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. fglenbeck

    Glen Beck. Enough said. He doesn't matter. He will always spout whatever he is supposed to spout.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Just like network news, HuffPo and Slate. Does that means they're all lying? Wait a second -

      March 28, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  2. Mel Ford

    Let me know when the charities will be paving your road, policing your streets, putting out fires and fighting your wars, Glenn.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Better still, let me know when charities will be educating other people's children in neighborhoods that aren't wealthy, paving roads in rural areas far from your home, and providing health care to those who don't have full-time jobs like yours.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Raymond

      I'm on team Mel!

      March 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • working americans

      Working Americans like GLENN does that, moron. Unlike the vast majority of unemployed idiot liberals who pay no taxes.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, get off it, you dolt. I'm a liberal and I am in the top tax bracket. Go suck on that for a while.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • working americans

      Ya you sure sound like it. Get to work loser.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I take it you are making minimum wage, have no more than a high school diploma, if that, and never had the time of day for education. Am I right?

      March 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I wonder, honey, what exactly do you think your idol Glenn does that qualifies as 'work'?

      March 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • working americans

      See what can happen when I stoop to the liberal mindset but tell the truth instead of lying? Yea I know, it hurts. That's ok, my taxes will allow you to keep smoking your cigarettes, drinking your booze, and spend all night replying on forums.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And my taxes allow you to... do precisely the same. So?

      Geez, you're an idjit.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  3. lwampach

    If Beck is truly concerned about the public and hard times that people face, why doesn't he make his GBTV free for awhile instead of raking in millions of dollars? Frankly, I would hate to see that; no need to give away all of that hate, fear and anger. He spews enough of that for free on the radio anyway. Hopefully, people will start to see that his "predictions" NEVER come true and never will. He's just like those preachers who predict the end of the world and when it doesn't happen, claim that it will happen next year . . . then the next year . . .and people still keep throwing money at him.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Duster4X

      He does give GBTV away for free trials. 14 to 30 days depending on the marketing cycle

      March 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  4. Bryan Kirchoff

    As is so often the case, practices of traditional morality (in this case, charitable giving) make for a better society; specifically:

    1) Charities spend their income on necessities, such as food and utilities, which ever-so-slightly re-orients our economy toward recession-resistant products, rather than luxuries
    2) Charities spend their money quickly, but on independent schedules, making for a smoother stimulus effect on the economy
    3) Charities make purchases tax-free, meaning that $1 spent by a charity generates a full $1 of private economic activity; furthermore, much of those tax revenues are recovered as income tax on the grocery stores, utility companies, etc. that might not have received that income otherwise
    4) Charitable giving is by far the most democratic way to improve society; from birth control to bombers, government assuredly spends money on something you don't like, and charitable giving restores your say-so
    5) Charitable donations are tax deductible, meaning you keep those tax dollars in your local community
    6) Charitable donations provide the funds necessary for volunteers to serve the needy, thus giving "the average citizen" a chance to meet and interact with the needy, breaking down stereotypes

    I am not calling for cuts to government programs as of now – they are necessary for so many people's basic survival – but Mr. Beck does have a pertinent point: voting to tax someone else (typically wealthier than us) to provide assistance does not necessarily demonstrate a society that "cares" – much more caring is a society that willingly donates those funds to charities they have taken the time to research, and more caring still if the members of that society take the time to volunteer to administer that aid. A caring society should be evolving toward the latter, but we seem to be headed for the former.

    Bryan Kirchoff
    St. Louis

    March 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
    • teedofftaxpayer

      And most Charities spend most of their money on the top heavy over priced management. If you truely want to help someone, go to your local Senior Center and give money to those in need. Trust me, they would appreciate it more and there will be move value for the dollar. Stop wasting the money by giving it to over priced managed charities.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  5. 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 10:42 pm |
  6. paganguy

    Glen Beck, Just shut up and sit down.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, if only he would. I might believe in God.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  7. Robita

    If you believe this I have a bridge to sell you. Oh wait the bridge is falling appart because the rich don't pay their fair share. First off, if you give to charity you get to pick if you would like to give your money to a crazy cult church or even the KKK. When we pay taxes we at least get a better change of the money going to things we need.... That's all I can stand to say, if you don't understand why this guy is full of it, I don't even know what we can do to help you.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      March 27, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Robita, that could be the dumbest comment I have seen posted yet. You're trying to tell me that, by giving more money to the government, to waste how they choose, I am better off than giving to the salvation army to help people in my community?

