Republican Tax Lie #4: “Reducing investment taxes is beneficial”

[The following excerpt is from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

Capital Gains Taxes

I’ve heard some Christian Republicans say it’s morally wrong to tax capital gains, as if it doesn’t count as income. This is nonsense. Let’s say you buy a restaurant for a million dollars. You own it for five years and make nice profits from your customers. Then you sell the restaurant for 2 million dollars. So, in addition to your operational profits, you get a bonus of 1 million dollars when you sell the place. Why should that money not be taxed?

Some will say the Bible has no capital gains tax, so neither should we. In the Bible, however, all Israelite males inherited land; they never paid for it. And most land sales were made to pay off debts, not to get rich. And then, every fifty years, in the Year of Jubilee, lands had to be given back to their original owners or their descendants, so all land deals were temporary, not permanent. It’s quite a different set up from what we have today. Also, the Israelites had no stock market, which, as I stated before, is founded on liability protection for the shareholder. The fact that you receive liability protection when you buy stock is all the more reason why you should pay taxes on your gains.

Those who argue against capital gains cuts plead the cause of the rich, not the needy. They’ll say almost everyone benefits from a capital gains cut, because a lot of lower income people have a 401k that invests in stocks. This is true to a small extent, but 96% of capital gains are realized by people earning over $100,000 per year and 67% from those earning over $1,000,000. Capital gains tax cuts clearly favor the rich.

Republicans proclaim that capital gains cuts make the stock market boom, and that’s good for everyone. Indeed, it makes investors richer, but it’s less beneficial to low income non-investors. What they fail to proclaim is that economic crashes, which hurt the working class, follow soon after. Three of the four biggest stock market meltdowns of the past century were preceded by large capital gains tax cuts within 5 years prior. After most WWI debts had been paid, the Harding and Coolidge administrations gradually lowered taxes (capital gains were taxed the same as income back then) from a top marginal rate of 73% in 1921 to 25% in 1925. For 5 years, the Dow soared from a value of 100 in 1924 to 380 in 1929, but then came the massive crash that ushered in the Great Depression. In 1997, the capital gains rate was cut from 28% to 20% to encourage investing, even though the Dow had already grown from 4000 in January of 1994 to 6000 in January of 1996. Three years after the cut, the market crashed again in what some call the Dot-Com Bust. In 2003, capital gains were cut to 15% to help the market rebound, but 5 years later, the market crashed again, losing half its value. One might argue that this crash was due to the housing bubble, but let’s not forget that tax savings from the Bush tax cuts were often invested in real estate, where capital gains rates also apply, because people were afraid to invest in stocks after the Dot-Com Crash. Crashes like these will continue as long as there’s insufficient consumer spending money to buy the products that stock investments create.

Lower tax rates are a horrible reason to invest in stocks. What happens after a capital gains tax cut is that people rush to invest without caution, because they anticipate the market will boom due to the lower tax rate. So many people think this will happen that it actually does. In fact, Republicans love to point out how capital gains tax revenues increased even though the rate decreased. But this is only temporary. Eventually, the stocks become overvalued, and the prices plummet, causing a panic and crashing the market and the economy along with it. A smart investor invests in a company’s stock because he expects the company to become profitable, and he wants to become part-owner of it (which is what happens when you buy stock), so he can share in the profits (dividends). That’s the only legitimate reason to invest in stocks.

Unfortunately, every time a Republican gets elected president, his first order of business is to lower taxes in the name of boosting the economy. If he doesn’t cut spending to match, the economy will heat up, maybe even become too hot, but then it will return to recession as it has at least once in every decade in U.S. history. When it does, the tax rates are so low that the government can’t come close to paying its bills, and the nation’s debt skyrockets. All that’s accomplished in the end is an increase in the gap between the rich and the working class, which I believe is the ultimate goal of the Republicans and the wealthy people they represent. Tax cuts should not be used to manipulate the short term economy, just so a new president can get re-elected in 4 years. They should be set at a rate that’s fair and can pay the nation’s bills and be left at that rate.

