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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. Charity

    Only God knows a mans heart. Mandatory charity isn't charity at all.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • vince

      at least it is efficient.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      neither is claiming taxes back on charitable donations.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  2. Tom Smith

    Ok. We get it. You think Americans are complete morons. Surely, we wouldn't argue about giving more to charity, right? Aren't you done now? Why don't you move on and do something productive for this country...start a landscaping business or something?

    March 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  3. Randy

    Nice job by just "happening' to mentioning your own charity.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  4. Payers change things

    Payers change things. Prayer does nothing other than waste time.
    Proven.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:54 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 1:08 pm |
  5. Shut up liberals

    Why is it that Liberals see the government as so corrupt, yet they want it to control everything. Why is that because I happen to be successful, that I should have to pay more in taxes to cover other peoples healthcare for example. You get "sick" and you don't have insurance, suddenly it is my responsibilty because I have money to pay for you. That is NOT right. I give willingly to charity. The government taking a giant scoop of my money that they only manage to waste because I "have the money to afford paying more" is a BS argument. Flat tax is the only fair way to tax, and we shouldn't even need income tax. The government can build roads and infrastructure just fine on less taxed income. We did it for over a hundred years before the first world war.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Why is it that Liberals see the government as so corrupt, yet they want it to control everything."

      liberals see it as corrupt? i thought it was you guys with the whole 'just another trick to raise taxes' nonsense you guys like to throw out on a regular basis.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Before the first world war? I am pretty sure that you are not old enough to drive on roads that were built and maintained before the first world war. And I can think of a huge chunk of this country that would not like to see us regress to the days before the first world war. Women, black men and women, hispanics to name a few.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  6. Jake

    I agree with Beck. Ironically, the Glen Beck's of this country believe that the reason we shouldn't give to government is because it uses it to redistribute wealth (charity work) instead of economic expansion (making the wealthy wealthier). So if you don't like to give to government so it can spend it on bridges and roads to help employ folks to build them or help the poor and disabled to keep their heads above water, because as conservatives including Beck himself has said, all it does is perpatuate "laziness"...how do you suppose a person with that kind of mentality is going to approach "charity"? With a more generous heart simply because it's charity? Please. Statistcs show giving to charities are at an all time low and have been dropping over the past decade even before the economic recession. Truth of the matter is our culture has changed. We are not as generous as we once were even if the amount is great it is not a considerable proportion of our own incomes or GDP. And it doesn't help when you have a bunch of folks who think that helping the poor is some sort of waste of our taxes than helping the wealthy. How we apprach our government, which is essentially a representation of ourselves (and is disfunctional because we've elected folks to fight against each other instead of work together) is how we'll approach society in general. If we take on the conservative mantra that everybody is on their own and their current condition is their fault instead of helping them simply because they're human beings who need help...then suggesting to give to charity instead of government...is just yet another excuse to not give and another way to validate your selfishiness.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Reggie from LA

      Very well said. Similarly my thoughts as I began the read on this article.
      We want what the government gives us infrastructure, security (broad definition) and support. Not everyone needs support. Many are wealthy and have lived "the dream". For those who are wealthy, many never have to worry again about future security and are readily positioned to criticize anything that can take away their pocket change. Romney worked so hard for his money, out there with shovel in hand in the hot sun...ooops. Forgot people like Romney work hard as hell figuring out ways to leverage investment, scarcely producing anything. You see, hard work produces something. His work created personal wealth. Why pick on Romney? I'm not. I'm just saying the truth about how many rich people ACTUALLY earn their money and teach other stingy drones (and repugnants like Beck) how to bully underpriviledged human beings.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  7. Iconoclast

    Can't wait for Beck to start preaching to his sheeple "give to charity AND don't pay your taxes". Oh please God, oh please!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • GodPot

      And don't forget to BUY Gold!!!

      March 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Iconoclast

      @Godpot- Also those survivalist seeds and gardens he's been pimping. After all, if Obama gets reelected we all know the apocalypse can't be far behind! Can never have too much ammo and seeds (or too little sense).

      March 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  8. ruducky2

    It must be a terrible burden to be so giving.... I wonder how giving conservatives would be if they didn't get a tax break for their donations? My understanding is that a good accountant can direct your charitable donations so that you drop just enough tax brackets that the donation given is less than the tax-break gained. In other words, they end up with more by giving (less). That doesn't sound too terribly Jesus-like to me.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Mike

      You have no clue how charitable deductions work on taxes do you? You don't save that much of your taxes for any donation but the small amount does seem to motivate people to take the time to do it. The average person who donates to charity does not see a significant change b/c of their donations. I donated a car to purple heart who sold it in auction. My deduction value was significantly less than had i just sold the car. I can't speak on every person's motivations, but for you to assume anything is plain ignorant. How much did you give this past year to charity in money or time?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Alex Myers

      I agree there is plenty of creative accounting in the world, but it doesn't work that way. Regardless of someone's political background, I'm for folks giving of their time and money to support organizations that give individuals an opportunity to better themselves. Don't let anyone tell you that person giving to such an organization is doing so in order to rip off the government. Even if an individual's $10,000 charitable gift reduces her / his taxes by $2,500 that person isn't coming out ahead. The tax code was written to not tax that individual on the $10,000 they gave to benefit others rather than the donor.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Greg

      You obviously don't understand how tax brackets work. You can never get more back due to a charitable donation than the donation. Example ... these aren't exact brackets but they'll do.

