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. Zakiyyah Shaw

    I am confused. Is CNN turning into a republican station? It starts with Glenn Beck on their website and then it gets worse.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Righteo

      Glenn Beck worked at CNN before he worked at FOX, for longer than he worked at FOX. CNN helped create the media whore Beck

      March 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Michael Sawyer

    So let me get this straight: the same people who think the poor are lazy, stupid, and crackheads, want to instead of giving the money to the government to aid the poor, want to instead give the money to charities to aid the poor. I see two reasons for this, other than the typical PR "big gubment cant do anything right " crap

    1. The poor are not lazy, stupid crackheads when getting aid from a church, and will suddenly gain 50 IQ points when going to a food pantry rather than a grocery store.

    3. they would rather not have the option of giving anything rather than being forced to give something.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  3. KC

    If people WOULD live up to the Biblical command, government would not have to step in. However, welfare/food stamps/etc. were all put in place because the need was greater than voluntary charity would support.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      I agree KC, charity organizations here in the U.S.A. are but poultry at best. Governmental charities reach the better half of the needy. There are ever "cracks" in any organization that will never be sewn together.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  4. sandy

    WHO????? glen beck/ who is he

    March 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • JC in the hot tub!

      He's the president of Glennbeckistan.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  5. JC in the hot tub!

    What do you think Glenn Beck gave to charity last year?

    March 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • banksjim

      He gave at least 10%, as Glenn Beck is also LDS (Mormon). And a very active one at that.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • GodPot

      If by "Charity" you mean that exotic dancer at the club he frequented after he lost so many of his advertisers, then I would guess it's greater than 10%... i'll bet he gave her much more than the tip...

      March 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • LinSea

      You better be able to provide proof, @Godpot before you trash someone's reputation like that. Or do you just get your kicks out of making up lies about people because you know you can hide behind a screen name?

      March 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  6. Pipe-Dreamer

    Money-grubbers live off charity's purse strings and lessen charitable growths. Show me a charitable organization the gives 100%,,,,, Please show me! 90%? 80%? People have become accustomed to charities that employ people and take a cut out of charity's purses. It's sickening to stand idly by and allow charities to be skimmed! My number is but one in the hundreds of millions in this sea of social apathy. Let it be,,,, let it be,,,, wishful words of wisdom,,,, let it be.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
  7. Louisa

    Thank God for the churches out there that actually donate clothes, food, money etc. to those in need.
    Everybody have to be grateful and happy having those churches.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      And thank him for the churches in Africa and Asia and Europe that kill gays every day.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • Duh

      "Thank God for the churches out there that actually donate clothes, food, money etc. to those in need."

      That's why millions are still starving to death every day.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • LinSea

      Well Duh, if more people were giving, more people could be helped, couldn't they?

      March 28, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  8. sandy


    March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  9. julia

    I was raised to give until it hurts–both money and time. To food banks, to homeless shelters, to charities that help all people rather than a specific cause, because everyone needs a handout now and then. I felt this obligation even when I made little money. What I don't feel an obligation to do is to pay for the crazy great benefits for those in political life (save for military and those in harms way like CIA, FBI, etc.), wars in countries I don't think can be saved, poor people who make government handouts a generational lifestyle (no amount of money will ever be enough) and those who REFUSE to help themselves, to contractors who profit as part of a war, or to bail out companies that should have reorganized or faded away. Too bad my politicans in Washington aren't looking out for me, no matter how hard I vote.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "poor people who make government handouts a generational lifestyle (no amount of money will ever be enough) and those who REFUSE to help themselves"

      The problem is that there are those, usually on the right, that believe that this covers everyone that gets some form of welfare. They insist on calling them all lazy, usually criminal as well.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  10. mcguiness

    Are you people kidding me? Why is there so much judgmental hate about an issue that is so personal as charitable giving?

    1. If the federal government was an efficient mechanism for providing for all of our needs, everybody would be in favor of a 100% tax. As thinking, intelligent human beings, we know that is not the case;
    2. Christ teaches us that, if we have two coats, to give one to somebody who has no coat.
    3. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto the Lord what is His.

    It's as simple (and as difficult) as that. Keep government intrusion in our lives to a bare minimum. We all have a much bigger responsibility. The government is not going to take care of us, our families or our neighbors as well as we can. If we don't do our part, we are going to have Hell to pay - literally.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      The problem is, your solution involves religious delusion. There are simpler methods that don't involve delusions of grandeur.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Righteo

      Yes, let's not care for the poor like Jesus wanted. Let's not have social security so that millions have no money when they get old. Yeah, those are bad ideas. Random private charity will handle those problems MUCH better!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Brody

      I'll agree to keep the government out of your life if you and yours keep Christ out of mine. Sounds like a fair trade.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  11. JC in the hot tub!

