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. Joe

    The best reason to donate to charity vs giving in taxes, aside from having more choice about what cause your money goes to, is that charities by and large are operated by people who truly want to help individuals, not beurocrats who just want to get re-elected. Guess how many forms you have to fill out to get a meal at a Catholic charity? How many weeks of waiting does it take to get aid from the LDS (Mormon) church in an emergency?
    As with everything, the private sector is better at their job than the government.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  2. Joe

    Using that logic, people should buy more lottery tickets.

    March 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Joe

      ... when did I say this?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  3. S. K. Bernard

    Beck has spread so much misinformation, and has shown himself to be so hateful, that CNN.com cheapens itself by associating with him.

    Let's not pretend this is some magnanimous gesture in the name of civil liberties or free speech on CNN.com's part: You could have done better.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Joe

      Would you rather have another op-ed piece by Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson on the Trayvon Martin case?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  4. Scholar

    There are effective charities and those that spend most of their donations in supporting their infrastructure with professional fund raisers whose goal in life is just to keep on earning their own personal income.

    Find charities that are 501(c)(3) and that have under 10 percent fund raising and administrative expenses and that is reasonable. Do your homework. Ask the organization about their expenses and dismiss those that won't divulge their finances.

    One organization in the Washington DC area is Brother, Help Thyself, Inc. This is a gay charity that raises funds within the gay community and that funds those programs that are truly helpful to the area communities, such as a meals on wheels program run by a church, the Visiting Nurse Assoc of the areas that provide needed medical assistance to shut-ins and so on. The recipients of the funds are mostly groups that receive no government funds, only donations from the public at large. The BHT, Inc fund raising and administrative costs are very low, under 6 percent, due to being staffed by volunteers, and the costs are those for materials to publicize activities and conduct fund raising events for the community. This is the community giving to the community.

    Local groups can be staffed by volunteers, but larger groups and organizations require permanent staff to run their charities.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  5. Bilbo

    I'll do the exact opposite of whatever Glen Beck says to do...he's a nut job.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  6. john

    Yeeeeahh suuuurreee ! Im sooo sure that the 1%, who isnt now paying enough to the government, would all of a sudden start pulling out their wallets to the church. Those penny pinchers are more interrested in how they can save and make money and could care less about giving to the church. Glenn Beck your a moron. Nobody liked you before and they still dont mow so do us all a favor and go away ! Come on CNN cant we find more intelligent people to write stories ???

    March 28, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Joe

      Think long and hard about that next time you hear a concert at Carnegie hall. Or go to pretty much any building on a college campus, which is usually named after the "penny pincher" who donated the money, land or building materials to make the thing.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • ericgoestoholland

      Hear, hear!

      March 28, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • john

      So Joe where does the 50,000 dollars that every student pay for tuition go towards ??? Teachers ??? I thnk not buddy if they are paying that much money they sure as heck dont need a "charitable donation" which is a tax write off, to pay for one of their buildings!!! And when is the last time you went to a FREE concert ??? 1970 ???

      March 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Troy

      Robber barons donated to schools, libraries, museums, etc. to make a better America because they knew that an educated and cultured population would make more money to buy more stuff to make the robber barons more money. It was an investment in the future. Now we ship all the jobs overseas and sell our Chinese made crap to the world. The 1% don't need America anymore (outside of soldiers, greens-keepers, and service industry). Don't count on sending your kids to Koch University or the Lee Raymonmd municipal Library.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  7. Robin

    Just because it doesn't show up on a tax return, doesn't mean an individual isn't giving. My husband and I are the most financially secure in our extended family. Each month we help support our parents. In addition, I can't count the number of rent deposits, moving expenses, car payments, etc we've made over the years for other members of our family who have trouble creating an emergency fund due to low wages. I believe you should make sure your immediate family has their needs met first, your extended family second, then to individuals in need in your local community, and then finally to charity. I don't want to give my money to the government or oftentimes a charity (unless I know specifically how the $ is being spent) and have them decide who gets it.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Tanner

      Good observation. For all intents and purposes, I think it is pretty much the same as the one that Glenn Beck is making. The Government is taking money from us that could be used to support our family, community and country and using it to support our families, communities and country less efficiently.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  8. JustIn

    The author Beck waxes himself vigorously about his support for Santorum, but he has been doing a lot of shrinking lately and hasn't been able to do any giving. Beck would sure like to get behind Rick Santorum and give him his solid support, but until he comes more openly about all the stimulus that has gone into his package, we won't know for sure that he's a real Republican and a true evangelical Christian. No matter how oral he gets on Romney, Romney is still just getting a head.

