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My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving
March 27th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

My Take: As we shrink government, let’s grow charitable giving

Editor’s Note: Glenn Beck is a radio and television host and is founder of The Blaze, a news and opinion website, and GBTV.

By Glenn Beck, Special to CNN

I have never felt particularly charitable on April 15.

Instead, I typically feel like the victim of the most sophisticated burglary in world history. Yet it is on Tax Day that we learn a lot about the giving nature of our political leaders, at least those who release their tax records. Those documents provide a lens into politicians’ financial priorities and benevolence.

While the American people certainly don’t have a “right” to see the tax returns of any private individual, the public has grown to expect that those running for the highest office in the land will voluntarily allow us to view their filings.

Each election cycle, the media and general public take voyeuristic pleasure in examining how candidates made money and the charities they supported before knowing that the national microscope would be on them.

According to his tax records, President Obama gave about 14% to charity last year, a laudable amount by any measure. However, that’s about 12 times the rate he gave before he arrived in the Senate in 2004 and over 35 times the rate at which he gave in 2002 (when he managed to donate only 0.4% of his quarter million dollar income).

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This raises questions about how much of the president’s recent charitable contributions can be chalked up to political calculation.

When charitable giving is at a high rate for an extended period of time, as is the case with Mitt Romney, the media tend to ignore the trend. While nearly every outlet on the planet wrote about Romney’s 15% income tax rate when he released tax filings earlier this year, almost none covered the 15 % he gave voluntarily to charity.

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(While Romney and Obama lead the current presidential pack in personal giving, they are troublingly the only two remaining candidates supporting a partial elimination of the federal deduction for charity, which would cost non-profits far more than either man could personally give in a lifetime.)

Rick Santorum, whom I firmly believe would be the best president out of the current crop of candidates, does not back down when questioned about the influence of faith on his life. But the devout Catholic has understandably faced some criticism due to the fact that his charitable giving, about 3% of his income in recent years, lags behind both Romney and post-rise-to-national-prominence-Obama.

While Santorum’s donations compare favorably to the average American, they’re not up to the levels that many would expect from a man of such deep faith.

It should be noted that Santorum is a member of the Roman Catholic Church, which does not require a specific 10 percent tithe, as many other traditions do.

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Regardless, it’s fair to wonder why Santorum hasn’t willingly given more - which is why I recently asked him about it.

While noting that many of his charitable acts, such as volunteering time and raising money through speaking appearances at charitable fundraisers, are not reflected in his tax returns, Santorum admitted: “I need to do better and I should be better and I fell short.”

In comparison to what other politicians have been caught doing, this is admittedly a minor offense. But it’s encouraging that Santorum takes it seriously.

At the end of the day, the lesson - that it’s important to pitch in and give to help those in need - doesn’t just apply to presidential candidates; it applies to all of us, but particularly to conservatives.

Although studies have shown that conservatives already give more to charity than their liberal counterparts, the need is still great and requires much of everyone who is able to assist.

The idea that individuals are the key to helping others is a conservative one. It’s why I have never been shocked at Vice President Joe Biden’s lack of charitable giving over the years.

Biden averaged giving 0.2% over an entire decade of six-figure incomes in the Senate, 1/13th of what Santorum is criticized for today.

Unlike President Obama, Biden’s low charitable giving is a picture of stability. Even under the microscope of the Vice Presidency he still only gave 1% to charity last year.

And yet this is oddly consistent with his political philosophy. Progressives believe the government does a better job with your money than you can. So, why give any money to charity? Why doesn’t President Obama just give an extra 14% to the government?

It’s the responsibility of individuals to help others. Mercury One is a charity that I started in 2011 that attempts to take that morsel of ideology and turn it into action. The goal is to show that the American spirit of giving, while already far more significant than any other developed nation, still has plenty of room to grow.

When it comes to charity, Americans need to stop saying “Yes, we can” and start saying “Yes, I can.”

We face tough economic times ahead. I believe that we must shrink the size and scope of government or we will face national economic disaster.

But it’s not just about making the government smaller. As some of these giveaways from Washington disappear, American individuals must step in and make up the difference.