Perhaps the discussion should not be whether tax revenues increase every time we cut capital gains tax rates. Perhaps, instead, we should examine which capital gains tax rate is most effective over the long haul at maximizing revenue, and then stick with that rate. Let’s compare the 20% rate instated in May 1997 to the 15% rate of May 2003 (these numbers come from the most recent capital gains study at the Treasury Department website that goes through 2009). And let’s compare the amount of capital gains realized (not taxes paid, but gains reported) under each rate as a percentage of GDP (GDP comparisons allows us to factor out inflation that would make more recent numbers larger than older ones). What we find is that the average capital gains realizations as a percentage of GDP from 1998-2002, under the 20% rate, were 4.28% per year. Under the 15% rate from 2004-2009, the realizations were also, amazingly, 4.28% per year. (Both periods, by the way, started with a stock market boom and ended with a bust, so we’re comparing similar situations.) In other words, the 15% tax rate did not produce the slightest bit higher capital gains realizations than did the 20% tax rate. All it did was tax the gains at a lower rate and decrease tax revenue. The 20% rate provides investors with all of the tax incentives they need to encourage investing, and lower rates add no further incentives. So it appears that rates below 20% do nothing to increase capital gains realizations, and rates over 20% (such as the 28% rate from 1987-1997) hurt realizations. Thus, 20% is the optimal capital gains rate. So let’s stick with it!

The Tea Party Religion

So, again, the Republican claim that tax cuts always pay for themselves is untrue. So are the claims that taxes hurt the economy, that Democrats spend more than Republicans, that low tax countries fare best, and that income taxes are evil. These deceptions, along with all Tea Party anti-tax rhetoric, are rooted in a single motive – the love of money. As Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase; so what is the advantage to their owners except to look on (‘see them with his eyes’ in the NRSV)?”

Human nature hasn’t changed one bit since Old Testament times. Worshipers of wealth still can’t get enough. And today, they run a 24 hour-a-day propaganda campaign to get voters to favor their greed over others’ needs. The new religion they’ve established is called the Tea Party. At its heart is loving money so much that paying taxes makes your blood boil, especially when you suspect that your tax money will go to someone you think is less worthy than yourself. If this describes you, then you love money more than God. And Jesus made it clear that you can’t serve both God and money. You’ll love one master and hate the other.

I understand it stings a little to see a significant chunk of your pay taken from your paycheck. The next time you have that feeling, just remember that the rest of us pay taxes, too. And those who don’t are usually not in enviable positions. If we all stopped paying taxes tomorrow, we’d all have more money to bid on houses and cars, which would simply drive up prices. More money wouldn’t create more goods, houses, or land. It would just mean that we all pay more for them. (Of course, on the back end, everyone who works for the government or companies that are contracted by the government would lose their jobs, and entitlements would go away, taking money back out of the economy and crashing it.) If you make enough money to pay one of the higher tax rates, your life is pretty good, at least financially speaking. You have far more comfort, enjoyment, and good food than anyone in the Bible ever did. Appreciate what you have, thank God for it, and focus your energies on the well-being of others rather than on your efforts to hoard wealth.

Republican Tax Lie #3: “Democrats spend more.”

President-elect Obama with Nancy Killefer, the new Chief Performance Officer, for his administration. The news conference held at the transition office in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 7, 2009. President-elect Obama with former Presidents Bush (41), Carter and Clinton and current President Bush at the WHite House on Jan. 7, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President-elect Obama with Nancy Killefer, the new Chief Performance Officer, for his administration. The news conference held at the transition office in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 7, 2009.
President-elect Obama with former Presidents Bush (41), Carter and Clinton and current President Bush at the WHite House on Jan. 7, 2009.
(Photo by Pete Souza)

[The following excerpt is  from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

(I’ll admit that this is more of a budget lie than a tax lie, but it’s what follows next in the taxation chapter of the book, so I included it here.)

