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. Glenn Beck

    This actually was not a bad piece by Beck. If he only knew how much more good he would do if he expressed his opinions civilly without attacking the worst of his listener-base's fears every day on the radio. This is how he should be conveying his message; not through the dregs and theatrics of the talk-radio format.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  2. J

    I find it personally offensive that the people who post here are criticizing Glenn Beck for encouraging people to give more charity. Whether it is because he wants to shrink government, or thinks that giving charity is his Christian duty, or even thinks that giving charity is a good way to make rich people feel better than poor people, giving charity is a good thing. It is a good thing whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or an atheist. So I don't care if a "divisive, hate-mongering, libelous, hypocritical, lying, mentally unstable" person encourages it. And I think that fact that you do shows a serious imbalance in your priorities as a human being,

    March 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • Carl in MI

      I criticize him because he's a hateful hypocrite! With all the hate that this guy spews... I'm going to give him a pat on the back THE ONE TIME he says something he should be saying EVERY TIME he has the chance on his shows instead of spewing the hate that he does? Glen Beck can bit me! He's been an absolute horrible person, and he'll get no absolution from me for FINALLY saying the right thing just this one time. And I guarantee tomorrow he'll go right back to spewing his hate again. That's why he deserves to be constantly criticized. As far as I know, he's faking it... the Beck who cried 'charity'... and I'm not buying it for a moment.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • J

      Then don't say anything. Do you know why? It is because you are not saying anything intelligent. You are just saying, "I hate Glenn Beck. He is a liar/hypocrite, etc. Wah, wah, boo hoo." You have nothing better to do than read CNN articles written by people you hate, then take your time to comment on the article, and in commenting have nothing more to say than "I hate Glenn Beck." Get a life.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Carl in MI

      @ 'J' – Who said anything about 'hating', besides YOU? I never said I hated Glen Beck. I said he's a hypocrite for posting this editorial when tomorrow he'll go right back to spewing his hate. And all his 'charity' money comes from ill-gotten gains from schilling for gold coins. I don't hate him... I'm just exposing his actions for the fraud that he is. I hope he changes his ways tomorrow and truly becomes sincere about what he states above... but he's not going to do that AND THAT'S WHY I'M CALLING HIM OUT ON IT. I am a political scholar, so this IS my life... following politics. Tell me, 'J'... what is your life? Maybe YOU need to get a life and give up defending right-wing hypocrites and inciting 'hate'...

      March 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Chris

      Carl in MI, can you please site one person/thing that Glen Beck spews hate about? You say he spews hate constantly, so this shouldn't be hard for you. Oh, and by the way, everything and everyone are not acceptable answers.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  3. Carl in MI

    How much did YOU donate, Glen, over the years? Let's see YOUR numbers on how much YOU give! And how many people have lost money due to all the gold coins you have pushed on your shows? When it comes to being charitable and concern for the social welfare of American Citizens... you are one of the LAST people I would ever consider taking advice from! Please go back into hiding...

    March 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • 1954Nana

      He has given out what percentages he gives and it puts to shame any liberal's giving –

      March 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Carl in MI

      @1954Nana – with all the millions his gold coin-schilling deals have netted him... he can afford to give and give and give and still come out being millions ahead! He's giving a percentage of that ill-gained money to charity... and I'm supposed to be impressed with his act of goodness and his giving out of the kindness of his heart? You keep drinking that Beck Kool-Aid... I've been watching this guy like a hawk for over a decade and have yet to see any human decency come from this man's actions that aren't profit or politically motivated. Wake up and smell the hypocrisy...

      March 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
  4. David R

    Nobody cares about what Glenn Beck says, does, or "thinks."

    March 27, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • 1954Nana

      Then why did you read the article and take the time to comment. If I don't care about something or someone I don't waste time on it.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  5. ddblah

    Yes, give to church, let religion tell us what to do.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • 1954Nana

      Silly remark. Not all charities are run by religious organizations, although a lot are. I'd rather give to a charity of my choice than have the government pick and choose, not the government's job to either be a charity or chose which charities to give to.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  6. evensteven

    Says the man who's worth tens of millions . . .