Savings in government waste and inefficiency can only go so far. It’s up to all of us to demand of ourselves that we pick up the slack.

Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command us to elect a government that will take our money under threat of imprisonment so that bureaucrats can figure out the best way to help people in need.

But as so many on the left have pointed out, Scriptures do direct us to help the poor. Yet God puts the responsibility on us, not on the government.

Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians says that "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

I think the use of “not grudgingly or under compulsion” eliminates the possibility that he was talking about the IRS.

This should serve as motivation for all of us to do more personally. Unless you’re already feeling “cheerful” every year on April 15.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Glenn Beck.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Money & Faith • Opinion

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soundoff (1,093 Responses)
  1. Real christian Perspective

    BTW.. Glen, you might want to actually read your bible so you wont look silly spouting stupid non facts. The bible if full of references to "not cheating the store house". Now incase you are unaware, the store house was the National rainy day supply that the leaders of the nation of Israel gave out to the people during times of famine or hardship. In the NT you might want to read Romans 13.. and make a note of verse 4... HM .. Government as "God's servant to do us good". Well now that might take some funds and that means the people have to add to the "store house". One of these days you are going to be in the hands of a Holy God and I fear for you. And I wonder what do you think Jesus meant by "render to Ceasar that which is Ceasar's"?

    March 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

      Real christian Perspective, tell me, Where is this Kingdom of God's location? I am curious to know what a "Real Christian" thinks,,,,,

      March 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Root post is an instance of the No True Scotsmen fallacy and also contains a form of the flawed argument known as Pascal's Wager.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      March 29, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  2. Charles

    There is a book called "Who Really Cares" by Arhur C. Brooks that cites studies concerning charitable giving among conservatives and liberals.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  3. Pipe-Dreamer

    I said the following somewhere else in Belief,,,,, Teach your children well there parents hell and just maybe some children might stay away from hell's kitchen!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  4. valerie

    Give where you can meet a need because both governments and charities are equally capable of bad management!

    March 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      one dare not sway from remembering to manage childhood development via parental conditioning which by the way seems to be an elusive target of righteousness in most cases of parentally reaching out to one's children. Selfish parents seek only their own social accolaides.and care little toward the wholesome upbringing of one's children.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  5. Real christian Perspective

    always feel so dirty after reading opinions by Beck, Limbaugh etc. Fact is they are sooo unpatriotic. This great country allows them to make a killing financially, and asks very little accountability for the filth that pours from their big fat mouths. No other country would give you this freedom and the tax you pay is small for the privileges you enjoy. Anyone who doesn't want to pay US tax, do us a favor ,... emigrate.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Mike

    Wonder what Beck says about sending donations to Israel? I bet he approves. Israel gets money from our taxes, from American Jews, and from crazy Christians that support the Zionist state.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  7. Barry G.

    Didn't the Great Depression teach us that charities were unable to meet the needs of those who were unemployed and starving?

    March 28, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  8. joe dokes

    Gee, maybe Beck is right. All the government does with that money is fund wars and weaponry that kill people, which is against my religion. Don't forget, defense spending is the *biggest* government spending program of all, dwarfing all others... including every conservative's favorite target–social welfare programs.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  9. Sam Yaza

    and know my public service announcement

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpAMbpQ8J7g&w=640&h=360]

    March 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  10. BB

    Thanks To Glenn's overly critical and alarmist commentary back in July on the name change of the nonprofit organization I work for, I actually saw charitable giving to our local branch go down. Thanks for nothing Glenn.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  11. tk41

    Why is this guy on CNN? woof.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  12. atheist_truth

    Glenn Beck... even those two words were a waste of perfectly good key presses on my keyboard.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  13. Georgia

    Glad you acknowledge we should all give more to charity; less you forget most gets a deduction from the IRS on their tax returns. Thus your anology that because it is an election year that someone like the President gives more,than when he started out in 2002 does not hold much water. he did not earn as much then, so you my friend is not a very inteligent person to make statements that bears no truth. On the other issues, you have no clue what it feels like to be jobless, homeless and broke in these times. Those of us who has been giving will continue to do so, as we live among those who are in need.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  14. Sam Yaza

    i don’t have much to say about how the church violently holds the monopoly on Charity from other religions,.. or how the use job security to spreed suffering to keep the establishments

    all i want to talk about is,....

    hey Glenn good to hear from you again did you finish reading common sense yet

    March 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  15. HAWAII

    Give top individuals NOT organizations.
    -Word of caution, You may actually have to talk to the person/people.....

