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. Jesus was a Socialist

    Glenn Beck is a charity case. He has like mental issues from years of drinking. Bless his sociopathic, demented heart.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  2. EZ

    Mr. Beck,
    Please remember that charity is, in fact, the act of being charitable. As it relates to philanthropy, Charity is defined by "TheFreeDictionary" as the "voluntary activity of or disposition towards donating money, property, or services to the needy or for general social betterment". Heavy emphasis is on the word "voluntary." I believe that you are confusing taxation (which is not voluntary, much to your chagrin I expect) with charity. It is likely that much of Mr. Romney's "charity" is a means to reduce his taxable income. But be that as it may, we as a society have absolutely no business judging other people's charitable contributions, as they are a very personal (and likely financial) choice, and most importantly it is a VOLUNTARY decision.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  3. NFLD thought

    Why in the world is CNN giving any space or time to this pill-poppin bigoted drunk? By giving him a forum you are only condoning the spewing of his hatred and insane views.
    Please let this be the last time we see or here from him and let him head to Alaska and hang with the almighty Sarah for a spell.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  4. Dave

    Beck, like his sycophant, Santorum, remains insane and out of the mainstream by a long shot. That being said, he managed to elicit a dialogue that shows occasional light shines into the window of his padded cell.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  5. cog in the wheel

    I am sick of charities paying execs "CEO" level salaries. The recent squabble over Komen is a perfect example....70% of contributions go to marketing or salaries, and only 30% actually spent for its intended purpose. In my view, government does a much better job of helping everyone.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  6. Obediah

    1. Glenn beck is the most demented, depraved, and sociopathic of all the GOPropagandists – and that is saying quite a lot. He absolutely despises humanity. He believes nothing that he says. CNN should be ashamed for pretending it doesn't fully agree.

    2. Pretty much the entire premise of government is that if you leave everything as voluntary, little will get done because every individual is better off letting other people do the volunteering. Worse yet, if you combine this principle with capitalism, property rights, and rent- seeking, the rich will get richer and the poor poorer until one day there is barely more than a handful of people who can even afford to volunteer or donate anything.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  7. jake

    Like I am going to give a damn thing to the godless Mormons. Ask a Mormon why they don't have crosses in the Mormon church. They actually believe that the Christian cross is a pagan symbol. It's time for the Mormons to understand that the United States is a Christian nation.

    Mitt Romney is a leading bishop in the Mormon church. Do you really believe this guy would treat non Mormons faiirly.
    I think not!!!!!!!!!!

    March 28, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • BernieFeynman

      This a joke right? Why are people so chocked up with their imaginary friend up there and big bibles. There is no place for church in the state. Rick Santorum is a complete looney who only says half the stuff to try to get those conservative hicks in the boonies to vote for him. I do not like Romney, but the thing is he never brings up his Mormonism, primarily because he isn't preaching it however he cannot just leave the lifestyle that he grew up in, it is something he is used to and will always be, but he's not using it as a boon for his campaign, not that it would be one but still

      March 28, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  8. James Jones

    I do agree with Mr Beck that charity is important. However, I think that just charity is an inadequate response and this is why. Sometimes people need help that we don't like and/or causes that aren't especially interesting. For example, do you think that Mr Beck would give one dime to any LGBT related cause? Of course not. Or how about the CDC? Even though that is super critical, it isn't anywhere near as easy to promote as helping the homeless.

    And as a private citizen making charitable contributions it is his right to pick and choose what he does and does not give to but that doesn't mean that the things that need to be funded somehow no longer need to be funded.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"Mr Beck would give one dime to any LGBT related cause?"

      Hmm... and Obama got into office and did what for LGBT causes? Who overturned Don't Ask Don't Tell?

      March 28, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  9. LH20

    "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."

