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.

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(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. smc24

    No, Jesus doesn't "command us to elect a government that will take our money under threat of imprisonment". What Jesus said was, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." It means shut up and stop arguing about paying your taxes! Give the government what you are required and continue to take care of the poor. Jesus obviously didn't expect them to be mutually exclusive. He expected you to do both Glen Beck.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • vince

      why are talking about jesus? our gouvernment is separated from any church or religion. Tax has nothing to see with religion.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  2. localdelii

    I don't object to the government i.e., we the collective people of American, being "charitable" if by charitable it is meant to give to those in need, the most vulnerable among us; to sustain them. Poverty is a hard road for our sick, our elderly, and our children born into its grip. It beats wasting money on bloated defense contractors, catering to fat cat lobbyists to sustain them in their wealth and make them wealthier.. I chafe at the remark it is a conservative ideology when Roosevelt and Johnson started many social conscious programs. Clinton amended the welfare program to a welfare-to-work program, a bit gamy today now that deregulation and Bush have run us economically into the ground. It was Reagan who busted unions although as an actor he was at one time president of SAG. But, Beck contradicts himself by pointing out that individual politicians don't give out of their wealth as much as he thinks they should. Yet, he somehow thinks that social programs can be left up to individuals, not government.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Kelly

      The problem is you see American's as a collective everyone working for the good of all regardless of how few are doing the work. I see American's as individuals working first for their own benefit and once they can maintain themselves they can give a helping hand to others.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Religion is a delusional reconstruction of reality

      Great in theory, Kelly, but in practice people who are focused on their own welfare get resentful about sharing, start calling people in need "loafers" and "welfare cheats" and lots of other names. And, there is no point where people chasing wealth stop and say "that's enough. I have enough money. I'll give the rest away."

      The purer the capitalism, the less sensitive the haves are to the have nots. Remember that 100 years ago, rich people hired private armies to beat and kill strikers, and even the police helped in the occasional massacres. The workers worked 6-7 days a week for stunningly low wages, and fair wages and the 40 hour work-week were considered radical Communist ideas. As unpopular as they are now, unions and government regulation (both considered socialism now), significantly improved the general well-being of the country, and ironically its wealth.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  3. Pope on a Rope

    Glenn Beck was put on this Earth for one reason only. To make the rest of humanity feel better about themselves for not being such a worthless piece of shít.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  4. Bill, Bloomington Il

    Glenn, people like Norm dont like you. Truth hurts and progressives dont like truth. They only like want they want to hear.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Truth hurts and progressives dont like truth"

      so was that a lie or will you just claim hyperbole?
      tell you what, i will give you the benefit of the doubt and say you meant it as hyperbole.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  5. Alan

    Our President is all for Sharing our wealth, why isn't he sharing 100% of his wealth? Lets see, he has a house that is paid for (by us) transportation that is paid for (by us), food that is paid for (by us), trips and vacations that somehow find their way on the expense report that is paid for (by us), His healthcare that is paid for (by us), a annual pension that will be paid for the rest of his life (by us). Seems like (us) the people are already doing our fair share of sharing our wealth, I think it's time for him to share his with the charities on behalf of all Americans.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • vince

      let's give to medicare, to a great helth care system. will be better than charity.
      Charity is the last solution. better than nothing, when gouvernment doesn't do anything.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • localdelii

      The politicians that scream the most about cutting the fat from the lean are the first to vote for Congressional pay hikes.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  6. Pisces Believe

    Glenn Beck, You are totally unremarkable, unbelievable and unnecessary. Who really wants your opinion? I certainly don't. It is noone's business what people give to charity. That is between them and thier conscience. I did notice however, you did not include yourself in the list of charitable givers!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  7. MandoZink

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

    No it doesn't. I do not recall a sitting president's current gift's to charity EVER being paraded around as a political maneuver. I do, however, notice that nearly everything you see is converted into some form of political trashing. No matter how pointless or irrelevant, you seem bent to do this. You and Limbaugh are want to imagine boogeymen in every closet. Really cheap, desperate shots you guys muster for content. I would hate to hear your bedtime stories.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  8. WDinDallas

    Taxes are not Charity!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Atheism is perfectly healthy for children and other living things which btw animals can't be theists.


      March 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather

      March 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Kelly

      @Atheism is perfectly healthy.........Since animals lack self awareness they cannot be Atheists either. **takes a bow and thanks high school psychology teacher**

      March 28, 2012 at 1:07 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 1:09 pm |
  10. Wayne

    Great article! Well said and so true! Thanks Glenn.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  11. OneOfMany

    Most charities are horribly inefficient. Look at their administrative costs. More so than government administrative costs. That being said be wise which charity you give your money to.

    Mine goes to charities which directly fund cancer and diabetes research. No pass throughs through silly foundations so their execs can make $350,000+

    March 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  12. STFUGB!

    Why is CNN giving this guy the time of day?

    March 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  13. anonymous

    Agreed. Give to the government that which is required, not that which some self-declared "expert" thinks should be redistributed somewhere else. There's a rusty piece of "artwork" in front of our town hall that speaks to this.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  14. STFUGB!

    Well said Steve McGrew!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  15. Mike

    Beck will rail on Obama but I don't see him offering up his returns to see how little he's paid in taxes on his millionaire income.... His overt racism and hatred to all those not equally zealous and blinded by Religion is amazingly obvious and should be a wake-up call to moderates in the religious rank and file. If Glenn Beck embodies the Christian faith, I'm very happy I rejected this sickness in my youth.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  16. STFUGB!

    Glenn Beck... GO AWAY! You are a "fear monger" of epic proportions!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  17. Mrkalamazoo

    How much of that "charitable" giving was used simply to cover the ordinary operation expenses of their churches? Who's getting the bigger bang for his charity bucks?

    March 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • anonymous

      Churches aren't a charity. They're an enterprise.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  18. Steve McGrew

    Beck may or may not call himself a Christian, fut if he does it's as much a baldfaced lie as "Progressives believe the government does a better job with your money than you can". I would like to remind tea partiers who consider themselves to be Christians of Jesus' words: Render unto Ceasar that which is Cesar's, and to God what is God's. Fellow Christians, THESE PEOPLE ARE THE WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING JESUS WARNED OF. Listen to Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and the like at peril of your very soul. And yes, get rid of the charity deduction. A tax dodge is not charity. If you deduct what you put in the collection plate, you are neither rendering unto Ceasar OR God. I never deduct charity and urge every other Christian to stop deducting charity.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • anonymous

      And remember. Satan is the great deceiver.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      At least EVERYBODY paid taxes in Jesus' time.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  19. mangus

    Eloquently said Norm.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  20. Norm

    STFU Glenn Beck. Nobody likes you. You're a moron and a disgrace to humanity. Get off the airwaves.

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

      Right. we do not like this kind of extremist

      March 28, 2012 at 12:30 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.