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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.

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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. Sfe

    I've always been a big believer in the idea that private charity is important, increasingly so as governmental welfare programs are inevitably going to shrink, regardless of what party is in power, to simply cope with the exponentially increasing debt. So, while I disagree with Beck on many issues, and have taken great offense to some of his past comments, like that time he compared the camp that the 2011 Norway terror attacks occurred to a Hitler Youth camp, I am inclined to agree with Beck here. Private charity is important, but so is giving to the government. When I read this article link on CNN (Beck: Give to Charity, NOT Government), I thought it was going to be Beck telling people to stop paying their taxes. Phrasing is so important. In short, private charity is good, but there is also a place for government welfare.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  2. Joel

    Yes, because the private charity instead of government programs worked so well in the 19th century. Now quit complaining and return to your station at the workhouse, you shiftless sloth!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  3. newt

    Glenn speaks of his Mercury One charity, however, if you search it's website, it is impossible to determine what they are supporting. They provide no specifics and many of the donation categories are ambiguous. For example, you can donate to "goodness" or "history". If you follow the link, it does not tell you what specifically you are donating to. Since his wife is one of three Board of Directors, how much of the "goodness" or "history" donation is she receiving? There is no information available on their website to tell you how they are managing the donations. It comes off as a scam as a way to take donations and there is no way to tell how much of the donations reach a cause or who the donations are going to.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Or a way to purchase property without paying the taxes on it. But surely someone so charitable would never do such things. I'm certain the organization doesn't own any property. Right?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  4. Queen Lattice

    Sheer crap! Charities are just as bad, if not worse, than the government. Most charities operate by shady dealings and most of the money given does not go to support the charity's pet cause, but rather to line the pockets of those running the charities, such as the presidents and CEOs who get unreal amounts of money from their positions and then there's the really stupid amount of money given for mass mailings and other advertisements. Charities are more of a financial waste than giving your money to a drunken street bum. The best way to support a cause is by your time & effort spent; not money. And what of those who do give cash money to personal causes where there's no receipt & no way to claim on taxes? Those are the real givers in the nation.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Sfe

      Specific examples, please. If you're going to accuse an organization of corruption, you better have the facts to back it up.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  5. JustJ

    Ok. For you that don't want to pay taxes, fine. Keep your money. But don't expect to see the fire trucks show up when your house is ablaze, don't expect the police to respond to your 911 call when you have an intruder in your house. Don't send your kids to public school. You don't want to pay for services? You don't get them.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  6. CK

    Does anyone really believe a Government in DC can manage things better for us than we can ourselves in our own communities. If you believe that then move, I'm happy to manage my own affairs, pay taxes for the common good and help my neighbors as needed.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      So then did you move when this horrible government moved into DC? Where are you living these days? Is that government any better?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. merlin

    So let me get this straight. Beck is saying we should shrink the size of our Government and take that money and give it to charity and many of you see this as a bad thing? If we helped each other out locally, then we wouldn't have to pay overhead fees at the state, then federal, then back to state, to local municipality for distribution.

    If we gave directly to local, then we pay the overhead fees once. I bet we'd get better bang for our buck here.

    Get over your hatred of someone and understand the point instead of just reading the author and hating the material because of that person.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Queen Lattice

      prayer changes nothing

      March 28, 2012 at 1:16 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 1:25 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather .

      March 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  9. Payers are a waste of time

    Prayers are a waste of time – Proven truth!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • nope

      nope

      March 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Sfe

      Yeah, I'm going to disagree. My life was going to crap for a while. Then I started praying and things began to get better. I feel pretty blessed as of the current day, so don't go calling it a waste of time.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • LOL

      Nope is a dope.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  10. Steve

    Charity is for "feel good" projects: feeding the homeless, victims of abuse, new parks, disease research, etc.

    Nobody is going to donate to replace sewer pipe or rehab a bridge unless it is THEIR sewer pipe or a bridge that THEY use.

    Government helps the masses. Charity helps the minority of people who need a little extra help.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Furbo

      By masses you mean banks and corporations. Government helps those poor guys.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Tom

      I don't think he's referring to infrastructure projects. He's referring to welfare.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Steve

      Tom, the only reason people are ok with paying into welfare programs is as a safety net for themselves. If you could tell people they'd never receive social security or medicare benefits, they'd find a way to stop paying in tomorrow.

