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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. St. Paul, MN

    I cannot wait for Obama to be kicked out from the white house... we deserve a strict religious president who does not support seperation of church and state. I pray God daily making millions of Americans dream come true!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      I raise you...let's go all the way back to 1700s. Let's start paying taxes on our tea and giving it to the British. And, we'll let the Queen tell us how to practice our religion.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • SmartestGirl

      Good luck on that delusion. Obama is now well on his way to a landslide. And I say that as a conservative and former Republican. 'Former', because there is no way I could support any of the current crop of religious nutjob republican candidates.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • ginnylynn

      Separation of church and state has many valuable points. In this country it allows and gives freedom to many creeds to worship in their own way, without the governments intrusion–and that goes for atheists also. It also keeps one certain religion from becoming the defining force that all citizens must follow. The reason on separation of church and state is to keep a ruling monarchy from mandating what we can and cannot do. Leave those ethical views to the religious leaders. The government should not be getting involved in religious affairs and vice versa.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Way too reasonable for the narrow-minded.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  2. Tom Smith

    Point...underscored!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  3. SmartGirl

    Atheism is sick and disgusting... cannot believe it still exist today

    March 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • momoya

      Bigoted, eh? It can be pretty comfortable.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • gayjesus

      Lame troll post.

      1/10

      March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • dowhatifeellike

      Not having an opinion about God sure is vile!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • SmartestGirl

      I'm much smarter than you are, and I say religion is stupid. For that matter, how is a religion such as Christianity or Islam, that actively promotes violence, hate crimes, and discrimination, not disgusting? I'd say you are the disgusting and stupid one, based on the evidence.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Delivery Guy

      i say we let these two "smart" girls to battle it out in the MUD ARENA! WHO WANTS TICKETS!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  4. dowhatifeellike

    Has anyone else noticed that the people against gov't welfare want to be able to pick and choose (judge) people before giving them assistance? Isn't that a bit backwards? What happened to "do this for the least of me?"

    March 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  5. Atheist lost job

    I'm an atheist and was at the reason rally... unfortunately my boss saw me on TV and got fired few days ago 😦
    The reason was of course something else... but I've been doing great for years until he saw me on TV.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • momoya

      Wow! Very sorry. A few years ago I lost a job and had to pack up and more my family because of threats I was getting from christians. I feel your pain. If you live in the bible belt you may have to remain "in the closet" to stay safe.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • closet atheist

      I call BS. Although i don't doubt it could happen. I wouldn't dare attend something like that for the very same reason. It's much safer to stay in the closet on this topic. Hopefully, one day people will understand a little better.. but christianity (and a lot of other religions) keep a pretty tight leash on their flock.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Atheist lost job

      :/ I live in the northeast, not anywhere near the bible belt.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Not Surprised

      Yeah, your boss is definitely a Christian, doing the Christian love thing.

      I hope it ultimately works out that you are better off somewhere that isn't run by a spiteful Christian.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • jimbob

      actually i can probably understand the boss on this one ( even though i dont exactly know his reason). The reason rally resembled something similar to woodstock, or occupy wall street. bunch of hippies and clowns runnin around doin circus stunts. have you seen the footage. quite hilarious!

      March 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  6. gayjesus

    Give Blood. Donating 10% of my life-blood so others can live 4 times a year is better than any amount of money you can give.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  7. John

    Oh Beck, if you and yours, in your utter stupidity, don't want to pay taxes, then get the hell off the roads, don't call the police when you are mugged, don't call the fire department when you house burns down, and don't come whining to us when terrorists kidnap you.

    The government is the people, moron. Take your spoiled brat, me-first, greedhead nonsense to some other country. Please. Just get out. We've had enough of you.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Dennis

      You beat that straw man up John. Give it to him!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  8. Nick

    Goverment isnt charity they dont ask before they take food off my table and hand it to someone else. Thats not charity at all thats uhhhh somthing else lol

    March 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  9. Reality

    ONLY for the newcomers:

    There are always economics built into one's beliefs.

    For example, is Glen Beck a Mormom because there is money to be made from books, speeches and columns on the subject? Unless he and others in the business of making good income from books, etc. on religion, secularism, or atheism take a vow of poverty, we will never know.

    Some interesting incomes:

    Glen Beck, $32 million in 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/08/glenn-beck-earned-32-mill_n_529903.html

    and from guidestar.org

    Rev. Franklin Graham $800,000+/yr.

    Rev. Billy Graham, $400,000/yr

    Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield $331,708/yr

    Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, $200,000/yr

    Erica Brown $134,221/yr

    Eboo Patel $120,000/yr and his “non-profit’s” investment portfolio of $1.2 million

    Dr. Herb Silverman $100,000/yr. ?

    Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy, $400,000/yr/ea estimated
    ----------------------------------------------–

    March 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • closet atheist

      Don't forget Joel Osteen!! Not sure of income, but appx $40mln net worth....