The Republicans love to accuse Democrats of engaging in out-of-control spending. In the case of Barack Obama, they’ve said he spends more per year than any president in history. What they fail to tell us is that this is true for every president, because inflation and population growth drive up spending numbers over time, even without changes in fiscal policy. To make a more accurate assessment of who the big spenders have been, I think it’s best to determine who increased spending the most from year to year. So I’ve gathered total federal spending numbers from the historical tables of the White House budget (which you can find at whitehouse.gov) (these numbers can also be found at the Congressional Budget Office website.), and then I calculated how much each year’s spending increased from the previous year. I then averaged the increases by president to see who increased spending the most.

Spending and Annual Increase % by President
Federal Outlays (billions) / % Increase from Previous Year
1981    678.2            Carter
1982    745.7           Reagan        9.95%
1983    808.4          Reagan        8.41%
1984    851.8           Reagan        5.37%
1985    946.3          Reagan        11.09%
1986    990.4          Reagan        4.66%
1987    1,004.0       Reagan        1.37%
1988    1,064.4      Reagan        6.02%
1989    1,143.7       Reagan        7.45%
1990    1,253.0       Bush41        9.56%
1991    1,324.2       Bush41        5.68%
1992    1,381.5       Bush41        4.32%
1993    1,409.4      Bush41        2.02%
1994    1,461.8       Clinton        3.72%
1995    1,515.7        Clinton         3.69%
1996    1,560.5       Clinton         2.96%
1997    1,601.1        Clinton         2.60%
1998    1,652.5       Clinton        3.21%
1999    1,701.8       Clinton         2.98%
2000    1,789.0     Clinton         5.12%
2001    1,862.8      Clinton        4.12%
2002    2,010.9     Bush43       7.95%
2003    2,159.9      Bush43       7.41%
2004    2,292.8    Bush43       6.15%
2005    2,472.0     Bush43       7.81%
2006    2,655.1     Bush43       7.40%
2007    2,728.7     Bush43       2.77%
2008    2,982.5    Bush43       9.30%
2009    3,517.7     Bush43       11.40%
2010    3,456.2    Obama        10.4%
2011     3,603.1    Obama        -1.54%
2012    3,796.0    Obama       5.36%
2013    3,803.0    Obama       0.18%

[Note: 203 billion dollars of Obama stimulus from fiscal year 2009 was subtracted from Bush 43’s 2009 total and added to Obama’s 2010 total when increase percentages were calculated.]

Average Annual % Increase by President

Reagan      6.79%

Bush 41     5.40%

Clinton      3.55%

Bush 43     7.52%

Obama      3.60%

 

Unlike in the 1970s, inflation levels have been low throughout this period, so they have little effect on the numbers. Ronald Reagan endured an average inflation rate about 1% higher than the other presidents did, so we could knock a point off and lower his increase rate to 5.79% to be fair. Nonetheless, the Republicans prove to have been far bigger spending escalators than the Democrats over the past three decades. Meanwhile, Clinton and Obama have been the most frugal of all modern presidents, increasing spending at rates barely above the inflation rate. Some might argue that Reagan couldn’t cut welfare spending because he had a Democratic Congress and that Clinton may have been restrained by a Republican Congress his last six years. So let’s look at the budget years in which a single party controlled all of Congress and the presidency:

Republicans 2002-2007: 6.58% average spending increase per year.
Democrats 1994-1995, 2010-2011: 4.07% average spending increase per year (This number includes 203 billion dollars of Democrat-approved stimulus money spent during fiscal year 2009.)

Even when they have had total control, Republicans have increased spending at a rate 50% greater than that of the Democrats. And if it weren’t for the economic stimulus needed to fix the free-falling economy when Obama took office, the percentage rate for the Democrats likely would have been lower. If you’ve been voting Republican because you hate government spending, you’ve been taken for a fool.

