American spirit of giving, while already far more significant than any other developed nation, still has plenty of room to grow.

When it comes to charity, Americans need to stop saying “Yes, we can” and start saying “Yes, I can.”

We face tough economic times ahead. I believe that we must shrink the size and scope of government or we will face national economic disaster.

But it’s not just about making the government smaller. As some of these giveaways from Washington disappear, American individuals must step in and make up the difference.

Savings in government waste and inefficiency can only go so far. It’s up to all of us to demand of ourselves that we pick up the slack.

Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command us to elect a government that will take our money under threat of imprisonment so that bureaucrats can figure out the best way to help people in need.

But as so many on the left have pointed out, Scriptures do direct us to help the poor. Yet God puts the responsibility on us, not on the government.

Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians says that "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

I think the use of “not grudgingly or under compulsion” eliminates the possibility that he was talking about the IRS.

This should serve as motivation for all of us to do more personally. Unless you’re already feeling “cheerful” every year on April 15.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Glenn Beck.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Money & Faith • Opinion

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soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. rizzo

    Since my last comment didn't seem to take, let me shorten it: How are the charity roads, fire departments and police departments going to work? Will we have to pay 'charity tolls' to drive on roads once you dismantle the government?

    Government works, it's the dysfunctional people trying to destroy it over the last 30 years who've broken it.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  2. Ryan M.

    I wonder how different the comments would be if nobody knew this was written by Glenn Beck. You may not agree with all he is saying here, but I feel that something like a knee-jerk reaction is occurring because of the author, not his position.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Elmer Gantry and Lonesome Rhodes Live!

      In all fairness, Beck himself painted that big target on himself. That's part of his act. The Republican propaganda-clowns learned long ago that outrageous sells, and you cannot say something crazy enough for conservatives not to believe it.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Kelly

      Thank you Ryan. You made an excellent point.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  3. Devon

    Charities are great and I believe we should all give to them to the best of our abilities. However, as tool to justify shirking government it does not work. I am going to forget the issue of waste as no one on this board is able to make a provable claim to the efficiencies of either the government or private charities. The reason charity does not work to replace government programs because they are biased in their distribution. Only the popular causes would be supported and this is not fair. Our government has a duty to assist the needy regardless of weather their need is popular with the public. Additionally, I do not believe that charitable giving will increase with reduced taxes. Those who do not give or give very little will not change that habit, resulting in less for those in need.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  4. Liza

    Beck says: "I typically feel like the victim of the most sophisticated burglary in world history." Really, Glenn? Why, you are in the lowest tax bracket ever. I have never seen so many anit tax people in my life! As far as Glenn talking smack about Obama's chartiable contributions, let's then talk about what sorts of charity people like the Koch Brothers contribute–all for political gain. Thanks to the Bush Tax cuts, you're in a lower tax bracket than a middle class working American. Cry me a river. So, let's just all stopy paying taxes and pass the hat around and contribute to charity as we see fit. Some how, magically, our roads, bridges, schools, fire fighters, and police officers will also keep going even if we stop paying taxes because out of the goodness of all our hearts, we will decide to be charitable. If only. Nice try though. Time for people like you, Benn, to step up to the plate and pay your fair share in taxes.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Devon

      I love the point you have made. These people often complain about a progress tax, that they are penalized for being successful. What they fail to realize is that they actually have greatest reason to support these programs. The wealthy have the most to lose if these services fail, and let me explain how. The government is protecting all of our well being through military, police, fire protection, etc. As a higher income earner you have more to lose and thus should pay more. Secondly, you cannot become rich with out an underclass to make and buy your product or service. The wealthy needs to protect the poor to keep the systems running that keeps them rich. As such, the wealth should pay more.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  5. Greg

    Really CNN? Was the talent pool empty? You made some sketchy decisions on who you either hired or allow to write but this is lowest. Glen Back? A vile bigoted racist. One of the nastiest men on the airwaves. This is why you are dead last in the ratings. People don't like to listen to Bill Bennett or or the other shock jocks you call journalist. Ern Burnett? Corporate shill. The head of the KKK or the Koch brothers turn you down?

    March 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • lol

      Yawn. Would you look at that. Another preacher of tolerance who can't hearing charity and compassion come from the mouth of a conservative.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  6. Stuck in the Middle

    Nice to see Glenn's still sporting his "I hate that upity black guy in the white house" goggles.
    Glenn, when you're too big an idiot to be on Fox news it's time to examine one's life.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Kelly

    Nothing in Mr. Beck's article smacks of hate or racism, rather it is a call to all American's especially those of who profess a Christian faith to be charitable. Christian's are instructed to be generous, take care of the poor and yes, obey the government and pay their taxes. Mr. Beck is merely pointing out that many of us (myself included) too often forget these teachings; we get caught up in the day to day and forget to step back and see the big picture. Nothing in this article is hateful, racist or evil in any way shape or form, however 99% of the comments on here are exactly that which the open-minded and enlightened are supposedly against. I'll take a chat room full of Glen Beck's over one of you. Mr. Beck I wish you well. Other poster's I wish you the same and hope that you are never at the receiving end of the hate and vitriol you spew at Mr. Beck.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • jk8369

