Saturday, August 18, 2012

Is Paul Ryan's Budget Unchristian?

... was the question  posed and answered mostly in the affirmative by Time blogger Erika Christakis and then repeated on her blog. The gist of her argument is that rich people need to pay more in taxes. No argument was made about helping the poor outside of the blanket assumption that taxes went to the government which then shipped the money out as aid to the "less fortunate."
My view is that a tax structure that punishes the working poor is immoral. And I also think there is a lot of disingenuous obfuscation about what counts as government assistance. For example: there are a couple very different ways to look at Food Stamps. Some believe they are a hand-out to people who may or may not ‘deserve’ it. On the other hand, Food Stamps can also be viewed as a business subsidy to companies, allowing them to keep wages low, since many recipients of Food Stamps (nearly 50 percent) are full-time employees who can’t feed their families on their meager salaries.
Erika confuses tax policy and government revenue generation in general with aid to the poor. They're not the same. As I've ranted here over and over again, the problem isn't taxes or government spending, it's the culture. I went off a bit on Erika in her comments as well.
So here’s the biggest problem with your article: It doesn’t have any point outside of politics. That is, it doesn’t address any social ills because the government isn’t addressing the primary source of social ills.

The breakdown of the traditional family is the #1 source of social pathologies in the US. Nothing else is close. The data to back this up is enormous and statistically uncontestable. The government can spend half as much or twice as much and it makes no practical difference.

The Christian injunction to help the poor has at it’s heart actual help. Spending more money doesn’t count if it doesn’t help. Spending more to no effect is the functional description of the vain snobs who made a big show of contributing money to the temple in the biblical stories.

Tax the rich more, tax the rich less, do whatever you want, but don’t dress it up as a Christian act because it’s not since it doesn’t address the root causes of the majority of our problems.
There's one more problem with Erika's thesis. Her argument that taxes "punish" the working poor contradicts the story of the Widow's Mite. If the government is indeed a proxy for God and paying taxes an offering to Him, then it's thoroughly Christian to have everyone pay.

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
If taxes are some kind of path to salvation, then it behooves us to make sure everyone pays, not just half of us.

And herein lies the problem of conflating government and God. Lightworker though he is, Barack Hussein Obama and the federal bureaucracy are not stand-ins for Jesus. The analogies fall apart almost instantly and even if they held up under mild scrutiny, the result would be lethal to freedom. Government as God's intermediary? Talk about no limits to power!

I would argue that Jesus knew all of this and that's why salvation is personal, not collective. Tax policy simply is. It is neither Christian or un-Christian. It's just the way we pay the salaries of the folks who happen to work for the government. The sooner we stop claiming that government is some kind of morally superior organization, the better off we'll all be.

Update: So I just noticed something else. Dig this quote. "Food Stamps can also be viewed as a business subsidy to companies, allowing them to keep wages low." This is ignorant Marxist nonsense. Your employer doesn't pay you because he wants you to live a good life, he pays you because you produce value. If you lack sufficient skills to earn a living wage, it's not the employer's responsibility to pay you more than you're worth.


Jeff Burton said...

It's also super duper un-Christian to allow the able-bodied to eat without working (2 Thess 3:10). As well as to get community help without moral supervision (1 Timothy 5:3-6).

Does she really want to go there?

Houston (aka) Tots said...

You both nailed it.

Not only is the Government a poor substitute for someone's mother, but when the left starts arguing biblical points you know it's been twisted. After all, was it not our dear leader who bashed the Bible for portions of Leviticus?

K T Cat said...

Reading her stuff, it was pretty clear that she didn't know what she was talking about when it came to theology. She even deleted comments from a divinity school professor.

Doo Doo Econ said...

She knows her stuff from the perspective of arguing to gain power in the name of the almighty state. She and academia are not gods, but they see themselves as more than the rest of us.

They are pigs, we are chickens. Who are we to disagree? See Obama and his regard for the message of the tea party since 2009.

Doo Doo Econ said...

Work with me on this...

The state is a godless god who leads all to destruction.

Thus the bill of rights is here to protect the people

tim eisele said...

The problem with that "nearly half of Americans don't pay income tax" graph, is that it is usually used to imply that they aren't paying *any* tax. The thing is, this ignores:

- Payroll taxes (SS, medicare, unemployment insurance, etc.)

- Sales taxes (around 6% in most of the country)

- Taxes on gasoline and utilities

- Property taxes (either directly, or as part of one's rent).

Here's a discussion about how much tax people pay in total (not just income tax) if you are interested.

And, according to the graphs here, the amount the federal government takes in through payroll taxes is almost as high as what they take in through income taxes. And this doesn't include the largely-sales-and-property-tax-funded state and local governments.