      THe people who rail against the government welfare system would be the last people who'd voluntarily give money to similar charities.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • GodPot

      The bank bailout was set up under the republican administration and continued under the democrats because they both agreed they couldn't let the banks fail since both are in their pockets. The infrasturcture bill that would have created jobs and spent some of our tax dollars on repairing our failing transportation system was shot down by republicans because they "feel" it's too socialist and would give Obama a "win" which they cannot accept, regardless of the need for both the repairs and the jobs.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  11. DaveInPA

    Give to charities... NOT political campaigns!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  12. john

    Lets just get rid of money all together and start living off the land and become hunters and gatherers again while were at it Glenn !! Then you wont have to worry about spending any of your millions !!!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  13. LeeCMH

    This sounds like a warmed-over thousand points of light crap George HW Bush came out with many years ago. This is just a diversion.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  14. Whynot11

    I may have to agree somewhat with Beck on this one.

    Personally, I feel that while Taxes DO pay for more (and are equally important and necessary), it varies from state to state. However, if there is something that YOU want YOUR tax money to go to, donating to a charity seems to be more accurate because YOU control WHERE your money goes.

    Don't want your tax dollars to go towards a war efforts? Get a tax break by donating to the Red Cross. BAM! Not only do I not support the war, I am saying so with MY MONEY.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  15. Bill

    Giving money to a church is not the same as giving money to a charity (regardless of whether it's tax deductible or not). I'll never understand how donating money to someone like Pat Robertson (who has a personal net worth of somewhere between $200 million and $1 billion), or any of another 100 "churches" is considered to be a "charitable contribution".

    March 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • GodPot

      But giving to the Church is the only path to buying your way into heaven, right? You can't claim good deeds from paying your taxes that help children, the poor and the infirm, only if you give it to a church first so God can take his 30-70% first fruits of your donation. Then he can go spend it on things that really matter to him like paying $600,000,000 to the familys of victims abused by his priests. Charity indeed.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • TC

      You sound like a guy that doesnt have a clue what churches do with their money. At least mainstream ones anyways.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • GodPot

      " In 2007 alone, the Catholic Church spent over $600 million to compensate victims of clergy s e x ual abuse." burke-eisner.com

      March 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • closet atheist

      $600mln to pay for molestation reparation?!?! That's our tax money (that was never collected) hard at work!!!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • GodPot

      Thats what got them in trouble in the first place, those priests were obviously "hard at work"...

      March 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  16. carlyjanew6

    http://www.Hear-The-Truth.com

    March 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  17. Tha Chikin

    Agreed! The government takes enough of my money and wastes it on stupid crap. That is why I give to as often as I can to charities. Afterall... our greedy government isn't going to help those that are hungry, children with cancer, or homeless and/or abused animals.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Not if the Supreme Court has anything to say about it! Spoken like a true American!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • littlexav

      Yes, "stupid crap" like highways and body armor for our troops. I bet you can fund those with a bake sale.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  18. TC

    Whatever you think of Beck, he is spot on for this particular issue.

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

      It is awful difficult to let the idea stand on its own merit when the delivery mechanism is Glenn Beck.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jeff S

      For you maybe...

      March 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • plucky

      I said it's hard, but not impossible. A bit presumptious, aren't you?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • baconbombs

      The reason the government is under such scrutiny for how they spend their (our) money is because they have to answer to us. The reason charities are not under as much scrutiny is because they have FAR FEWER to answer to. All the charities with private jets and leaders driving Porches and Jaguars do so on your dollar. Giving money to charities is based on people who are trying to hide their income from the government or who are too lazy to walk around and physically help their fellow man.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • Brendan

      This is the basis for his entire system of belief...

      March 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  19. Cedar Rapids

    sorry Glen but taxes pay for a lot more than just what charities pay for.
    And the welfare programs also started because charity has never, in the whole history of mankind, ever brought in enough to help those that need it.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • TC

      You are high.! Charitable organizations use money more efficiently and wisely than the governement woould. Have you forgotten that US govt is totaly in the red? No company or organization could operate so irresponsily and be efffective.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • republicans for democrats

      Its funny how the needy, need 42 inch tv's, cell phones, and internets, not to mention beer, hootch and smokes

      March 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Kelly

      And neither do taxes. It just gives those who have a propensity toward laziness to stay that way.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • GodPot

      Republicans and conservatives believe starvation is a great motivator...

      Without it I'm sure everyone one would just laze around doing nothing.

      Oh, and starving kid's just need to work a harder at the job's they can't get with the educations they don't have. But i'm sure they can get a hand out if they accept Jesus and go to Glenn Beck.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • basketcase

      @TC- The US government is in the red because when the argument between spending more on various programs and taking in less in taxes comes up, our politicians consistently go for the "make everyone happy" option where we spend more and tax less. This leads to a huge (and continuously expanding) gap in revenues vs expenditures. If we picked one concept to stick with on both sides, we could put together a logical system.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Let me know TC when charities start paying for the national defence, energy, agriculture etc that the taxes get used for.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  20. Randy

    I agree that people should be giving more to the charities that they believe in and helping those in need. That is everyone's responsbility. However, let's not make it political. Poverty and hunger are blind to who is in office.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:58 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.