      Everyone is spouting on about charities and their high administrative costs. Here's the thing though....I can choose which charity to give to and avoid those that don't spend money on helping people. Has anyone on here complained about outrageous government salaries? Guess what those are people, high administrative costs! How many times do we have to read stories (no, not on fox news) about millions of dollars going to this or that project, just to have it fold? Or the program to help winterize houses, didn't that one help a fraction of the people it was supposed to, but had a ton of money going to buy furniture for new offices for the people overseeing the project?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  8. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    The fact is that people give only for one reason: it makes them feel good.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • My Take

      What a pathetic excuse for not giving.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You are mistaken. I give quite generously. I simply don't delude myself about the reasons I do so.

      You, apparently, do.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • working americans

      Ya, you generously give your idiotic opinion, give your blank resume to no one, and give us taxpayers someone else to support.

      That's about all you give you aint foolin no one.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nope. I work and pay taxes, and far more than you do, for certain.

      Anything else, goober?

      March 27, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • working americans

      If you were even half intelligent you'd have changed your name in your many replies. One look through it's quite obvious where you are in the workforce – no where to be seen, and gladly unheard of.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What would my screen name have to do with anything? How would it indicate 'where I am' in the workforce?

      March 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Raymond

      Just like a conservative! Call yourself "working americans" and, suddenly, in your mind, you actually represent the voice of working Americans. Your grammar and terrible writing are a dead giveaway; if you are actually working, it's not someplace smart people work.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'm sorry about that, sweetie. Just because I can't write two sentences without throwing banal childish insults at you doesn't necessarily mean that I'm a caustic, insincere troll. Or does it? You'll have to smarten up and figure it out for yourself, dipstick.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:09 am |
  9. claudeheater

    Romney wouldn't be allowed to wear his Mormon 'magic underware' if he didn't give 10% to the Mormon Church. The question is 10% of what, his salary, 10% on his capital gains? 10% on his Family Trust Accounts, on his Cayman Island Corporations? If it is just on Romney's salary, he Biden and Santorum may not be that far off.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  10. CeeJaa

    Why in the world give this guy any print space?? He was thrown off TV after all his sponsors deserted him for his bigoted, radical views and comments. I thought he was tucked away somewhere where he couldn't hurt anybody!

    March 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Chris

      Yep, all those sponsors just up and left. I'm so glad I don't have to listen to those annoying commercials during his radio program either...oh, wait...he's talking about his sponsors constantly, guess they didn't all up an leave when he got "kicked off" TV.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  11. Julie

    Almost the best idea I've heard from this guy.. we should all do what we can to help those less fortunate than myself.. and it should come from our heart, but not because we compare our personal giving to our politicians' giving. And I'll tell you what Glenn Beck, when we start doing that and the social need is reduced, I'll bet the government will be able to step back and no longer need to assist where our cheerful giving fails those who need a social safety net.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Gee. And why hasn't this already happened? Do you really think your hero is going to inspire people to give more? Why would they, if they aren't already doing so?

      Do you really think Glenn is THAT charming?

      March 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  12. drew

    Just make sure the money goes to the actual charity. Some places call you up for donations and only a small amount goes to the actual charity because a 3rd party is calling to get the donation.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
  13. 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 pr politically motivated. Wake up and smell the hypocrisy...

    March 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Nah

      The absurdity of your comment is sad, really.

      Dogmatic liberalism hasn't done you much good.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Raymond

      Actually, dogmatic liberalism has done us all some good. A great deal of good, in fact. It: created welfare, medicare,medicaid, the GI Bill, gave women the vote, Roe vs. Wade, Civil Rights Act, Voting RIghts Act, put men on the moon, ended WWII in Europe and the Pacific, and made the world an all-around better place. Conservative thinking/actions have given us NONE of those things. When we think of the greatness of America, we're thinking about dogmatic liberalism, amigo.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Carl in MI

      @Nah – It's doesn't take much absurdity or sadness to expose right-wing frauds and fanatics like you and Beck. It's good to know that there are those like you that will always fall for the "Beck who cried 'Charity'..." otherwise politics would be extremely boring.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
  14. Jim F

    People only give to people,places or things that they care about, not everyone. Relaying on Charity to help ease the burdens afflicting people as a result of our politics or economic system is just plain wrong. I have a better idea Glen Beck..Why don't we put the military on a charitable budget and let the people of this nation be "Fully" funded.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Matt

      Not true.