      March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • steve

      Federal Government $14 trillion!

      March 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Reality

      How much money would the following save the US taxpayers ?:

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslims:

      There never were and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam and therefore no more koranic-driven acts of horror and terror

      – One trillion dollars over the next several years as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.

      – Eighteen billion dollars/yr to Pakistan will stop.

      – Four billion dollars/yr to Egypt will end.

      Saving 2 billion lost Christians including the Mormons:
      There were never any bodily resurrections and there will never be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity!!!

      – The Mormon empire will now become taxable as will all Christian "religions" and evangelical non-profits since there is no longer any claim to being a tax-exempt religion.

      – Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
      Abraham and Moses never existed.

      – Four billion dollars/yr to Israel saved.

      – All Jewish sects and non-profits will no longer be tax exempt.

      Now all we need to do is convince these 3.5+ billion global and local citizens that they have been conned all these centuries Time for a YouTube,Twitter and FaceBook campaign!!!!

      March 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  10. Easter next week!

    IN GOD WE TRUST..... just letting ya know. OK.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Yeahright

      Easter is based on a pagan ritual. LOL!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Duh

      It's just another pagan holiday the Christians stole to make up their religion.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  11. Me Duh

    Hey CNN...you REALLY think employing this buffoon is doing any good to the social discourse?

    Remember when you were doing real reporting? Remember when you had integrity? Yeah...I hardly remember those days as well.

    Btw, does it not make you sick to the stomach that you are having reporting like that of Mr. Nic Robertson, Mr. Matthew Chance, Mrs. Christiane Amanpour, etc. live side by side with the plethora of fluff pieces you create on a regular basis?

    March 28, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  12. ginnylynn

    It's coincidental that Glenn would talk about each one of us giving individually and not through the government. This has been on my mind a lot lately. I think our true test in Christianity and as God loving individuals, would be how much we would be willing to reach in our pockets and give, without being forced by the federal government. This act would show our true belief and promise to God to help those in need. Also, we would be able to eliminate those organizations that don't follow our Christian beliefs, i.e. Planned Parenthood.
    In defense of those who haven't given checks and listed all their donation–I know that I give a great deal of cash without listing it as a donation to charity, and don't deduct it on taxes. Also, I volunteer to help many charitable causes, which saves the charity from hiring workers.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • John

      Keep your stupid religion out of politics. If you want a theology driven government, go to Iran.

      You'll fit right in.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      As a Pagan, I tend to direct my charitable efforts to individuals as well. I do support some organizations that I believe do good works, like Planned Parenthood, as well as local food banks and the Red Cross, etc...but I think that the real impact lies in the acts of giving that can not be claimed on your taxes.

      My faith calls upon me to give, and to do so freely, with no thought to return...or to even be seen by those I give to when I can.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  13. ^-^

    Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the love!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Holding it down

      Om MaNi PadMe Hum!

      March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • jimtanker

      The fiction....

      March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Yeahright

      What a dope.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • ogre

      ^-^

      It is my unfortunate duty to inform you that Jesus is dead. He is not coming back.

      He had some nice, practical advice for us to behave well toward each other, but there is no verified evidence for the supernatural. We are on our own here.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  14. Holding it down

    In earlier times Beck would be considered a traitor to this government, and he'd probably be hanged. Where did we go wrong?

    March 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  15. jimtanker

    Glenn Beck is the ultimate tool!!

    March 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  16. Eh ?!

    I am Christian and Gay....

    March 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • jimtanker

      So you dont have a problem with a worldview that says that people should kiII you for being who you are?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Eh ?!

      There are fundamentalist people everywhere, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, Hindus etc.
      Not all fundamentalist presents 2.2+billion Christians worldwide... they are few.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  17. Joe

    The problem with the tax deduction for charitable giving is that it means everyone else pays more taxes. If you want to support a charity good. Just don't do it with my money. Claiming a tax deduction for charitable giving is greedy and hurts taxpayers.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • GodPot

      And none of the money given to a charity will be used to repave our roads, help put out fires, keep out neighborhoods safe, make sure our food is safe to eat, make sure no one has a bomb or gun on your plane, or even mow the grass at your local park. It might help feed some poor people, clothe their clergy in gold or pay for their victims of abuse, but not much else.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Chuck

      Every dollar my wife and I give to charity is roughly $0.30 less I'd give to the US in taxes if we itemized our taxes. I have often argued that the dollar will do more good in the world than the six nickels the US would have gotten. Because of all the good its citizens are doing when donating, the US government should happily reduce government programs that compete with the complementary charities.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • dowhatifeellike

      Joe,

      The irony is that only those who are fairly well off are able to make use of charitable giving on their taxes – you have to be able to exceed the standard deduction to get any benefit. I'd have to donate 1/6 of my salary before I'd see even a penny back on my taxes. I do give to charity, but I can't afford to give that much.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • LinSea

      Charities help reduce the need for government dependence, so less tax money has to be taken from the citizens. And the good charities run things MUCH more efficiently than the government, so the resources get to the people who need the help instead of getting siphoned off bit by bit as it flows through various bureaucracies.

