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. Joe the Plumber

    Baby boomers are the REAL PROBLEM IN AMERICA greedy souls

    March 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  2. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • sarah

      Your own state of mind, I'm sure. Outside of that environment, no. Prayer is how you communicate with God, not tell him what to do. You accept what he has in mind for you and that's that. Prayer changes nothing but how you feel about God's plan.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Joe the Plumber

      Atheism is the one true belief ......if there is a God why are their conservatives !

      March 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  3. sarah

    Well its nice to know charity solves everything. Where was it when the poor were sold to the lowest bidder to go live in poor houses? Were people in those days less charitable? Or were they simply overwhelmed by the amounts they had to give to prevent people from starving. I help support lunches for weekends to poor children who don't get a free lunch during the weekend. We can barely get enough donations for THAT. These kids would simply be left to starve if the gov't didn't step in. I'm sorry but as charitable as people imagine themselves to be, they simply can't meet the basics needed to keep Americans from starvation. Our own history has proven that which is why the people voted to have their government work on the problem. Don't act as if everything was fine before then and don't pretend government acted on its own. People wanted these changes and they still do.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Joe the Plumber

      Damn right Sarah great comment ....remember Hoovevilles for those who know their history it would have happened again if not for govt....but they would be called Bushvilles this time !

      March 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
  4. Curtis L

    Why is CNN asking Glen Beck to write something? If you get fired from Fox News, you pretty much lack the credentials to get on CNN. I hope this is only a one time thing or I'll unbookmark CNN.com.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • rickincambridge

      Go for it-unbookmark CNN. Then you can curl up in a corner and whimper until the Grim Reaper arrive.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • 1221

      Beck was on CNN before he went to Fox.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  5. Bryan

    These boards are for discussion, not for mocking the opinions of the writer, or those who comment. Glenn is offering an alternative view to the big government mentality that our nation is currently in. Remember, a government that is big enough to give you everything that you need, is also a government that is strong enough to take everything away. Government is not the answer to our problems. Individual irresponsibility is a part of our answer, and charity is as well.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • momoya

      No, these boards are for the discussion of whatever topics the reader's wish.. CNN doesn't seem to care what is discussed.. It's fine to attack the author of the piece if that author has a reputation for being a moron..

      March 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • SamR

      Your just as dumb as beck.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Joe the Plumber

      You have no idea what your talking about BIG Govt started with Ronlad 6 Wilson 6 Reagan 6

      March 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  6. Adam

    I read it, but the only thing I came away with was Glenn Beck is a Nazi.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • steve

      Yes, because as we all well know the Nazis gave all their money to charity and not to the government.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  7. Regis990

    "Rick Santorum, whom I firmly believe would be the best president out of the current crop of candidates..." There's the proof...Beck is legally insane.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  8. Anomic Office Drone

    If charities could really replace government safety net programs (welfare) then why did poverty drop so dramatically once welfare programs were implemented? Charity and religion have always existed.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  9. Mike

    Why is this man allowed to advertise in the Religion section? Did Murdoch buy CNN when we weren't looking?

    March 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  10. Payers change things

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

    March 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Scarface86

      Really, where is the proof?

      March 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • professionalscold

      @Scar – Ever pray to win the lottery? Ever pray for anything and it didn't work out? There's your proof.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  11. SamR

    Trending... Glen Beck is worthless.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  12. Cody

    Indeed, there has never in the history of the world been a corrupt charity or church. They're totally trustworthy! I wonder if Glenn Beck has a charity we can donate to... if we're lucky it may even give funds to help him with his difficult life. Probably covers his travel expenses giving talks.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  13. SamR

    Glenn you are a disgrace to the human race and nothing you say has ever been or will be relevant to anyone but yourself.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  14. Jon in Rochester

    Glen, Please name the studiies that you are quoting when you say "Although studies have shown that conservatives already give more to charity than their liberal counterparts" . I think that you pulled that out of you butt.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • momoya

      It's true.. The reason is because many poor-yet-deeply-religious people ti.the (10% of their income to their local church).. People who are poor and aren't religious keep that 10% in the family budget instead of giving it to their local church.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Regis990

      Now, Joe, you know Glenn doesn't have that information for you...you just have to trust him. (wink, wink)

      March 28, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  15. JakeDog

    I hadn't heard from him in a while, isn't he gone yet? What a blow hole.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • dowhatifeellike