    March 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  16. Bob A. Booey

    This guy's an idiot. Like charities have done so well at saving the world.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  17. Charles in Des Moines, IA

    Not sure where the figures come from about conservative vs liberal giving, but I have never taken a deduction for any of the giving I have done, no matter how large. I give because I feel its a worthy cause, one that I either agree strongly with or that I feel will do the most with the money I am giving. I don't do it for a tax write off or to make me look good to others, and often I do it anonymously vs asking for a receipt of such, unlike so many others. Sad really. And I wish I could see him , Mr Beck, talk about this, did he cry while doing it? BTW: I refuse to give to religious charities other then just a few, especially anything connected with an Evangelical arm of the religion. That may be another reason many liberals don't give to the same charities, we don't agree with their politics.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • Charles

      I am pretty sure this is where he gets his figures. There is a book called "Who Really Cares" by Arhur C. Brooks that cites studies concerning charitable giving among conservatives and liberals.

      March 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  18. saints

    Mr. Beck: For starters, not everyone believes in God. Secondly, why should anybody listen to what you have to say about anything? I remember when you were a Left-leaning happy recovering drunk on CNN Headline News. I guess Fox paid you enough to become an icon for the far-right. Suddenly you were a Soros-bashing Uber-Con, replete with charts and graphs and dry markers and a slight touch of Ratings-Boosting insanity. What do YOU give to charity? Wait, wait... I couldn't possibly care less. People like you are doing to Journalism what cancer did to Farrah Fawcetts anus. Have a great day, sir.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  19. Give me a break

    "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."
    --
    Maybe true, but cite a single study for proof. And it sounds to me like it's the conservatives' guilty conscience catching up with them after doing everything they can to screw the poor and feed the rich. Liberals might not give as much in monetary donations, but they make up for that since they created, maintained, and support things like social security, medicare, medicaid and unemployment benefits, when the conservatives want to say all those people are freeloaders.

    Oh yeah, and Jesus never commanded to elect a government that taxed people under threat of imprisonment because in that time electing any kind of government would have been such a miracle, even Jesus couldn't pull it off. I'm pretty sure that most people in those days would have quite ecstatic about this "bureaucratic" government that actually gives back to those in need. Stop trying to make direct comparisons between the Jesus days and current times. It's illogical and a waste of time.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  20. Anna6044

    I will forever believe in humanitarianism over rugged individualism. During the Great Depression, Hoover suggested that Americans pull themselves up by their bootstraps to get out of poverty. He called upon private charities to open food banks and begged corporations to keep their employees...even if those businesses could not afford the payroll. What was the result? Cities attracted poor families from all parts of the country who were willing to stand in the same bread line for hours just to wait for a bowl of soup. Local resources became overwhelmed...and eventually the soup and city relief checks were watered down.

    With so many homeless and jobless taxpayers - American cities lost a major source of revenue. The economy suffered.This system did not work in the 1930s and it does not work today. Charities did and will fail because they depend on a population that can not financially afford to give.

    In a time of crisis it is the government's duty to provide relief. I do not want to live in a country where the government turns a blind eye to suffering families.

    March 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Mike

      "Charities ... will fail because they depend on a population that can not afford to give"? You mean like taxpayers? I rather give the most I can to charities, so that it doesn't go to the IRS.

      March 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Anna6044

      Low income taxpayers owe very little in taxes and receive an Earned Income Tax Credit check. Nearly half of American households are owed more in federal help than they pay in income tax.

      Also, if someone benefits from the public programs funded by tax dollars...education, fire department, construction of roads, bridges....is it not a person's patriotic duty to support the programs?

      March 28, 2012 at 5:29 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.