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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. MARINA CUBERO

    Eh ! my brother.... mind giving first to my foundation? lol... anythign will help

    March 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  2. Travis

    I normally disagree with everything that comes from Glenn Beck. Having said that, this article is actually quite tame, and I agree with much of it. His criticism of Obama's politicization of charitable donations can be said of any elected official, Democrat or Republican. Glenn, why can't you be more like this in ALL your writings and broadcasts? You're clearly an intelligent and articulate person, yet you pander to the lowest segment of the population just to solidify your ratings. Yes, it's an easy way to make a living – cashing in in the ignorance of others has always been a lucrative strategy. But if you truly believe in the causes you profess, and you have what it takes to sit at the table with the intellectual heavyweights, then why spend your career as the Jerry Springer of national politics? I suppose time will tell if you choose money over principle. But if and when you decide to take the high road, give Ann Coulter a call and ask her to join you. God knows she could use a wake-up call!

    March 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • byebyecnn

      Wrong.

      If any of you actually listened to him instead of forming opinions based purely on your liberal friends who also never listened to him, you'd realize a lot more about how you should be looking at things.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Like how to fake crying?

      March 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  3. byebyecnn

    CNN you running scared? Realizing your liberal dribble is p1ssing people off?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  4. me2

    I came to this page specifically to ask that you keep Beck's opinionated non-news off of this site. Next time I will just go elsewhere

    March 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • byebyecnn

      Yes please do. Elsewhere for you uneducated, atheist, socialist liberals should be North Korea. They keep everyone nice and tidy over there, no need to think or be thought of – just like you goons want it here.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • Chris

      Hey me2. This is an opinion piece/blog, not news, duh!

      March 28, 2012 at 12:12 am |
  5. He's crazy but right on this one point

    Beck may be crazy on many things, but I think he is right on this one thing. Everyone should do more to help their fellow neighbor. It hypocritical to criticize the government for not helping the homeless and the jobless but then not give a single hour or dollar ourselves to help.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  6. Rick

    IT IS EXTREME IMPORTANT FOR EVERY LEGAL INDIVIDUAL TO REGISTER TO VOTE. REPUBLICANS HAVE PASSED A LAW MAKING IT ILLEGAL FOR ANYONE TO SIGN YOU UP. tHE WOMEN LEAGUE OF VOTERS WILL NOT LONGER HAVE VOTER REGISTION DRIVES. IT IS ILLEGAL BECAUSE REPUBLICANS ARE SUPPRESSING THE VOTES IN FLORIDA. SO GO ON YOUR OWN TO AN TO REGISTER.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  7. mark

    Get rid of the tax deduction then we'll really see how much people will 'give'. Let's face it a lot of people give to lower their tax bills. More government subsidizing of the wealthy.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Provider29

      Not us: Wrong!! i give to those orgs where I see results. in most cases we never even report. Sorry.

      By teh way, my 5 year old daughter loves nothing more than giving her stuff to needy children. She blushes, smiles and is so happy to know she did it. She has no idea we can possibly deduct if we even can. That is the essence man. Give and don't report: see how that feels for you.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  8. glennbeckisafool

    So Beck is out of the mental hospital?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  9. peacedog

    let beck quit some of his meds and give to charity. any breaks in taxes stemming from reduced government will go to feed my family and pay for some health care in this house. why do i sense the formerfoxnut is about to come out with another book?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  10. Shut_It_Glenn_Beck

    I wish Glenn Beck, and his idiot friends Limbaugh, Levin and Hannity, would simply shut up. I can't believe people buy into the garbage that these idiots spew on a daily basis, and believe that what they are saying has merit. Crazy. All these guys care about is saying enough garbage to keep their sheeple listening, so they can get massive sponsors, so they can continue to make millions of dollars. If anyone believes that any of thee morons actually care about anything more than themselves and their wallets, really needs to have their heads examined. Seriously!

    March 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Brian

      Just curious on what you believe. Does your wealth really hurt or hinder those that are not as wealthy as you? Does your health hurt those that are not as healthy as you? I can not understand for the life of me why other peoples success is such a burden to your life.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Provider29

      You are simply another liberal that cannot take responsibility for yourself and change the dial or not download the article that you just read. This is clearly evident by the hate in your comment. Stifling dissent is exactly the opposite of what this Country stands for no matter the source. So go dig your hole, shut off the radio and continue to close up your mind. It may work for you, but not for all of us out here to listen intently to all sides and greatly appreciate the fact that we can. Or your can simply move to China, Iran, most countries in the Middle East and maybe now, Egypt. I prefer the former for you so we can still all here your comments. Thanks for reading this; I hope.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  11. Scot

    He's BAAAAAACK !

    March 27, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  12. Elmo

    I was like WOW! Satin has a editorial on CNN. Hey Glenn dont you have a war to start somewhere.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • popeye47

      I love how Glen quotes the scriptures. A true believer. After all the religious nuts read this, he could run for office. Praise god.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
  13. Nice Guys Finish Third

    Glen is whack!

    March 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • JoJo

      “I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
      “My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. ….. As a Christian ……I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.” Adolf Hitler

      March 27, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  15. Question for the Atheists

    How much of your time/money do you give to charities?

    1) .02%
    2) .05%
    3) 1%
    4) 5%
    5) >5%

    Note: 'Nothing' is also an acceptable answer.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Gokubi

      Per day? Week? Month? Which was one is it? Generally I try to do my part about once a week as well as I generally donate a solid amount a year (have since I was a kid). But does giving to charity really make you a better person? Being a good person goes way beyond just giving to charity, it's living a life of respecting everyone around you, loving friends and family and enjoying life.

      Then again, I guess you are the type of person who needs someone to watch in order to be good and do good work, because hey, if no one is watching, what's the point?

      March 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • JoJo

      I'm an agnostic Humanist. I've devoted my whole life to medical research and as a result make a lot less money I could otherwise make. I work long hours. My whole adult life I've continously given to charities what I can, both secular and sincere religious Charities. I've been financially sponsoring a child in Sri Lanka via the Christian Children's Fund/Child Fund for the past 7 years. I've pertormed unpaid volunteer services, especially free tutoring for the poor, on and off my whole adult life.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • Colin

      To state the gseemingly obvious, a rejection of a belief in a supernatural being, such as the Christian god, does not necessitate a rejection of morality or generosity. Generosity is no more predicated upon a belief in the supernatural than is athletic ability.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
    • dwech

      Question for Glenn Beck: How much do you give to charity?

      March 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • fred

      Colin
      33% of all giving in the U.S. in 2010 was to religious organizations. I doubt atheists give to religious organizations . Argue all you want but the numbers will not support your statement.
      Seeing you felt it necessary to mention Christians: Those who wish to follow Christ are to sell all their belongings and give to the poor. Generosity is a prediction of belief when it comes to true followers of Christ. Just because most Christians do not follow their belief does not change a key characteristic of a true Christian.
      Christians are to give their life to Christ. I imagine you do not see that as a predictor of charitable giving?

      March 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Answer for the Atheists

      Charitable giving is not a indicator of a life that is perfectly lived. Christians are called to be charitable and give a certain% of their income. A Christian's life is known more by their good works that includes charitable living. In terms of giving a widow's mite is what pleased the Lord.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  16. just sayin

    Glenn Beck knows cats. Deeply.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
  17. just sayin

    I get lonesome without cats. Maybe Glenn Beck would like to do my cats too.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  18. ELH

    Glenn Beck: Your rock is lonesome, please go crawl back under it and plague us no more.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  19. just sayin

    What is all this about cats?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  20. just sayin

    We should give more cats.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:10 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.