Tea Party libertarians might argue that it was old guard Republicans who were out-of-control spenders, but if the Tea Party takes over, they will slash spending, and we’ll all be better off. Having worked in the corporate world, I know what happens when budget-slashing executives take control of a company. They mindlessly cut departments’ budgets to the point where they cannot function. The company then loses customers due to poor customer service, lack of product development, and insufficient advertising. Similar catastrophes happen when the government gets slash-happy. If they slash funding for child support collections (my sister worked in this field at a time of budget cuts, so this is her experience), then fathers get away with failing to pay support for their children. Then the women who lose their child support have to go on welfare, costing tax-payers far more than if the budget cuts had never been made. Also, this budget slashing keeps the government from enforcing the law, encouraging more people to do evil. This reality applies to the business world, too. Tea Party libertarian, Ron Paul, proposed to make 40% cuts to regulatory agencies like the FDA and the EPA in his 2012 budget proposal. Should such a proposal ever succeed, it will give license to big businesses to poison our food and our environment. I’m all for making government more efficient and cost effective, and so are many Democrats and Republicans, but the mindless budget slashing of the Tea Party will only lead to disaster.

Republican Tax Lie: “Tax cuts don’t add to the debt”

Deficits_vs._Debt_Increases_-_2008

[The following excerpt is from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

 

Do Tax Cuts Always Pay for Themselves?
One of the great deceptions promoted by Republican Christians is that tax cuts always pay for themselves. So anytime Republicans propose a tax cut (which is all of the time, regardless of whether we have a good or bad economy, a budget deficit or surplus), they insist it will help the economy without adding to the nation’s debt. They tell us the economic growth from the tax cuts will be so great that it will more than compensate for the decrease in the percentage of incomes taxed. And the way Republicans do this is by cherry-picking the numbers and quoting numbers without making proper comparisons. To give you an example of the latter, a popular internet meme has been that Reagan cut taxes from a top rate of 70% to 28% (although they fail to mention that he increased the capital gains tax rate to 28%, compared to the 20% rate we have now, and he increased rates for lower income workers) and, as a result of that cut, total income tax revenues increased from $360 billion in 1980 to 660 billion in 1990, so this proves that taxes actually increased after the Reagan tax cut. This is true, as you can see from the following print screen from Table 6 of the IRS Data Book, which you can find at www.irs.gov (The first screen shot is of the header, so you can see how the columns are labeled):

 

IRS header

IRS 80s
However, if we look at the years following the Reagan 1981 tax cut, you’ll see that total income tax (column 2) went from 406 billion in 1981, to 418 billion in 1982, to 411 billion in 1983, so if you adjust for inflation, which was around 5% at the time, it was actually a slight loss for a few years. Only if you look at the whole decade can you say that the tax revenues really went up. But the fact is that the normal rate of annual tax revenue growth that always comes from annual inflation growth, population growth, and production growth was halted for a few years by the Reagan tax cuts, which put us behind the 8-ball and contributed greatly to the 189% increase in the national debt (the worst of any president in history) that Reagan oversaw during his 8 budget years.

The bigger question here, however, is, “How do these numbers compare?”
So here are the 1960s, 70s, and 90s numbers:

IRS 60s IRS 70s

IRS 90s
In the 1960s, income tax revenues increased from 67 billion to 139 billion (a 107% increase);
In the 1970s, income tax revenues increased from 139 billion to 360 billion (a 158% increase);
In the 1980s, income tax revenues increased from 360 billion to 650 billion (a 80% increase);
In the 1990s, income tax revenues increased from 650 billion to 1,372 billion (a 111% increase).
So we see that the 1980s had the lowest tax revenue growth of the four decades; therefore, when it comes to paying our bills, Reagan’s tax cuts proved to be the worst revenue solution for our country during those decades, and quite likely the worst of the century.

Of course, the worst of the worst was yet to come, thanks to the 2001-2003 Bush tax cuts which dropped the capital gains rate all the way down to 15%. Here are the 2000s:

IRS 00s

In the 2000s, income tax revenues increased from 1372 billion to 1453 billion (a 6% increase). If you factor out inflation and population growth, the tax cuts resulted in a massive loss in annual revenues by the end of the decade.

