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. James

    Non-Christians should be EXPORTED to their countries or convert !!!!! This is a Christian country so SHUT UP!

    Yes, I mean it.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      ...A very tolerant Christian country it seems. I also exercise my second amendment right so I would love to see you try to export me.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • chemicalbank

      Sod off

      March 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • closet atheist

      I'm just amazed James has internet access in his trailer.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  2. VonDoom

    I live in Utah and was raised in the religion that Beck still adheres to. Although I gave it up a long time ago, I know way too much about it. In LDS, it's a commandment to give 10% of basically anything you have back to the church and the church likes to call this charity. I don't have anything against donating or giving to charity but it's difficult to find an honest one. The church is insanely wealthy and while they do civil service, their main leaders live in expensive homes, wear expensive suits, ride in expensive cars and build expensive temples that only a select few can enter. They get the benefit of tagging everything within the church that takes or gives a buck a tax shelter and they along with everyday followers take advantage of this. It's amazing when you find out how many of those on the top tier are either accountants or attorneys. I've known family's who can't pay bills, afford a car and ration food to their spawn freely give away their income to the church and the church happily taking it. I known families who can afford gaudy cars and huge homes keep pantries of food that could feed an army for a long time look at people who can't afford a simple doctors visit without care or concern. Now, I'm sure that there are a few people who are LDS reading these comments (it's a story by Glenn Beck) who will jump on here and tell me how full of it I am but, there is also a legion out here who will also say "yup". Mormons have a unique way of looking at things from unique perspectives, especially when it applies to them but none of them probably know the unique relationship the current prophet had with Howard Hughes.

    This is where Beck learned, cultivated and promoted out "charity". Don't actually give to anything that may actually do something, give it to others and after they've kept the lion's share for themselves and used for their own benefit, they may give out a few nickels here and there. You think someone who believes in hording gold and precious metals is going to know the best way to commit to charity? Don't give to churches who only do charity on conditional grounds.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • closet atheist

      I, too, have lived in Utah... and have seen much of what you mentioned firsthand. It's a really crazy culture. But, let's be honest, any culture dominated by a religion is a bit wacky.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  3. ol dirty

    Let's see Beck's contributions after the charitible contribution tax deduction is eliminated from the tax code.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  4. carroll poovey

    I cringe when Glenn or Rush say, "progressives all believe that .........(fill in the blank); they are ALWAYS wrong, and self serving in doing so. If Glenn Beck of any neocon understood what I was thinking and why I am thinking it, they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it. Government is like the brakes on a car, they don't make it go, they slow it down appropriately when needed. No one in their right (!) mind would want a car with no brakes.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  5. OLE

    CNN pls do not publish this hateful racist lunatics' writings on your website. What are his credentials to teach us all about God or morality????

    March 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Valerie

      so full of hate and name calling...just can't stand anything good can you? very sad...

      March 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      It's funny how Valerie is the only one who's mentioning hate, or thinking of it, or writing about it. She was probably just looking for Fox news when she stumbled in here.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • TJS

      He writes an article calling for all Americans to be more charitable, and you dismiss him out of hand because you don't like him? How's the view from up there?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Other than the price of gas going up because Dick Cheny had to have a heart made out of exotic materials, things have actually been looking up.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  6. Prayer is Delusion

    Prayer is a joke

    March 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Amen to that!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  7. Steve

    The whole point of taxation was to collect funds to provide services that the general public won't or can't do themselves. If you want to move government social programs to the private sector, you better show that the private sector is up to the task first.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  8. WhatWhatWhat?

    For crying out loud, the reason we have what we have is because historically people have NOT stepped up to the plate to help those in need, especially conservatives. Unless, as the ignor amus Glenn Beck is quick to point out, it's to help conservative (i.e. christian) interests, and screw the rest. Why help gays when god hates them, right? And here's a list of all the other things we're not going to help you with, like abortion, and stem cells, etc, etc, etc. Who's the one who's not helping, Glenn, you id iot? And then he does what all conservatives do, state facts that are unreferenced and unverifiable by talking about supposed studies showing that conservatives give more to charity than liberals anyway, thereby elevating themselves even more above the rest of us in their delusional hierarchy.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • Valerie

      Never known a church to deny giving food to someone ...or even ask someone if they are gay....on drugs or even for proof of income...they just give....but it is funny now how liberals HATE charity... totally funny!!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      I guess you weren't around during the middle ages, eh Valerie? Or anywhere outside of Hometown, USA, today?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Valerie

      LOL really we are going back to the MIDDLE AGES??? LOLOL...

