You may be following the political hullabaloo in Alabama, where the new Republican governor wants to pass the biggest tax increase in the states history and says he has a highly influential advocate supporting him: God. Gov. Bob Riley says that it is his “Christian duty” to raise taxes-by 22%-in order to fund vital government services to help the poor.
“Jesus says one of our missions is to take care of the least among us,” says Riley. “Weve got to take care of the poor.”
Fine, but that begs the question of whether raising taxes is a Christian response to tough times. The Bible seems to be ambiguous on this point. The governors tax hike supporters note that Jesus did preach: “Render unto Caesar that what is Caesars and to God that what is Gods.”
The Bible does indeed call for us all to make acts of charity to aid the poor-this is the essence of living a Christian life. But an act of charity is by definition an action that is voluntary. Taxes arent voluntary. (Try not paying them, and see what happens. ) Moreover, liberal big government do-gooders are in many ways the ultimate hypocrites: to advance social justice they demand sacrifices of others that they will not take voluntarily themselves. For example, Warren Buffet recently sanctimoniously wrote that he opposes the Bush tax cut and that rich people like him dont need a tax cut. But when he was asked whether he would turn over the extra millions of dollars that will be returned to him from the Bush tax cut, he clammed up and presumably pocketed the cash.
One wonders whether Jesus would believe that there is a limit as to how much taxes someone should have to pay. The biblical tithing rate is 10%. Shouldnt what is enough for God be enough for Uncle Sam and local governments? Today, the average household pays roughly 38 cents of every dollar earned in taxes at all levels of government. That is, we are already paying almost four times what the Bible declares is necessary to be charitable individuals.
The tax burden is getting heavier, not lighter. In Alabama, as in most other states, tax collections have risen by more than 70% since 1990. The budget problem that needs fixing is overspending, not under-taxation.
Donald Hughes, of JesusJournal.com raises one last beguiling ethical question: “Who says that a tax hike is going to help the poor anyway?” Thats the question that no liberal dares to answer. For the left, it is an article of faith that big government helps people. But if that were the case the most Christian and the richest country in the 20th Century would have been either Maos China or the former Soviet Union. After all, those communistic regimes loved the poor so much that they virtually imposed a 100% tax on workers. What they produced was not aid to the poor, but a lot of poor people.
Studies across countries show that the nations with the most liberty and the lowest taxes have the least amount of poverty. Free enterprise is a Christian economic system because it does a better job than any other system ever devised to feed and clothe and house the poor. If you dont believe that, go to some of the countries that do not practice free enterprise, like African nations, India, or Bangladesh and compare the living standards of their poor with ours.
Has big government in the United States helped make America a more Christian or morally responsible place? An argument could be made that just the opposite is true. For example, the Great Society welfare state incentivized millions of teenage Americans to engage in very socially destructive and arguably immoral behavior. The government essentially paid young unmarried women to have babies out of wedlock. As a result, in many inner cities in the 1970s and 1980s, more children were born into homes without fathers than to intact families. The government essentially became a surrogate father. And it did a pretty rotten job in that role, not just hurting the economy and the social structure, but also eroding long held moral taboos against illegitimacy, because of its harmful effect on children. Another example, the public schools teach 6th graders how to use condoms, but abstinence is seen as unrealistic. The Ten Commandments have been banned from the public square.
One of the lessons of history is to beware politicians who claim that God is their co-pilot. Some of the most dastardly political leaders, Hitler and Osama Bin Laden jump immediately to mind, have invoked the name of God in building support for their acts of violence and affronts against freedom-even religious freedom.
So, no there is no moral case for paying higher taxes. In fact, if Gov. Riley really wants to do his Christian duty and help the poor, he should try cutting taxes, not raising them. I cant vouch that he would have the Bible on his side, but he would have sound economic theory solidly behind him.