    No way has Santorum been able to get out and on top of Romney so far despite his occasional thrusts in the south. There's no way Romney should be going soft on him at this stage, either. The messy climax is not far off in this little erection campaign and you can learn about it here at http://santorum.com

    March 28, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • rick santorumtwit... America's favorite frothy mix

      Ha ha... you took the words right out of Rick's mouth... so to speak.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  9. mb2010a

    Actually, the Bible does say to pay your taxes. Jesus said "Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar's." meaning, pay your taxes to Rome.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Tanner

      Good point. Still, Caesar shouldn't ask for so much :p

      March 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  10. Deez

    Glenn Beck is the very definition of a terrible person. A cancer to society. Him, Limbaugh, and the KKK need to take their hate and ignorance off a short plank.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • icenvon

      and so should you

      March 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 28, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Really

      Interesting since I never see a pack of lionesses pray before they rip an animal apart. But they do gather in a family setting to feast.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • mb2010a

      Proof...we need proof.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Dean

      nd just what was so hateful(other than your comment)about his article?

      March 28, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • mb2010a

      The lions do "prey" before the kill...

      March 28, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Joe

      reflection and meditation may cleanse your mind or increase focus or whatever if that is what you mean... But praying??? its a waste of time.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things,
      Proven !

      March 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  12. curt

    The government already takes all my money I have nothing to give to charity... I will be charity shortly at this rate.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • closet atheist

      I hear that... living in NYC, I pay out almost 50% (fed, state, city)....

      March 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  13. Greg Morgan

    Couldn't CNN find a sane person to offer a conservative opinion piece? Why give a platform to an utterly discredited nutcase like Glenn Beck?

    March 28, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • salth2o

      CNN made Beck

      March 28, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • icenvon

      you are an ignorant NUT CASE

      March 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Big Dave

      what about this was not sane? So if he is not sane, who would you rather write the same article. See the problem with many (I am guilty of it at times as well) is that in some people's mind, the messenger is not credible so they refuse to listen to the message. I do this with Bob Beckel, Pelosi, and Ed Schultz routinely. I shouldn't but I do. So here a guy that has repeatedly been proven right is imediately discounted because YOU think he's crazy. But you'd be the first to agree with it if Keith Oberman said the same thing. So many of the replys just slammed GB..the message ment nothing... GB's "15 minutes" are by no means over. He just has a different forum now. He does not spread hate, he is equally as tough on Republicans as Dems. What many of you don't see is that he focuses on Conservatives v progressives, not R v D. If you snap to a judgement that he's crazy before you read his article, you will take his points as the crazy points and if they are said by one of your favorites, you scream "how can you agree with that crazyman?!" But if he agrees with Alan Colmes, do you say "wow, how open minded" Probably not. In my case, I listen to people I never agree with just to see if they say something I can agree with. I've challanged a few of my lefty friends to listen to Beck, O'Reilly or even some of the news (as opposed to opinion) shows on FOX and they won't do it. We were watching FOX one night during some disaster coverage and they were shocked at the fair treatment that Pres Obama was getting. when I asked what they expected they said that they expected the anchor to slam Obama every chance they got because that is what they hear about on the HuffPo, MSNBC, CNN and the blogs they read. They still wouldn't take the FOX challenge but for one night, I thought they might open their minds a little. I believe the rhetoric devide is the biggest problem in our country today. Whether it be Obamacare, to the economy, taxes, war, race relations, or just politics in general. No one can just say "I disagree with ABC and think XYZ may be a better way to go" .... nope...It's "You hate women!" or "you are a racist" or "you hate gays" or "you war monger!" or "you're a flat-earther" It can't be as simple as not agreeing with a policy, it's because of hate. That is so narrow minded. If liberals are really the open minded people, why is it that the venom always comes from the left? Look at the posts about GB's article about being charitable... Not a one saying "you know, he's right" "I think this weekend I'll go through my closet and donate the clothes I don't need, go to the store and buy some food for a food bank and then donate some time this weekend" or "I never thought I'd agree with him but I could do better as well". So after you get done slamming me for my post from the right, look in the mirror and tell yourself what you see. If you are a giving person, awesome! If not, start! It feels really good, and I know this from experience.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  14. partysstink