The right-wing Christian book, “Politics According to the Bible”, by Wayne Grudem, dares to use the Bush tax cuts to make the same claim that tax revenues always increase after a tax cut. What he does is cherry-pick the year 2005, the first year tax revenues returned to a point above where they were before the tax cuts were enacted in 2001, and only cites the 16% revenue growth rate from that year as proof the tax cuts increase revenue. He hides from his readers the fact that total income tax revenues fell from 1.365 trillion in 2001 to 1.249 trillion in 2002, and fell further to 1.181 trillion in 2003, and then rose back up to 1.221 trillion in 2004, and finally 1.415 trillion in 2005. If you look at the years leading up to the cuts, on the other hand, you’ll see that income tax revenues increased from 717 billion in 1993, the year of the Clinton tax increases, to 1.365 trillion in 2001. That’s revenue growth of 81 billion per year that mostly came from GDP growth (as well as inflation and population growth, as always), all despite the fact the Clinton raised taxes on the rich, which Republicans had predicted would be economic Armageddon. The Bush tax cuts reversed this growth and undermined our nation’s ability to pay its bills. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, the Bush tax cuts cost the U.S. 2.8 trillion dollars in tax revenue from 2002 to 2011, a loss of 280 billion dollars per year. Yes, conservatives might argue that revenues did increase for a few years before the 2008-2009 recession began, a recession caused by a housing bubble that was largely fueled by the wealthy dumping their Bush tax cut savings into real estate investing (which was attractive at the time due to low interest rates), but then revenues stagnated again. So while the Reagan tax cuts may have resulted in an 80% increase in annual income tax revenues from 1980-1990, the Bush tax cuts only resulted in a 6% increase in annual income tax revenue from 2000 (1372 billion) to 2010 (1454 billion). That might be the worst decade of tax revenue growth of all time.

All of this isn’t to say that tax cuts have never paid for themselves. The Kennedy/Johnson tax cuts of 1964 did increase revenue as a result of improving the economy. But let’s not forget that these cuts lowered the top marginal income tax rate from 91% (Wow!) to 70% (still “Wow!” – by today’s standards) and the corporate tax rate from 55% to 47%. The rates of 70% and 47% still collected such a large percentage of growing incomes that tax revenues increased. But when Reagan lowered the top rate to 50% in 1981 (and to 28% in 1986, while raising capital gains), the results weren’t as good. It was just short of a break-even for the budget. Then the Bush tax cuts lowered the top rate to 35% (and capital gains to 15%), which delivered a serious blow to the budget. And it can get worse going forward. The budget proposed by 2012 vice presidential nominee and Republican Congressional Budget Director Paul Ryan called for a 25% top marginal income tax rate and for 0% capital gains, dividends, interest, and corporate tax rates. Zero times any amount of growth is zero dollars of tax revenue! The Ryan plan would have been the fast track to debt doomsday – a day when no one will lend the government money out of concern over their ability to pay it back. At that point, the government will have to print money to pay its debts, like Mexico did in the 1980s (which resulted in 4 straight years of over 100% inflation per year). We can avoid such a fate by establishing tax rates that pay our bills as we did in the 1990s. Some would say to cut spending instead, but both parties have proven that, given total control, they can’t limit spending enough for our current tax rates to pay for it.

Today’s Republican approach to tax cuts is all out idiocy. The idea that cutting tax rates lower and lower will always increase revenue is a lie. Any sensible person should realize that there is a threshold below which lower tax rates will hurt tax revenues. If you drop the rates too low, the debt grows. Reagan proved that a little. Bush proved it a lot. And judging from the rhetoric of Republican candidates like Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Rand Paul, the Republicans are prepared to cut rates even lower to a point from which we will never recover in our lifetimes.

Oh, and one more thing…Republicans also like to say that increasing income tax rates will damage the economy so badly that tax revenues will fall. For example, Mike Huckabee said in his book, “A Simple Government,” published in 2011, “‘Arthur Laffer…the father of Supply Side economics…anticipates that the rise in taxes from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts [in 2012]…will cause a “crash in tax receipts,”…causing even higher deficits and unemployment.” Well, Obama went ahead and let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire at the end of 2012. So did tax receipts “crash” in 2013 and 2014?