    Actually Jesus DID say give to Cesar what is Cesar's and in the context of that time, the Roman tax was used to persecute the Jews (including imprisoning them)

    March 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  10. BernieFeynman

    Please, no one should read this article, and CNN needs to stop posting his crap. Its become like Weekly World News he's just saying whatever he can to stay on air and popular. When he gives his numbers theyre crunched undoubtedly in a way to make his argument appear better. Speaking of Obama's donations... Obama doesn't make that much money, the most money he has came from his book that he wrote. On the other hand we see Romney who has more money than the last four presidents combined, he's just trying to push some pointless agenda. Plus he supports Santorum which obviously shows how illogical he is.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • kessass

      and finally Glenn Beck worth 100 million and in the first place we should ask how he made this money and did he deceit his listeners in one way or the other to earn this money.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"When he gives his numbers theyre crunched undoubtedly in a way to make his argument appear better."

      Well, then you have just taken aim at the majority of politicians on both sides. In fact, the crunching of numbers to make an argument appear more valid is done by pretty much everyone on this planet. From the Environment, true employment numbers to car makers and fast food chains.

      Why then should folks like Beck be any different than someone like the President or Rush Limbaugh?/

      March 28, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"and in the first place we should ask how he made this money"

      What about people on the other side of the aisle or should we just go Gestapo on those on the Right or folks we do not care for their views and politics?

      March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  11. sathya

    When Republican Govt comes to Power, we'll definitely do that.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
  12. Ironic

    Wow, what an angry group we have here! So much hate towards Christians yet calling them the haters. Anyone else see this as ironic? The government does NOT use money efficiently ever. You are much better giving it directly to a charity. There is less red tape, administrative costs, and just plain waste. Are you really that clueless? I see it at the state level, and it only gets worse at the federal level. As far as Christian organizations. Is it really so horrible that they feed the poor? You may not believe in God, but like it or not Christian Charities do a lot of disaster relief and feeding people in countries you haven't even heard of. Everyone is so generous with other people's money. "Let the rich people pay for it." If everyone gave SOMETHING no matter how small, this world would be a very different place. We wouldn't need rely on the government. We should be taking care of our fellow citizens. It's OUR job. It's not the government's job. Those of you sitting on your high horse criticizing others while not donating your time or money should try it. Maybe it would make you a little less angry.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Hadenuffyet

      I tend to agree , but take it one step further and privately "adopt" a family to help get a leg up. But be careful , there are many predators out there who live to take advantage of one's good will. How many have seen the guy in the wheelchair at the intersection holding the sign "Will Work For Food" when it is discovered that he's just one of many "recruits" to play on peoples good will.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • beren14

      "The government does NOT use money effeciently ever." directly from your comment – I believe you need to take a look at the reality of your statement.

      Lets consider the following:
      Taxes are very low (by comparison) in the majority of 3rd world countries and those countries are by definition "3rd world".

      Taxes are very high (by comparison) in all of the countries that are economic superpowers.
      Taxes are used to protect and promote trade and get more people involved in the economic development.

      I don't believe that your premise is accurate...I would say it is actually false.

      Now, I am not trying to say there isn't waste. There is always waste and use of money for anything (including by private industry) can always be better. However, an argument that is based on a false premise is not able to be used to draw any conclusion of value.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  13. Sniffit

    Go to hell, Glenn Beck. Don't yuo have a conspiracy theory to chart on your balckboard or something? Take your tinfoil hat and gtfo.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  14. pierce

    Who is Glenn Beck?

    March 28, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  15. Gary Oppenheimer

    AmpleHarvest.org (www.AmpleHarvest.org) actually gives people the opportunity to help eliminate hunger and malnutrition in America two separate ways:

    They can reach into their backyard, or they can reach into their back pocket. Or both.

    As seen on CNN Heroes (www.AmpleHarvest.org/cnn), AmpleHarvest.org enables millions of home gardeners nationwide to donate excess garden produce to local food pantries – especially important because food pantries almost never have fresh food. At the same time, people can also donate directly to AmpleHarvest.org (www.AmpleHarvest.org/donate) to help support getting more food to more food pantries.

    AmpleHarvest.org is helping to take the work of feeding needy American families out of Washington and move it into the community... where much of the food is already available... and free.