      March 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Lot's of religious people are killing gays right now in any number of countries. Probably because they asked for help.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      I was covering the entire period from then until now. Please read the second sentence of my post 🙂

      March 28, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Valerie

      so now it's about what is happening in other countries...hmmm like the middle east? I thought the topic was give to a charity. When someone is down hard they can go to a church and they will be fed...they will receive clothes and even a utility bill paid. But for liberals...that is evil...

      March 28, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • CMH

      I like how Valerie responded to you asking where Glen Beck got his 'made up' facts by giving you her own made up facts. So...liberals 'hate' charity. The things we learn on message boards.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Valerie

      So you are speaking for ALL of the churches in any hometown USA? wow...

      March 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Of course it involves other countries as well. You said "Never known a church to deny giving food to someone ...or even ask someone if they are gay" Doesn't that mean anywhere? Or just in your lame town?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  9. Larry

    Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" Matthew 22:21).

    13 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:1-2

    Might want to think about that the next time you are speeding.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      About what? Religious delusion?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  10. Mike in NJ

    You won't mind if my charities of choice are NPR, the DAV, Habitat for Humanity... Instead of the wicked bureaucracies that make up many churches. Remember, God does not smile on the self-righteous.

    Giving generously is to be lauded, but it is not to be used as a weapon against those who don't give as generously as you, Glenn (in your opinion) – have some humility.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  11. Andrew


    March 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  12. rdeleys

    Charities are free to discriminate. The government is not. Not only that, who cares what beck thinks? He's been thoroughly discredited.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Valerie

      Now liberals HATE CHARITIES....ya know...if you go to a church's food bank for food or to have your electric bill paid they don't ask you to produce ID, Last pay stub, and all your credit information...they just give you food or they pay a utility bill for you...that is a charity.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  13. jamisonslcc

    "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."

    Yet the bible does say that we should pay 10% of our income to God's church under threat of damnation so that church officials 'can figure out the best way to help people in need'

    March 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      It also says shellfish are an abomination.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Get Real

      Me, I don't give a fig what the Bible says, but for those who do:

      Ti.thing is an Old Testament concept. The ti.the was a requirement of the law in which all Israelites were to give 10 percent of everything they earned and grew to the Tabernacle/Temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple t.ithes which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent, not the 10 percent which is generally considered the ti.the amount today. Some understand the Old Testament t.ithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system. The New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians submit to a legalistic t.ithe system. Paul states that believers should set aside a portion of their income in order to support the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).

      The New Testament nowhere designates a percentage of income a person should set aside, but only says it is to be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). –http://www.gotquestions.org/t.ithing-Christian.html

      March 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      That to me sounds like the biggest burglary in the history of mankind. Give me your money or burn in hell for eternity? Wow.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Valerie

      Churches ASK for 10% but don't DEMAND 10% nor do they kick you out of church for paying 0% ...however, the federal government TAKES 30% + and threatens jail....geez ....love love love the new liberal ANTI CHARITY...just so incredibly insightful to the hate on the left....

      March 28, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Unless your daddy was a millionaire. Then they just take 15%

      March 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Ghibelline

      Valerie, stop pretending to laugh.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • GodPot

      @Valerie – I would give 30% to a Church if it came to my house when I called due to an emergency, or helped put out a fire, or repaved the road out front so I can get to work so I can feed my family. I would pay them if they were the legal force that allowed me to take someone to court and prove they harmed me physically or financially. I would pay them if they were actively testing the food industry to keep it safe for my daughter to eat. I would pay them if they provided a balanced education for my child and not one saturated in religious indoctrination. I would pay them if they worked hard regulating private business pollution levels so I can take my daughter fishing and swimming in our public waterways without fear of getting sick or exposed to dangerous chemicals...

      Conservatives don't want to see the larger picture because they really don't care about me or my daughter, or your's for that matter, they only care about themselves and how they can figure out ways to get out of paying any money that might be used to help poor brown people.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Prayer is not healthy for children and other thinking beings

      Some churches, like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, do indeed DEMAND a 10$ ti/the.
      In fact, mormons have to go before their Temple leaders every year and prove they gave the money, or else they lose their "Temple Blessings".