      Poverty (below 20K) : no taxes paid.
      15% bracket (20k-50K) : 15% paid only on the 30K between 20 & 50. So you pay $4500.
      25% bracket (50K-90K) : 25% paid on 40K between 50 & 90. So you pay $4500 + $10000 = $14500 etc.

      If I make 90K an I give $9000 that brings me down to 81K. I pay the 4500 + 7750 = $12,250.
      I SAVE $2,250 ... no where near what you say.

      You are basically reducing your income and not paying tax on the MONEY in the top bracket. You are not bringing your entire income to a lower bracket.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  9. Don Jones

    Why are we still giving this a** a forum

    March 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • ruducky2

      Stupid traffic accidents always turn head and sponsors like turned heads.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  10. Scott

    To some extent, we should help others (providing it doesn't make things worse on us). The amount one should donate however should be based upon their financial situation and how they feel. Not some arbitrary number set by your faith. The function of government is to help those that can't help themselves. The function of us as an individual is to pick up the slack or help those that drop through the cracks. The government can't help everyone, that much is certain. Thats why non-profit organizations exist.

    Government should be shrunk, but only in the respect that a lot of the unnecssary organizations or programs should be downsized, consolidated, or removed entirely. Organizations with similar scopes should be 1 organization, not 12 (as an example).

    Conservatives argue that we should shrink the government, cut budgets, be fiscally responsible. I agree, however, they must understand that by cutting budgets or shutting down certain programs/organizations; jobs are lost. In order for our country to move forward, it is a necessary sacrafice, but only if we correct our wrongs. Bring jobs back from overseas countries. Give businesses tax insentives to stay in the US. Invest in upgrading our infrastruction. Research better energy, new batteries, ect. Start manufacturing some of our own goods that are traditionally made overseas.

    * Obigatory I don't like Glenn Beck comment *

    March 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  11. kinjirurm

    For the Obama vs. Romney comparisons to have validity, We'd need to know Romney's contributions to charities before he was involved in politics, since that's the measure being used for Obama.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • GodPot

      And is something really "Voluntary" when it's your accountant telling you how much you need to give to charity to get the best possible tax rate on the rest of your income?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 28, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • searust

      Attempting to determine how the tree in my front yard gives a damn if I am an atheist or not....

      March 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Except the tax brackets of Pat Robertson, Jim Baker, and the like.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather .

      March 28, 2012 at 1:00 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 |
  13. Jay Davis

    I daresay there might – might – even be a grain of validity to some of the points Glenn brings up, but he's long since passed the point at which every word he says is a turd falling into my drink.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  14. Darlene Buckingham

    Give to your own community.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  15. theboosh

    Sure Glenn, I guess when your mother is laying on the floor, house burning, etc, I suppose you'll call the 'charities'? That's
    what I thought.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  16. Roland Pina

    CNN shame on you for having this silly ex radio zoo keeper and dear I say TRAITOR opinion!!!
    Pack up Beck and move to China and take Limbaugh with you!
    We want to see which charities you have given your bucks to. Answer ZERO!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • dirtyalaskan

      Awww, gotta love how many liberals resort to name-calling and pointing fingers, rather than taking a step back and actually examining what was the main point of this article. Call Beck what you will, I for one still miss his tears on TV, but he is no way a failure. The man has made millions in every form of media out there. I am not a fan, but you have to respect his ability.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • anon

      I'm no fan of Beck, however he regularly gives about 25% to charities, just an FYI.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  17. STFUGB!

    Things we NEED that charities will not pay for:

    Roads, bridges, railways, highways, power grid, national infrastructure repairs, national projects for advancement (you know, the things we used to that made us amazing! The very things that CHINA is doing now?), power lines, healthcare, public schools, defense, national security, EPA, social security, municipalities, civic services, public spaces, national parks, etc., etc., etc.

    Give me a break! Glenn Beck, SHUT UP!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  18. pmmarion

    I NEVER give to charity any more. I figure that since the government does not take enough of my money any way I'll just keep it all for my self and urinate it down the toilette. lol

    March 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  19. Joe

    STFU, Glen!
    Why don't we give people food and heath care and an education and maybe less people will need charity!

    March 28, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Walker

      Joe, I don't think Glen Beck understands that... Conservatives hate education.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  20. Pope on a Rope

    Translation: I was perfectly happy paying my taxes when they were paying to kill brown people in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 (or terrorism in general). But if my money is going to pay for bridges, or god forbid, education, the fück that. That's communism.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:36 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.