Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Class Warfare

In the Magnificat, Mary sings for joy that God has looked with favor on the "lowliness of his servant."  Continuing in this song of praise, she speaks these words of praise:

He has show strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, 
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and sent the rich away empty.  (Luke 1:51-54)

Jesus is said to have  spoken these words after his encounter with the rich young man:
Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.  (Matt. 19:23-24).
I could go on, but this is sufficient for my purpose.  

All that President Obama suggested yesterday was the establishment of a new improved alternative minimum tax for those making, I believe, over one million dollars a year.  He's simply asking that those who have been "blessed" with material goods in this life pay a fair share into the pot.  After all, they benefit too!  

The idea that President Obama is launching class warfare is really pretty silly, as it's nothing of the kind.  The reality is that we have entered a period of history where the difference in income between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest has reached epic proportions.  Consider for a moment this scene.  The former CEO of Yahoo is fired and takes with him a 9 million dollar severance.  That would hire quite a few workers, one would think.  We are living at a time when the middle class, which is the foundation of democratic society is shrinking.  Good paying jobs that built our nation's fabric are hard to find, and we've reached the point where there is resentment not at what CEO's are making, but what others in the middle class are making -- especially civil servants and teachers.  

If you want class warfare -- turn to the Prophets.  They have lots to say about the rich exploiting the poor.  President Obama isn't launching one -- he's just sort of trying to find some funds to pay for a debt rung up on wars that weren't paid for and a Medicare drug plan that wasn't paid for, and tax cuts that weren't paid for.  If there is a class war being launched it's being launched from other sectors -- against the middle class and the poor. 

13 comments:

John said...

It is fascinating that the targets of Tea Party wrath are not the wealthy but the middle class, e.g., teachers and the firemen and police. Never does the Tea Party even comment on the obscene incomes of corporate executives (voted by their self-serving fellow executives and funded with savings earned from cutting or outsourcing corporate payrolls) yet we hear that teachers are now overpaid and civil servants income demands are over-the-top.

The tax policy of the Tea Party is to shift the burden of taxes more and more to the lower income groups - not by raising their tax rates but by cutting the tax rates of higher income groups and thus forcing the lower income groups to carry a higher percentage of the overall national tax burden. For middle and lower income groups to support the Tea Party they have to acknowledge that they should bear a higher percentage of the tax burden and that as things stand they are not carrying enough of the burden.

I cannot for the life of me understand why folks on fixed incomes and otherwise from middle and lower income groups buy into the message of the Tea Party! It's kind of like a modern day 'Jews for Hitler' movement!

David said...

NO NEW TAXES!

Instead, choose a tax table from the 1970s or earlier.

http://www.taxfoundation.org/publications/show/151.html

Brian said...

Social justice is always about "class warfare". Every social evil today has roots in economic exploitation: Displacement of the Native Americans, enslavement of Africans, and exploitation of workers. These issues all have economic injustice at the foundation.

The old union song echoes the teachings of Jesus: "Which Side Are You On?".

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

David,

So you're suggesting returning to "old taxes" when rates were much higher!! It's an interesting spin.

Arthur Sido said...

Bob,

I think it is important to be very careful, whether one is on the political left or the right, to claim the mantle of representing the teachings of Jesus in tax policies. In the Magnificat and the teachings of Jesus and the apostles on poverty we are not being given political cover for more taxation and income redistribution. I am called to share sacrificially with those in need, especially those in the household of faith. That doesn’t translate into me calling for unbelievers to seize the assets of other unbelievers and redistribute those assets especially given that I believe that those policies do nothing to alleviate poverty and instead have done a great deal to trap many lower income Americans into generational poverty and dependence on government largesse. Jesus was not calling for free markets nor was He calling for secular social safety nets.

John,

Believe it or not there are people like me in the middle-class who think that it doesn’t make sense to pull an increasing percentage of the gross domestic product out of the private sector and redistribute it based on political considerations. The issue is not so much that the rich pay too little in taxes but that the government spends too much on stuff that it has no business getting involved with in the first place. Even David Brooks, writing in the New York Times yesterday, (hardly a bastion of support for the Tea Party) recognizes that the “rich” already pay plenty….

In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

That doesn’t even take into account that nearly half of American workers, like me, pay zero in net Federal income taxes. If the wealthiest 10% of Americans paying almost 70% of all income taxes is not enough, what IS enough in your mind?

John said...

Arthur,

My point is that it is ridiculous for middle and lower income Americans to argue in favor of reducing the tax burden on the wealthy, already lower than at any time since 1950. The correlative result of such a policy is to increase the tax burden on the middle and lower income groups.

You can argue for a decrease in government spending as well as government debt, but I was just talking about shifting the tax burden and how should it equitably be distributed among various income groups.

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Arthur,

My insertion of Jesus into the conversation was simply to remind everyone that Jesus was not a preacher of prosperity or private property rights, but called for attention to be given to the needs of the poor and the marginalized.

How Jesus would come out on today's political debates is probably beyond what most of us can say or do.

On the amount paid by the wealthy. It's helpful to remember that while the wealthy may pay a sizable portion of the taxes, they also have a sizable portion of the nation's wealth and income. The disparity between CEO and worker is as broad as it has ever been in our history. That does need to be taken into consideration.

John said...

Arthur,

I want to put forward a justification for the current distribution of the tax burden: The wealthier one is the more one has economically benefited from the security and stability engendered by the American Government.

The peace, security, stability and prosperity which has been fostered by a government has disproportionately benefited the wealthy - as it rationally speaking should. They need not apologize for their success, which is in large measure a product of their own efforts. But the fact remains that they likely could not have succeeded in the fashion in which they did outside of the context of a stable and secure government and society. The security, etc, created by a successful and stable government has measurably benefited the wealthy economically moreso than the less wealthy. That being so, there is no rational reason to justify their paying taxes at the same rate as those who have not benefited so much.

Biblically speaking: to those whom much has been given, much is expected.

Brian said...

I have yet to find a place in scripture that says, "Let me be clear. The parts about giving to the poor refer to personal charity, not implementing wealth re-distribution through policy". It seems to be in most evangelical's bibles,but I've yet to see it with my own eyes.

Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things. He also teaches that we will do even more than him. I believe in "radical" wealth redistribution because it is the right thing to do. I believe it is the Christ thing to do. Your mileage may vary.

David said...

If we could just stop waging war in order to subsidize our energy needs, I'd be pretty happy.

It seems to me that is what Libya is all about too (in addition to Iraq and Afghanistan). How dare they sell their oil to India and China!

David said...

I'm reposting this because it was late and too far down. I found it on a site Brian directed us to...

The martyred Christ of the working class,
The inspired evangel of the downtrodden masses,
The world's supreme revolutionary leader,
Whose love for the poor and the children of the poor
Hallowed all the days of his consecrated life,
Lighted up and made forever holy
The dark tragedy of his death
And gave to the ages his divine inspiration
And his deathless name.

Jesus by Eugene V. Debs

Rev. Steven F. Kindle said...

David, a lovely poem, made absolutely marvelous knowing Debs wrote it. Thanks for sharing it.

David said...

Writing a poem about Jesus... sounds like a great group activity.