      Your taxes pay for plenty of charitable things in the US.
      Social Security provides retirement benefits to retired workers (36 million of them, as of December 2009) and their eligible dependents. It also provides survivors’ and disability benefits. ($708 billion)
      Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP provide health care or long-term care to low-income children, parents, elderly people, and people with disabilities. ($753 billion for all three programs)
      Safety net programs ($482 billion) provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship. In 2005, according to CBPP analysis, such programs kept approximately 15 million Americans out of poverty, and reduced the depth of poverty for another 29 million. The programs include:
      •earned-income and child tax credits, which assist low- and moderate-income working families
      •cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance
      •in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including food stamps, school meals, low-income housing assistance, child-care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills
      •other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.

      The sum total of all that good from your government far overshadows any religious contributions.
      If you're looking for a non-governmental agency to which to donate, there are plenty of wonderful secular charities out there, like UNICEF, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, CARE, Save the Children Federation etc.
      Organization such as the above provide international charity – and don't charge the fee of being preached at.
      Charity with an ulterior motive – even one the giver thinks is a boon like "bringing souls to Christ" – is not true charity.
      Now – TANSTAAFL – there ain't no such thing as a free lunch – and if the price of a meal or medicine is allowing the person who holds your life in their hands a few minutes to prosthelytize, then most people will accept the cost.
      Some will consider it insulting, some will simply smile and nod while waiting for their bread and some will convert – but make no mistake – having to endure a sermon in order to get humanitarian aid is indeed a price to pay.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Not used to having two names!
      For those who can't tell by tone and content, the above posting by "prayer is not healthy" is actually from the good Doctor. 🙂

      March 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Valerie must have a lot of sites to troll. She may not be back for a while.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  14. oldnoah

    Because charitable organizations have been notoriously inefficient, groups like http://www.charitywatch.org have spring up, to allow us to judge whether your gift will go to help your cause, or make CEOs rich, or just be wasted through incompetence. Historically, some reputable charities have spent as much as 98% on overhead. Other charities are outright scams. Religious charities often result in attempting to solve a problem (say alcoholism) by spending money to distribute bibles.

    Contrary to what Beck says, the U.S. government has an excellent overall track record. Despite the Katrina debacle, FEMA and the National Guard are exceptionally good at disaster response. Medicare is has substanially lower overhead than most private insurance. The U.S. government has a very good track record with spending for scientific research, including medical research. Overall, the U.S. government is one of the best charitable organizations out there.

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

      Exactly! Thank you!

      March 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • AndriconBoy

      You mean all those bibles X-tian organizations they send to the starving people in Africa don't do anything to combat hunger!? Do you mean to tell me that building a church and teaching sermons about Jesus in impoverished South American countries is somehow less effective than building family housing, teaching modern irrigation techniques, and demonstrating how even the simplest modern medicine and hygeine practices can save many, many lives?

      Wow. I wonder if X-tians know this. 🙂

      March 28, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  15. James C Edgar

    I wondered where he got off to...just as soon not know. You just can't fix stupid.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  16. cecilia

    beckster are you still around? sorry to hear that – would you please stuff it

    March 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  17. ao

    Pretty good article...until the religious blubber at the end. I'd rather just be a good person and donate because I want to help a good cause rather than because "The Bible told me so"

    March 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    Glen Beck should STFU. he has never had anything intelligent or productive to add to the national conversation.

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

      you have never listen to him...but he is correct in one thing...Liberals HATE freedom of speech UNLESS it's a LIBERAL speaking.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Earl Weaver

      Have you?

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

      Valerie, as soon as you label and generalize someone, your ignorance talks over anything else you were trying to say.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  19. nobody important

    For the first time I actually agree with Glenn Beck!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  20. Mark

    It would be very interesting to see if Glenn writes all of his donations off on his taxes. I am sure that his charity has NOTHING to do with all of the tax advantages of running a charity. I am surprised that CNN allowed him to push his charity on their website, while he shows every American how he is avoiding paying taxes. Now we know why Glenn was at where he was at when he was younger!!!

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

      LOL ... wow....liberals are so fricking funny with their hate

      March 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Steve

      What's funny is how anyone who doesn't agree with Beck is labeled a liberal.

      a) that's not even remotely true

      b) "liberal" is a point of view, not an insult.

      Valerie is like Ann Coulter without the wit.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
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