See for yourself:

IRS 10s

 

Isn’t comprehensive economic data a bugger if you’re a hardcore Republican?
It’s like kryptonite, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Republican Tax Lie: “Low tax countries fare best”

OECD taxes

[The following excerpt is from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]
Do Taxes Hurt the Economy?

Should you have an opportunity to counter conservative arguments with what I’ve shared thus far, it’s likely that, at some point in the conversation, your opponent will abandon the “what’s right” argument and switch to the “what works” argument. In doing so, they’ll argue that taxes are bad for the economy, and the lower the taxes, the better off we all are.

Before we get into theory about how economics works, let’s look at some international numbers comparing economic growth and tax rates for long-time capitalist countries:

 

 

Avg. Annual Real GDP Growth & Taxes as a % of GDP, 1979-2010

Country       Growth         Tax/GDP
Ireland              3.2%                  28.4%
Norway             2.0%                  40.8%
Finland             2.0%                  35.6%
Spain                 1.9%                   22.0%
Japan                1.9%                   24.3%
U.K.                   1.8%                   31.9%
Australia           1.8%                  25.0%
Netherlands    1.7%                  42.6%
Austria              1.7%                   38.4%
Sweden             1.7%                   46.7%
Belgium            1.6%                   43.0%
U.S.                    1.6%                    26.0%
Canada             1.4%                    38.7%
Denmark         1.4%                     42.1%
[Source: OECD/Bureau of Labor Statistics via “The Benefit and the Burden” by Bruce Bartlett]

 

 

Of the large, well established economies in the world, ten of them have had GDP growth greater than the United States in the years since we embraced the anti-tax ideology of the Reagan Revolution. Of those ten, seven have had higher taxes than us, some of them much higher. Two of the three countries with lower tax rates than the United States have serious debt problems. On the other hand, none of the countries taxing above 30% have serious debt problems, except Belgium. More remarkable is the fact that every country on this list, except Spain, had a lower unemployment rate than the U.S. as of 2011, and all of them have a longer life expectancy for their people. No need to despair, however, the U.S. does lead this group in one category: We have richer rich people than anyone in the world!

Tea Party conservatives love to talk economic theory, but they hate comprehensive international comparisons like this one, because they indicate that other countries are doing better than the U.S., despite not practicing Republican every-man/woman/child-for-itself policy. For 30 years after WWII, America had a huge advantage over European nations that had been reduced to rubble by the war and needed American manufacturing to rebuild. That lack of competition gave us the illusion that our system was the best. Once Europe got back on its feet, however, they proved our way is not the only way.

Why would countries with greater wealth redistribution than the U.S. have greater economic growth?

It’s because disparity undermines prosperity.

Imagine an economy in which 80% of households can afford to buy a car. We’ll call this the low-disparity economy. Now imagine a high-disparity economy where only 20% of the households can afford a car, but 1% are extraordinarily wealthy. Will the superrich buy enough cars to make up for the rest of the population? They may buy more than they need, but not enough to make up for everyone who can’t afford a car. Even if they buy extra cars, will they drive them enough to keep as many mechanics busy as the low-disparity economy will? Not even close! The low-disparity economy will employ 4 times as many mechanics as the high-disparity economy will, because, in the low disparity economy, cars will be driven 4 times as much. The same goes for carpet cleaning. Since it only makes sense to clean carpets every so often, the superrich will not spend so much of their wealth on carpet cleaning that they compensate for the 80% of citizens who can’t afford it in a high-disparity economy. As disparity of wealth increases in an economy, fewer customers means fewer jobs needed to serve those customers, which means fewer opportunities for business owners. Without customers, businesses go bust. The healthiest economy is one that strikes a balance between investment money and the consumer spending money that makes those investments to pay off.

