Goodwill faith leaders must put taxation on the moral agenda of houses of faith. To continue avoiding the topic and denying the good that derives from a just tax system is morally irresponsible. Lord knows we’ve avoided the topic and denied the need for tax justice.
And yes, EthicsDaily.com has a new documentary that will facilitate the process of congregational education and conversation based on the moral teachings of the Abrahamic faith traditions.
Even if we had not produced “Sacred Texts, Social Duty,” we would be agitating for houses of faith to address the most forbidden topic.
Why? Because our fiscal house is on fire and the biblical witness is clear.
Faith leaders can fiddle while our fiscal house burns and ignore the biblical witness. Or we can ring the fire alarm.
While most of the nation thinks about the fiscal crisis in Washington, D.C., there is another fiscal crisis at the state level.
The Census Bureau reported that state governments face the sharpest drop in revenue in 60 years.
“This is the worst budget climate for the states in at least a generation,” reported the Associated Press in December. “Cumulatively, the states face budget shortfalls of nearly $140 billion next year… To make matters worse, billions in aid to states from the federal government’s $800 billion stimulus plan is set to dry up early next year.”
South Carolina’s new Republican governor, Nikki Haley, said, “I think we have to be realistic with the people of South Carolina: This is gonna hurt.”
Connecticut’s new Democratic governor, Dan Malloy, said, “[T]his is a time when people have to be on notice that they’ll be requested to participate in shared sacrifice.”
California’s new Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, said, “It’s as bad as you could imagine.”
Facing an $8 billion budget shortfall and having campaigned to eliminate the estate tax and personal income tax, Ohio’s new Republican governor, John Kasich, has yet to provide details for fixing his state’s fiscal crisis.
Illinois’ Democratic governor, Patrick Quinn, justified a major income tax increase: “Our fiscal house was burning.”
Illinois has a $15 billion budget deficit and “owes $8 billion in unpaid bills to social service agencies.”
And as for Texas, which faces a $25 billion deficit, ranks near the bottom in education spending and is run by an anti-tax conservative governor who has been in office for 10 years, one wonders what “wasteful spending” is left to cut.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that California’s Brown wants to make drastic cuts.
“The Democrat wants to cut billions in spending on health care for the poor and elderly, welfare, and higher education and wants California voters to extend billions in tax increases for five years to close the deficit,” said the paper.
Given the fiscal fiasco across the board – at the state and federal levels – one rock-solid biblical imperative ought to compel goodwill people of faith into the public debate about taxes and budget cuts: Protect the poor.
Protecting the poor, not protecting the rich, is a biblical imperative. Yet many are pitching and will pitch tax cuts for the wealthy and tax cuts for corporations. Tax cuts inevitably mean spending cuts for programs that protect the vulnerable and cuts in programs that improve the social well-being of our society.
Goodwill faith leaders have a lot to contribute morally in this debate. But will they?
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.
Editor’s Note: Explore what the Abrahamic faith traditions say about faith and taxes. Order EthicsDaily.com’s newest documentary, “Sacred Texts, Social Duty,” by clicking here.