    Q: What's Glenn Becks favorite charity?

    A: Glenn Beck

    March 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Anbesaw

    When mankind evolved from caveman soceity and started social life they left a bunch of people. These group of people are now called "The Conservative Republicans/ Tea Party" . To help them blow their horn in their primitive type of mindset they have "Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh" among a few others.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  13. !


    March 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • ! ! !

      No Quetzlcoatl is best!!!!!!!!!!!!! Much better than Jesus! Quetzlcoatl blesses you all better than Christian God blesses you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      My fantasy invisible friend is better than your fantasy invisible friend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

      March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      plus Quetzlcoatl has much brighter feathers!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  14. Thecentrist11

    The bottom line is that charities do not equal government. Government needs to invest into a society: research and development, infrastructure, police, firemen, safety, regulation, public schools, etc. Charities don't do these things. The ones that do are usually churches, which don't actually do these things based on facts, or they have a heavy bias towards one religion or group of people.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  15. WhatWhatWhat?

    Glenn Beck used to believe that a guy riding a horse in the clouds pulling a sword out of his mouth was going kill all the unbelievers. Now he thinks that all religious people will make it to heaven, jews, muslims, buddhists, scientologists, etc., they'll all get there, so we can one day party with our ter rorist brethren in heaven, yeah!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • LinSea

      If you don't believe in God or hate Him, why would you care who hangs out with Him in the afterlife? I have never understood how some people think that He approves of everything done in His name. I personally think that the Creator of the universe is intelligent enough to know who is hurting others and that He is fair enough to hand them the justice they deserve.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  16. N.J

    Christianity is the only truly religion – all others are fake, hate and cr*p. Period.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Brody

      Do you even see the irony in your statement? Probably not, so my words are wasted.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm |

    SANTORUM 2012..... he will wipe away all Non-Christian @sses from America 😀
    Can't wait!

    March 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Duh

      "SANTORUM 2012."

      No idiot he will lose since he was shown to be one of the most corrupt senators in 2005 & 2006 – no wonder he has the fundamentalist Christians supporting him – they're stupid.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Dude! How you been? Your Douoshe Bag, right? I've heard of you before!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  18. Jesus is loving

    Churches are the only religious places that donate to the poor, help and being kind to the homless, poor and those in need.
    May God bless all churches and give them power and money to do this.

    Mosques kills non-Muslims and only help their own people. Jews only help their own people as well.


    March 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Wow. Step outside and get some fresh air my man.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Duh

      Churches are the only religious places that donate to the poor – LIE

      help – LIE

      being kind to the homless – LIE

      those in need. – LIE

      Atheists have done all those things too but you're to blind to see it.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • !

      Atheists donating money to the poor? PSSSSSSST must be the biggest joke and lie in history.

      They waste money on billboards attacking religious people

      March 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Duh

      "They waste money on billboards attacking religious people"

      You're an idiot cause the Christians do it more when attacking gays. Psst...get an education.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Truth

      Some secular charities: Amnesty International, Doctors without Borders, Goodwill industries, Rotary international, United Childrens Fund, ... should I go on?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Brody

      By wishing for money I do believe you are wishing for greed. It's only 2pm and already you are sinning.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Truth

      Also, labeling something an 'Atheist' charity doesn't make any sense. You don't label yourself after things that you don't participate in. If I don't collect stamps, and I own a restaurant, should I call it: "Bob's Non-Stamp Collecting Italian Food"?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  19. Shocked! Simply shocked!

    Glenn Beck defends Santorum's charitable-giving record (he volunteers, after all) but criticizes President Obama's, who obviously must not volunteer for anything! When it suits the GOP, President Obama is a Community Organizer-in-chief or an uncharitable communist. It's so black and white.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  20. Miriam NY

    I hope all nonbelievers die as soon as possible... the devil is inside them that's why they don't believe in God.

    IN GOD WE TRUST is our motto... Get it or shut up

    March 28, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • jlaylor

      My goodness. How.... Christian.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Mirimiam NY

      I'm a Sikh, not Christian.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Smite You

      Miriam NY
      "I hope all nonbelievers die as soon as possible"

      Why don't you just quit eating, Miriam, and fly on off to eternal bliss?

      March 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Nick Miceli

      I'm a nonbeliever because I can't stomach people like you and their profound hatred. The devil, who is a bogeyman, doesn't figure into it.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • wootdude

      And that wasn't a hateful statement? Someone needs to relearn that golden rule thingy

      March 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "I'm a Sikh, not Christian."

      you know that motto refers to the christian god right? boy are you s crewed

      March 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      "E pluribus unum" was the motto of the US for nearly 200 years until the mid 20th century when Joe McCarthy did his best to conflate atheism with communism.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:13 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.