    Visit http://www.AmpleHarvest.org/TED and http://www.AmpleHarvest.org/waystohelp to learn more.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  16. Michael

    Charities are the worst way to diseminate money from those who have to those who dont have.
    over 90% of every dollar (or other currency globally) donated, 25 to 40% goes to the collector/collection system and the remainder is eatten up by head office Admin Fee's (ie. CEO Salary and expenses)- less than 10% actually goes to the cause. If a person pays tax, 90% goes to the cause. I have worked for Charities and will never work for any charity again. When the CEO's cell phone bill each month was more than the amount she gave out in Kidney funds to patients. It was stomach turning revolting. People who say that charities are great and wonderful are just repeating the propaganda of the upper 1%, they only perpetuate it because they can get a tax write off for their donation and the charities are all run by the old boys network/cronyism/nepotism. Jobs for people of limited intelligence who would not have the ability to flip burgers at McD but are given 6 and 7 figure salaries to 'run' the charities.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • J.W

      What charily did you work for?

      March 28, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • glyder

      yeah,all charities are that way.not one is different......phhht!

      March 28, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • dike

      Depends on the charity. many nonprofits have 90+% going to the cause. If I had a choice of giving to the government for a war or a charity of my choice I'll pick the charity. I always like to give a % to st.Jude, just for the cause.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • J.W

      I just looked at the charity I usually give to it says 90% for programs, 8% administrative, and 2% fund-raising.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Gail Woznak

      Yes, I agree, some charities are run by paid individuals. It is not correct to group all charities together, they are all run quite differently. Rotary International is a good example...Rotary does amazing things both for the community and for the world. It's so easy to make assumptions and assessments but not have facts to substantiate your comments.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  17. kamana kapu

    First things first: What is the definition of a 'charity'? I define a 'charity' as an organization that ONLY distributes its funds AND dose not solicit funds from any source. Everything else is just a hustle. The religious 'charities', for example, solicit funds from the public, keep 85% of the 'take' for themselves and, as a public relation gesture, 'gives' the remainder to the poor.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Hadenuffyet

      And your source for this "fact" is.....

      March 28, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • Ancient Curse

      @hadenuffyet - the Better Business Bureau keeps detailed records of what happens to the money received by charities. I suggest you look into those numbers. They back up what kamana is saying. And now you know.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • slobro

      Thats complete BS, Catholic Charities gives away 95% of the money brought in. Anything less than 80% given back is a scam. If you don't solicit money, how do you get funds?

      March 28, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Was just asking , many spout "fact" with no reference whatsoever....

      March 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Bob

      I agree with the concept but your numbert are high, The worst I found was the American Tract Society (based in Texas, distributes religious literature to spread its message around the world) which used 68% of donations for their Administrative expenses. passing along 32% to the needy

      March 28, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  18. Mike1

    Although I am not a Beck fan, I agree with him here. Unfortunately, one of the main differences between the liberal and conservative philosophies is that conservative's believe it is their personal responsibility to help care for mankind and liberals believe that it is a collective responsibility. This means that a conservative will give to charity themselves and liberals would rather pay the government to be responsible for it.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Maybe selfishness is more widespread than you know.....

      March 28, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • JustLiberty

      The conservative approach is one that relies on human freedom to do good. The liberal approach is one that relies on the government's ability to limit human freedom by just taking material goods and redistributing them. Maybe the latter is a good thing up to some point, but surely it should be limited.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  19. GRS62

    I won't even bother reading this article. Beck is a media wh0re who's "found religion" to sustain his 15 minutes of fame. Fake tears and twisted views are all he has left.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • slobro

      How open minded of you

      March 28, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • BernieFeynman

      actually that is so accurate. I cannot comprehend how anyone who has the ability to vote is able to watch him. He preaches the dumbest things ever, among them infusing religion with politics. This country needs more than ever to have separation of church and state, do you see other countries that arent like that? Yeah, they're in the middle east and are torn up with unrest and civil wars. He needs to be gone

      March 28, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • GRS62

      slobro: It's a personal choice and I simply explained why. Don't like it? That's your problem. I'll read what I want, you chime in whenever you feel like it.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  20. Jomm

    I do not like Glenn Beck because 90% of the nonsense that comes out of his mouth is stupid;however, I agree with him on this one.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:18 am |
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