One of the most deceptive claims from the Republican gospel is that tax cuts for the wealthy are the best medicine for an economy; if we give the wealthy more money through tax savings, they have no choice but to create jobs with it. This is a lie. The wealthy have plenty of places to invest their money other than in business growth and job creation. When an economy suffers a demand crisis, the wealthy will not invest their money in creating jobs that create goods and service that won’t sell due to a lack of customers. They won’t hire more people to make more cars when they can’t sell the cars sitting on the lot. That would be no better than burning their money. In such times, the wealthy find it more profitable to sock away their tax savings in commodities (gold and oil futures – notice how much they go up in a bad economy), investment gambling (short-selling and derivatives) and high end real estate. These are not investments in business growth that create jobs and help the economy. These are simply exchanges of wealth between the rich as they play a financial game of King of the Hill. They effectively keep their tax savings out of the economy. This is why the Reagan-inspired trickle-down effect fails. Tax cuts for the wealthy are the worst possible economic stimulus in a demand crisis.

To track the effectiveness of various forms of economic stimulus, economists calculate what they call multipliers. A multiplier tells us how much our nation’s GDP grows within twelve months after the stimulus has gone into effect. For example, if the government spends one billion dollars and GDP increases by 1.3 billion over the next year, then the modifier has a value of 1.3. Calculating them is not an exact science, since many factors affect GDP, but they help us compare the effectiveness of various forms of economic stimulus.

 

 

Fiscal Stimulus Multipliers (As of the End of 2011)

Tax Cuts
Child Tax Credit 1.38
Earned Income Tax Credit 1.24
Tax Rebate (single check in the mail) 1.22
Spending
Food Stamps 1.71
Unemployment Insurance 1.55
Defense Spending 1.53
Infrastructure Spending 1.44

[Source: “Paying the Price” by Mark Zandi]

 

 

Notice that spending stimulates the economy more than tax cuts. The reason is simple. People who earn enough to pay their bills save their tax cut money rather than spend it and, thus, keep it out of the economy. When the government spends money, however, it does one of three things: it pays its employees, it buys goods and services from American companies who pay their employees, or it distributes it to low income earners and the unemployed who spend almost all of their income on necessities. Money spent by the government goes back into the economy (with the exception of foreign aid and foreign defense spending). The Tea Party acts as though the government ships our tax money into Pluto’s orbit never to be seen again. Taxation doesn’t remove money from the economy; it simply redistributes it, usually from those who hoard it to those who spend it in the economy. Redistribution of wealth, within reason, is great for the economy.

How God REQUIRED national wealth redistribution rather than making sharing with the poor optional

RedistributionofWealthDuringObamaPresidency123013

[The following excerpt is from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

Biblical Taxation – Was it Optional?

When I share these passages with Tea Party Christians, they all tend to give me the same response. They say God’s tithes and taxes were optional, that it was up to the individuals to give out of the goodness of their hearts. To the contrary, Nehemiah 12:44 speaks of the tithes as being “required.” It says, “On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions REQUIRED by the Law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served.” Also, God expresses anger, not at individuals, but at the whole nation, for failing to collect the tithes in Malachi 3:8-10, “Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflow blessing [NRSV].”

Notice that the purpose of the tithe is “so that there may be food in my house.” God doesn’t need food. The food was for the Levites, widows, orphans, and immigrants, because they were unable to provide for themselves, since they had no inheritance of land. When the nation failed to enforce the collection of tithes, people created in God’s image suffered. The nation had robbed the needy; therefore, it had robbed God (“to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me,” Matthew 25:45). God responded by cursing the nation, demonstrating that He held the nation responsible for not enforcing the tithes. He wasn’t disciplining individuals.

I’ve even had Tea Party Christians tell me the entire Law of God was optional, because the Jewish word for “law” had a different meaning than it does for us today, that it was merely a guide for virtuous living, not a legal requirement; therefore, God’s wealth redistribution system was voluntary, not mandatory. Here are some passages that disprove their point:
Deuteronomy 28:58-59…68, “If you do not diligently observe all the words of this Law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will overwhelm both you and your offspring with severe and lasting afflictions and grievous and lasting maladies…The Lord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, by a route that I promised you would never see again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer [NRSV].”
Leviticus 26:14-17, “But if you do not obey Me and carry out all these commandments, if instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also you shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. And I will set My face against you so that you shall be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when no one is pursuing you.”