    I was happy with out this guy in the news and CNN had to go and mess it up for me.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  15. Pastor Evans

    Sow into the right local Church and the right Church/ Ministry Organizations where the Holy Spirit leads you to because they are more resposible with money then the government, and above all, God will bless you for your giving!!! Amen!!!

    March 28, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • mb2010a

      And what if I want to give to the Muslims??

      March 28, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • closet atheist

      Can anyone tell me why churches are tax-exempt?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • closet atheist

      ...and don't say "because they are charitable organizations". By that rationale, why can't an individual choose to pay their tax money to a charity instead? I realize that's a bit overly simplistic with our mess of a tax code, but logically it is the same, no?

      March 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  16. Jim

    hahahaha, Glenn came limping back to CNN after being tossed out by Rupert.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  17. Vince

    Nonsense. Charity is waste of money. The money is mostly wasted on incompetent people who make a career out of begging for money, and have no idea how to efectively help the poor! Give to the government, if you really want to help the poor. That is the most effective way. Demand a good government of competent and responsible people, instead of smaller government that will be incompetent and impotent!

    March 28, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Joe

      Interesting you should say that.
      1: If your charity isn't using the money the way you see fit, such as helping people get on their feet vs pandering to people who abuse the system, you can stop giving them money and give it to another one.
      2: I can't think of a single charity more abused than our current Welfare system.

      March 28, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • closet atheist

      @ Joe... Well-played. Guessing there won't be a response.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Vince

      More nonsense. You are just repeating propaganda. All charities, with the sole excpetion of red cross, are much much more abused than government welfare. Have you ever read ther financial staements? Typically 30 cents out of every dollar goes to the poor. Even then, with lots of religious propaganda, proselytizing, and all sorts of other nonsense.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  18. Ben Dover

    I thought his 15 mins. were up

    March 28, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • No Gods, No Masters

      This guy is the Anna Nicloe Smith of conservatism – completely devoid of talent, driven only by greed, and famous for absolutely nothing beyond making a foolish spectacle of himself. Admittedly, there are a LOT of Anna Nicole Smiths of conservatism . . .

      March 28, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  19. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The problem is that the real wealthy who have regularly earned a $1 million or more a year. They don't give enough and don't do enough to support charities like food banks and homeless shelters. If they did, there would be less need for the government to support charities and their works. These wealthy people could fund a health care program that goes across the country and wipe out the need for Medicaid and the requirement for people to buy health insurance like in the Affordable Care Act.

    March 28, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Mayflower

      I think you have absolutely no understanding of wealth and the tax code. You know those tax breaks you whine about for those who make so much? They get those tax breaks precisely because they donate so much money to charity. They itemize and know how to deduct their charitable contributions, so people like you are determined to gripe about them either way. They don't pay enough in taxes, or they don't pay enough to charity. Quit complaining about things you can't control! The fact is that the highest 20% of wage earners in the US pay 70% of our income tax burden, and donate the largest amount to charity. People like you buy into the whole Scrooge McDuck stereotype that the media has painted so beautifully for you, and you suck it up. Do a little research before you buy into a stereotype hook, line, and sinker.

      March 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  20. Dave

    Glenn Beck on CNN? Holy S***, what is the world coming to?

    March 28, 2012 at 11:38 am |
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