A couple of months ago on a post, I do not remember which, Joel “Olsteen” Watts and I found ourselves in rare agreement in politics that the income tax system in the United States, as it is, is quite corrupt. In fact, I would say, arbitrarily so, and here is why.
It is non-sensical to have public officials to have the ability to change how much your taxes are going to go up or down with a majority vote. There are no limitations on this power, and as a wise person once said, in life, there are only death and taxes. And guess what? Activist centralized governments have the ability to wield both? Capital punishment? War? Abortion? Anti-lynching laws? Regulation of businesses? Taxation? All of the above. So with this in mind, I think that the idea that Congress does not have a check on the power of taxation as ridiculous. On the right wing of the taxation spectrum, we have the GOP, who want irresponsible tax cuts on a whim that ends up really being tax burdens on our children’s future as this chart shows. The promotion of tax cuts, while it is a good idea, should be limited, otherwise, we end up with an unstable means of funding important government functions, including education (as Calvin Coolidge promoted) for the promotion of the common good. On the left side of the taxation oppression spectrum, leaders in the Democratic Party like Bill Clinton wants his taxes raised; but think about this: do we really want a government with the capacity to threaten us with tax hikes? It’s almost like sabotage, really, and it breaks down at that grassroots level into the rhetoric of class-warfare.
That is why over the past few months, I have begun to sympathize in a limited way with the concerns of the Fair Tax movement. It is at least an attempt to guard against our governing institutions from being less hostile to our livelihoods. However, from a biblical perspective, I must dissent with the Americans for Fair Taxation on their definition of fairness.
Part of the injustice that is the current tax code in the U.S.A. is that it rewards married couples and punishes singles, particularly single mothers. Also, as many conservative columnists have pointed out, there are so many loopholes in avoiding to pay taxes, that the government prevents itself from balancing its own budget by trying to bow down to special interests. It is for these very reasons that we need a fairer, perhaps a better term, a JUST Tax system, and a Just Tax movement maybe.
What would a Just Tax look like? Well, for starters, if one looks throughout Scripture, one finds that YHWH commands that God’s people show true justice by treating the widow and the poor justly. My ThM thesis adviser, ethicist, and Black Church Studies director Keri Day talks about how economies effect the lives of single Black mothers, and that they may well be considered the modern-day widows. My friend, Hebrew Bible scholar (ABD- all but dissertation PhD), Stephanie Wyatt also has done considerable research in the area of widows in the Bible, and that perhaps some images of widows, like the ones that interacted with the prophets Elijah and Elisha can give us ideas into how empowered rich women were in the Ancient Near East. If anything, our definition of fairness when it comes to taxation, should take this route. Perhaps a flatter tax would be beneficial, but I think a Just Tax system should start, first, with the economic impact of the poor in mind, and second, it should limit the federal government’s power by, for example, not allowing the tax code to be changed so easily, perhaps it only being allowed for change every 10 years, along with the Census.
Thank you, Moses:
‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’
UPDATE: Doug Chaplin writes on the UK Green Party taxing the poor for the benefit of the wealthy.
- Lanny Davis: The Fair Tax — At Least Worth a Debate? (huffingtonpost.com)