    March 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • trotter54

      Who gives a lot more than you do to charity.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  7. Brad

    Maybe Glenn should go complain on his show... oh wait... low ratings... cancelled.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
  8. mrrationalhbg

    There is more waste in most charities than in government. What an idiot. The Kony 2012 guy for example spent only 30 percent of all donations on the actual charity.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • ddblah

      Most charitable giving is actually church donation.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  9. Saboth

    So a guy who made a career out of spewing lies and hatred (with very little facts to back any of his "arguments" up, just like your typical Fox "reporter" or "columnist") is now telling us all we need to be caring and giving. Yeah...I don't think so.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Chris

      As with previous posters, site one lie or proof of hatred that Glen Beck has spewed. Thank you.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:25 am |
  10. Horrifed

    I cannot believe this clown and leader of paranoid idiots is on CNN.
    It makes me wonder if I should question what other information on CNN is from dubious sources.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • Put yer money where yer mouth is

      You missed reading the article, eh?

      Payers change things.

      (not guaranteed, but 100% more of a chance than your mumblings to imaginary beings)

      March 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • smeeker

      Yeah right

      March 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  12. SensibleJoe

    Mr. Beck, Jesus paid his taxes (Matthew 17:24-27) and the Bible tells Christians: "Pay your taxes" (Romans 13:7). (And to think, Paul the apostle wrote those words about a pagan Roman dictatorship persecuting Christians, while we live in the comparative comfort of a democratic republic with civil liberties, social mobility and economic opportunity!) So quit your whining and give back to the social order from which you have reaped so much - and after paying your fair share of taxes for the common good, give even more to charity! Heaven knows you're good for the money! And don't worry about deducting your charity on your tax return - plenty of Christians don't. They think doing so violates Jesus' teaching about "not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing" (Matthew 6:3) when giving away charity. Giving for the common good in humility, anonymity and silence - can you dig it?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • I smell Beck-on


      March 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  13. asya

    so when did Beck start believing in "social justice"?

    March 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Chris

      I think he's said plenty of times that being against "social justice" is not being against charity or helping others. He is, however, against the form of social justice that says, give everything to the government, and let them, in their infinite wisdom, decide what to do with it, because we all know that regardless of how hard you work, everyone deserves the same things.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  14. I smell Beck-on

    Hey Glen, God told me, to tell you, to pay my end!
    Thanks pal !

    March 27, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
  15. katahdin

    Why do the American people need spiritual guidance from the divisive, hate-mongering, libelous, hypocritical, lying, mentally unstable demagogue Glen Beck?
    This man is simply an opportunistic user. Just because he weaseled his way to wealth and fame by his rampant dishonesty does not give him the right to give moral instruction to anyone.
    I'd rather heed the moral counsel of Snooki.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • Mary

      Like, like, like, like...(no like option on this page...)
      Please, CNN, if the Beck is all you've got then give us nothing.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  16. Caramba

    Like conservatives are a most charitable lot.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • hilarious

      Not a single demographic is LESS giving than the liberal demographic. For them it's all about the "ME ME ME".

      March 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm sure you can cite stats and sources, can't you?

      Go right ahead. I am not willing to take the word of some moron for it.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Come on, hilarious, it shouldn't take you more than a second or two to come up with supporting citations, since you claim it's just so obviously true that liberals give less than any other faction.

      What's holding you up? Spandex?

      March 27, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
  17. Miss Demeanor

    Beck, thrown off a decidedly right-leaning network because of his monumentally poor judgement, now claims to be our self-appointed spiritual leader? No thanks. I can't wait to read your next 'divinely inspired' book... maybe something like: The Anglo Race Will Find Gawwwwwd's Grace'... CNN, please don't give this clown a microphone... his old network took it away for a good reason...

    March 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • Elaine Cantalupo

      In our town Ollies Bargain Store has a lot of Beck and Palin's books for only $2.98. I read that Palin's Pac bought like fifty thousands copiess of her ghost-written books. These books are being printed by rightwing publishers like the one that Gingrich owns.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  18. Mark

    So glad I wrote to CNN and told them they should fire Glenn Beck, right before they DID. Sometimes it does pay to make your voice heard.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  19. Brian

    Just curious on what any of 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. You are just as bad as the one's you despise. Go on with your life and be happy. BE FOR SOMETHING AND STOP BEING AGAINST EVERYTHING. It must be really tiring to be people like you.

    March 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Elaine Cantalupo

      Bryan you should send that advice to Beck. He can't stay the hell out of our lives and he pollutes the civility like no other.
      I just wish all of those frauds like him would go on with his life and shut up. He has nothing civili to say and we're sick of his lying mouth.

      March 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • Brian

      Just name one lie. Just one. Back it up? You can't. You won't. Your sad.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:35 am |
  20. Keyboard Cat

    Do it!

    March 27, 2012 at 9:36 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.