      He left (got the boot from) Fox News and started his own "online network" which charges a subscription. That's all I know.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  16. Pipe-Dreamer

    The "Cancerous Growths" of charitous-ladled organs within society's fleshy parchments deprives many celled critters a resonating board from which to dive from and into the sea of freedoms' treasure troves. The ugly duckling serenades are panderings left up to beaver-tailed hunters who shoot in randomness and without much of an aim. Keep therefore your feathers on and try hard not to be swooned by the ugly duckling's alter ego. Live and let live,,,,,, 🙂

    March 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  17. ProperVillain

    PS. I loathe the fact that he (ab)uses scripture in order to make his stand "right". The only think Jesus ever said about government is to "render to Cesar what is Cesar's". Anything else is sheer inference influenced by personal bias. Beck, again, typifies the arrogant, right wing evangelical calling on the name of Jesus to show that his stance is "right". Pathetic and sickening.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • MarkVoorhies

      How much did you give to charity last year. I guess we can use you to test his theory.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • ProperVillain

      My point has nothing to do with how much anyone did or didn't give to charity. My point is that he is pulling the "Jesus" card to justify his position. If this is the case, it is, in my view, a completely weak argument from the word go. Charity will not solve major problems in this, or any other, society. We've also been reaping the "benefits" of a purely capitalist dominated, "hands off of business" government for the last 5 or 6 years. It's been a total failure. The only people that have benefited are the rich and influential that got us into this mess in the first place. I could reference biblical passages to justify why a leash needs to be put on people by government but I won't. My argument aligns with reality. Unlike Becks positions on almost everything...

      March 28, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Scarface86

      We are not reaping the benefits of unfettered capitalism. The government played a very large role in our current mess.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Regis990

      @MarkVoorhies – I donated $150 to the Oklahoma League for the Blind last year...and I make less than $12,000 a year. I don't go to Church, I think that organized religion is a joke, and I think Glenn Beck is a dangerous liar of a man with nothing but hate and contempt for those he doesn't agree with. Where's that put me when testing the theory?

      March 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  18. steve

    As a sticked capitalist I don't believe in corporate welfare either. Boy do you guys not understand me at all.

    March 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • momoya

      If you meant "strict" instead of "sticked," then that may point you to one of the sources of confusion.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • steve

      Meant strick. Guess we're all clear now.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • steve


      March 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • steve

      Sorry, product of California Public School system

      March 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      @ steve,,,

      To stroke a strict capitalist's stick, corporate welfare incorporates its' own wells of seasonalized charity-based ingrates who do cling to their coat-tails. To goose a gander one needs a shmuck!

      March 28, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • steve

      And the shmuck not doubt would be the one who thinks government is the answer to all the problems!

      March 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      @ steve,,,

      Governemnt steve, has one boot in the waters of corporate consumerisms while the other leg is bare naked and on top of a mound of fire ants,,,,, 🙁

      March 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • steve


      Then I think we agree. Our money should not be taken from us to go to Government or the Corporations. It should be left with us to decide how we want to spend it.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  19. ProperVillain

    Charitable giving will not solve the fact that many people don't have access to decent healthcare, nor can most afford it. We are one of the WORSE nations in the civilized world when it comes to healthcare. Beck is living in fantasy land if he thinks charitable giving will ever solve this, or other, widespread problems. We are a greedy society that could care less about others as long as we are ok. God forbid we give up some money so we can all benefit. Beck and others like him represent all that is wrong with America. Greedy, loud, overly opinionated, unwilling to listen, take advice or compromise. America is the pimple faced, arrogant teenager of the world. It is time we grew up.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Regis990


      March 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Scarface86

      So I guess by growing up you mean we need to take care of those who do not take responsibility for themselves. We do not need to teach personal responsibility because everyone else will take care of you. I would rather take care of myself and keep my freedom.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Todd

      If you don't like the U.S. move, most of us will not miss you at all.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  20. mike

    Beck, you naive child. It won't ever happen. There's a REASON taxes are necessary: people are inherently greedy.

    March 28, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Parks

      Good lord, just who do you think controls the "tax money" after they steal it from you; if people are inherently greedy?
      I read Beck's comment and look beyond his rhetoric to the message of personal responsibility. Government cannot provide that.

      March 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Michael

      Thank you Parks!! Coundn't have said it better. The problem is (other) mike thinks the Gov are the "Good Guys" And we who believe in P.R. are the "Bad".

      March 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.