      @Godpot, it sounds like you have quite the bias. Come on, do you honestly think Beck doesn't want roads, national security, police? That would be absurd. And if you hate religion so much, fine, then give to or volunteer for non-religious charities. What I get from the article is that he believes that we can do more and help more people without government interference or compulsion.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  18. Grandma

    The more unGodly and unbiblical this nation turns into (because of those atheists), the more poverty and worse economy this (once a great nation) will get and be.

    Prayers were taken away in the 60s, and every since then our nation has been in decline.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Smite You

      Grandma,

      More probably it is because hicks like you have reproduced too much.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • jimtanker

      Actually we were doing pretty good until we got Bush into office. We're finally making a turn again. Just hope that a bunch of fools dont vote in another republitard.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • closet atheist

      Wow. Yeah... it's the atheists. Not the millions of parasitic leaches living off our welfare system. Or the gazillions we've spent on wars we have no business being in.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The 1950s were a wonderful time for America.
      The Cold War was just getting into full swing. Fallout shelter salesmen were making a mint!
      The country kept things nice and segregated – no chance of drinking from a fountain contaminated by someone with a surplus of melanin or of finding an overly emotional estrogen slave in a position of influence or power.
      If you didn't like your neighbour, you could just point your finger, yell "COMMIE" and Joe McCarthy's goons would come destroy their family and make them disappear.
      Yep – it sure was a wonderful time to be a white, male, land owning, middle class Christian.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • ginnylynn

      For those of us who have been around for many years, we have seen this country deteriorating for the last 50 years–way before Bush came on the scene.
      Secondly, this country is made up of many religions, races, cultures, and atheists. Believe or not, it takes all of us, even with our differences, to stand united to bring this country back to its glory. We need to accept each other, though we disagree with some of the ideas of each other.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  19. Carol Sjoberg

    II have a question for Mr. Beck. If you balk at paying taxes please tell me where the money for our country's roads, bridges, policemen and firefighters should come from? Charities? Taxes are necessary to keep this country running, and we pay far fewer taxes than most countries. I believe in contributing to charities – and do – but they're not going to maintain our country.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • ginnylynn

      I think you read more into Glenn's message than was actually there. We all know we need to pay taxes, especially for infrastructure, but as far as charity is concerned, we as American's and God believing people should be giving as individuals. Giving through our government, doesn't make us a better person, because it's a forced payment. What makes each of us a better person is reaching out individually to help those in need.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  20. Real human who believe in God.

    What do atheists do to those in need other than spreading out their sat.anic beliefs to others, and put money on nonsense BS 'reason rally' (God sent thunderstorms on them) and their nonsense billboards?!

    Curios....

    March 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Why in the world would atheists bother to believe in Satan if they don't take the time to believe in God? *Curious...

      March 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Joe

      For one thing, more atheists support universal government healthcare than do christians. Christians talk a good game, but when it comes to ensuring help for the poor (such as health care, unemployment insurance etc.) the Christians are nowhere.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Jenny

      They might not believe in Satan, but they all act like the devil.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Tom Smith

      Christians do act like the devil. You're right. Even Ghandi said "I like your Christ but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

      March 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Jenny

      Gandhi was a disgusting Hindu who believed in an elephant God... so who cares what that ba.stard thinks

      March 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • ....

      "Gandhi was a disgusting Hindu who believed in an elephant God... so who cares what that ba.stard thinks"

      Don't you just love small minded judgmental people. Time to grow up now.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      My brother is an atheist. He is a hard working man with two beautiful kids and a wife whom he loves, and they barely make enough to keep a rough over their heads and food on the table, but he is the first person to offer a hand to a neighbor or coworker, volunteers to help clean up public areas, inst.ituted a donation of food at the restaurant where he works for Christmas and Thanksgiving, and teaches teenagers how to cook.

      I happen to think that's pretty darn awesome.

      March 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Here's a short list of some secular and atheist charities.
      ACLU, Amnesty International, UNICEF, Doctor's Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, Donors Choose, Oxfam, Kiva, Goodwill Industries, The Nature Conservancy, Rotary Fund, Seed Foundation, The Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort or S.H.A.R.E., The Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations Children's Fund, The Wheelchair Foundation, The Anti Discrimination Support Network, The Tanzanian Children's Fund, PlanUSA, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Afghan Children's Fund, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation (Superman was an atheist), Coalition to stop the use of child soldiers, Direct Relief International, The Halo Trust, Orbis.....
      Need I go on?

      March 28, 2012 at 2:54 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.