      Many people, myself included, give to blanket organizations and let them determine where it's most needed. Catholic Charities has a pretty good track record in this regard for starters.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  15. Carrie

    I work for a charity. Most of our money comes from grants from the government, not from thoughtful people donating a few bucks when they can. Large charities which are truly effective are very tied to the government. So you really have no point.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Matt

      Please name the charity. This will come as news to a lot of people so please elaborate a bit.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Scott

      Hi Carrie,
      First off, thank you for your service in a charitable organization. I've given some time and help to charities, and I believe that people who devote themselves to charitable works are just amazing people.
      As for your comment, your organization is very fortunate to be funded mostly through federal grants, but your situation is hardly common. Grassroots organizations that are built to address the specific needs of their communities often are solely dependent on giving within their communities, either by seeking the help of individuals or businesses in the area. Private sector giving was $291 billion last year with 73% of that coming from Individuals.
      Beck's point is that if you're going to be a conservative, then that comes with responsibilities. The main one being that less government services = more need for charities and nonprofits to provide services to the truly needy. It's a more efficient system, but in order for it to work, people need to give to charities.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  16. DSM-V Religious: Thought Disorder

    CNN, please consider your readership before posting pieces by the likes of Mr. Beck.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, I'm sure CNN does. Most of the readers are idiots. Witness this blog.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Thomas Raguspaghetti

      Before he went to FOX, Beck worked at CNN for 2 1/2 years, which is about 2 months longer than he worked for FOX, before heading into his present obscurity.

      I guess the only way you can explain all this is that shit rolls downhill. However, considering the places, it is a very shallow hill.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      But I actually really liked him when he was on CNN. It's just when he went to Fox that he turned into an idijt.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:11 am |
  17. Payers change things

    Payers change things. Prayers do not.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  18. jk from MN

    This from a man who was pushing his listeners to invest in Goldline gold. I wouldn't take any advice from this guy.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
  19. Payers change things

    Payers do. Prayers do not.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  20. John

    I give to the American Cancer Society, Alzheimer's Association, American Heart Association, PBS, American Diabetes Association, etc. I want to give to charities that will benefit others directly with their health or education. I do not want to give money to religious charities knowing that some or all off the money will simply go to promoting religious dogma.

    March 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
    • Nah

      Your open mindedness and tolerance are a wonder to behold.

      Are you this bigoted and dogmatic in all your beliefs?

      March 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Carrie

      I work for a Catholic charity and literally not once have we ever prayed at work or talked about the church. We are funded by the diocese to do good work. We serve people regardless of their faith. You shouldn't speak about things you don't know anything about. The Catholic Church, flaws and all, does more charity than any other non profit in the world.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Raymond

      I'm with you, John. Bigoted and dogmatic? Wow, Nah...impressive use of the ad hominem attack! John is right, though. Giving to religious charities seeks to draw church and state closer together. A definite no-no in my book. I'm far more comfortable giving money to government and then voting someone out of office if I don't like what they do with it. With religious charities, I have little control over what they use it for. Also, the Catholic church is anti-intellectual, anti-woman, and anti-science, so I wouldn't be so quick to sing it's praises if I were you, Carrie.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • Matt

      John, I'm sorry but that's just nonsense. You obviously don't know how these organizations operate.

      Instead of posting here, I suggest you volunteer some time to find out for yourself. I think you'd find that the emphasis is on the works.

      March 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • Raymond

      I've got a great idea, Matt. Instead of just saying that religious charities don't work like that...why don't you prove that they don't work like that? Whether the emphasis is on the works or not, a religious agenda gets strengthened when you give to a religious charity. Sorry, this is a fact.

      March 27, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Re: idiot above claiming it is bigoted and dogmatic not to give to a believer charity, if it is ok for believers to argue that no money should be given to Planned Parenthood because it mind find its way to the part of PP that provides abortions (70+% of which are for believers in th USA), it is ok for non-believers to argue that donations to a cult based charity might find their way to the cult's indoctrination division.

      I make most of my charitable donations via richarddawkins.net.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • .

      Donate to richarddawkins.net ?
      How is that better than giving money to a church? Worse yet you could feed actua hungry with that money. So, how would your money be better spent by dawkins

      March 28, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • HotAirAce

      richarddawkins.net forwards every cent to Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross and other agencies, no religious strings attached, building a record of donations by atheists that believers say does happen. Reducing the world's dependency on cult based organizations is always a good thing to do.

      March 28, 2012 at 1:18 am |
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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.