      But the racist haters will label it racist no matter what. That is all they know.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • rizzo

      You can stay in that Glen Beck chat room with the other people who don't have a very good grasp of how the world works. The rest of us will have grownup conversations.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • downthearthguy

      Kelly, I am no religious scholar, but it is my understanding that all the Abrahamic faiths espouse the type of charity you refer to. You Christians don't have the monopoly on that. Now, wouldn't it be much more efficient and less divisive, if we all divorced ourselves from all religion and marched forward together as just as humans? Imagine all the great things we could get done.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Kelly

      @downtoearthguy-You are correct. However I was specifically addressing Mr. Beck's comments regarding Biblical instruction on charity. I never belittled another faith and could spend quite a bit of time pontificating on the charitable teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and many others. But he was making a reference to the Christian teachings on charity. If you weren't so wrapped up in your hatred for anyone and any belief that is different from yours you would be able to see that.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  8. Ann

    How much do you give to charity, Mr. Beck? Also, perhaps the reason Obama gave more to charity once he took office is because once you become President, you don't need to worry about money any more: speaker fees, money for writing books, and, IIRC, they get an automatic generous pension for the rest of their lives.
    Senators don't get that kind of financial safety net with their office. Usually V.P.s don't either.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Sara

      Do you really think that Obama had any financial worries before he took office? Really?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  9. Snacklefish

    CNN... fair and balanced. LOL.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Mike

      I think you're confusing CNN with FAUXNews.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Peter T

      Unless scientifically tested, that is. Then it doesn't seem to work.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Put yer money where yer mouth is

      Interesting typos that you have there - correction:

      Payers change things.

      (not guaranteed, but 100% more effective than your mumblings to imaginary beings)

      March 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Mike

      Religion is DEFINITELY not healthy for Children, just ask a Catholic Preist.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Stuck in the Middle

      I'm sure Jesus is very proud of your blind hatred of a group you obviously know nothing about but have been told to fear. If only there was some supernatural force to clense youu of your hatred, but alas, there's just reality and the sure and certain knowledge that you'll live out the remainder of your days sad, angry, and pathetic.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~Lying is a sin, you've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.!* .. .

      March 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
  11. skytag

    Which charities claim this is a workable idea, Glenn?

    March 28, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
  12. Dan

    First, for Glenn Beck to be seen again on CNN.Com is akin to Mitt Romney. The waffle and flip flop on the issues, because Glenn Beck was supposed to have been CANNED from CNN.

    Secondly, for anyone who would give credence to a man who dresses up like a Communist Soldier, and says that somehow money should not go to the government but to charity is a joke. Here is Glenn Beck, who KEEPS crying that Democrats are a bunch of socialists, but yet, he dresses up like a East German soldier (which East Germany was the socialist side (said it on their flag), and somehow we are supposed to believe him?

    Try telling it like it is. Make the 1% pay their fair share, because they are not. Otherwise Glen Beck....just put up or shut up! You are a joke...a real joke!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  13. max33333445555

    make contributions non-tax deductible. of course everyone should have to right to pay for what they consider important but, as beck would argue about certain things getting government support, it needs to apply both ways. dont ask my tax dollars to subsidize your church.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  14. Stuck in the Middle

    Sure thing Glenn, Have you checked the books on most of your favorite charities lately?

    March 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • james claydon

      Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's – even Jesus knew the state needs resources to function. anyway, why are we reading glenn beck?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  15. Gezellig

    So, President Obama's increase in giving coincident with his running for higher office is to be spun as a crass political move, but Santorum's failure to increase his giving while he runs for higher office is be lauded, because when caught he expresses that he needs to "do better", and thus "takes it seriously". Wow.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  16. brad

    I don't give to charities that help people. You can help as many people as you want, and they will still whine, and still beg for more. No, people get enough help, and they have the brains to help themselves, the environment does not, and we need the environment to survive. All my donations, wether by money or my time are given to enviromental projects. The way I see it, the healthier the enviroment, the better off people are. A healthy enviroment helps everyone, not just the week and worthless.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • brad

      Ooops, ment to say weak and worthless.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  17. palintwit

    For all you soon-to-be parents out there, here's some Sarah Palin baby name suggestions... Pinworm, Mudflap, Spatula, Fargo, Trigmeister, Lintball, Flywheel, Bristol. Your child will grow up and thank you for any one of these names.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  18. Joe

    My Take: Christians should play in traffic.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Catholic youth

      good for you, most Christians don't live day to day with the hate you have in your heart.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  19. Joe

    I donate to the World Wildlife Fund.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  20. Brian Smith

    CNN does seem to grant editorial status to a bunch of non-qualified whackos. CNN should announce their criteria and be transparent about it, as if they're taking the soap box they provide seriously.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • brad

      And what do you care if cnn takes it seriously or not. It's your decision to make, not theirs. Don't worry about what cnn does, you have a brain, use it, make your own decistions. If you don't agree with the article, then you don't. If it gives you ideas, great. Quit using cnn as an excuse and admit that you just don't want to give, which is perfectly ok.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.