Wow! That sounds pretty mandatory to me! Severe punishments like these don’t apply to optional practices. God held the nation of Israel responsible for its people’s obedience to His every command. If the nation failed to enforce His laws, His wrath against the nation would soon follow.

Finally, Tea Party Christians have argued (at least to me) that God’s wealth redistribution laws must not serve as an inspiration for American Christians, because they were religious laws rather than civil laws; and religious laws are forbidden by our Constitution. This is a point worth considering. However, biblical examination shows it to be incorrect. God’s system of wealth redistribution was property law, not worship or moral law. In the Bible, the breaking of religious laws (moral and worship laws) was punished either by death or by being cut off from one’s people. The breaking of injury laws was punished by eye-for-an-eye retribution. Unlike all of these, property laws had no punishments assigned to them as they were given in the Scriptures, but breaking them was most likely punished by no more than 40 “strikes,” a punishment given in Deuteronomy 25 that has no crimes assigned to it. Likewise, the tithes and requirements to share with the poor have no punishments assigned to them, so they qualify as property law. Property law and injury law constitute civil law, something that all civilizations enforce. Without civil law, a nation cannot function, nor can it be called a civilization. Religious law, on the other hand, is not necessary for a civilization to function, which is why many multi-religion nations flourish in the world today. Here are some examples of the different law types and their punishments:

Worship Law

Leviticus 17:8-9, “Then you shall say to them, ‘Any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, and does not bring it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to offer it to the Lord, that man also shall be cut off from his people.”

Exodus 17:10, “And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people.”

Numbers 9:13, “But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the Lord at the appointed time.”

For Christians, these worship laws no longer apply, because they were all part of the ceremonial way in which God’s people atoned for their sins in the centuries prior to Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Now, through Jesus’ sacrifice of His life on the cross, He became the perfect atonement for our sins. His sacrifice replaces the Old Testament sacrifices and ceremonies because, according to Hebrews 7:27, Jesus, the perfect and sinless Son of God, “does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this he did once and for all when he offered up Himself.”
Moral Law

Exodus 21:15, “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”
Exodus 21:17, “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.”
Exodus 22:18, “You shall not allow a sorceress to live.”
Exodus 22:19, “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.”
Exodus 22:20, “He who sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be destroyed.”
Exodus 31:14-16, “Therefore you are to observe the Sabbath for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. For six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall surely be put to death. So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.”

Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their heads.”

Leviticus 22:22, “If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die….”

Deuteronomy 18:20, “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”

Notice that only one of these moral sins is illegal in America today, and that the vast majority of conservative Christians seek no government prohibition of the others (the only exception is the prohibition of homosexual behavior). This is because these laws, as well as the worship laws I covered, are religious laws, not civil laws.
Injury Law

Leviticus 24:17-20, “And if a man takes the life of any human being he shall surely be put to death. And the one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life. And if a man injures a neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.”
Exodus 21:16, “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” This qualifies as eye-for-an-eye punishment, because a person who is kidnapped and sold as a slave effectively has their life taken away from them.

 

 

Property Law

Exodus 22:3,7 “…A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft…the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double.” [NIV]

Leviticus 19:9, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 25:10, “You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.”

The punishment: Deuteronomy 25:2-3, “…then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him forty times but no more, lest he beat him with many more stripes than these, and your brother be degraded in your eyes.”

Israel’s society could not have functioned without physically enforced property laws. It would have been anarchy. If these property laws had been optional, the thieves would have chosen not to pay back double, the landowners would have chosen not to share with the poor, and those who had purchased property would have chosen not to give it back to the families from whom they had purchased it, as was required in the Year of Jubilee. That’s the nature of greed. It keeps us from voluntarily doing what’s right. Thanks to this sinful nature, all of God’s laws had to be mandatory, not optional.

Does the fact that the property laws were not punished by death make them less important than moral and religious laws?

Not necessarily.

While the moral, worship, and injury violations cannot be undone or compensated in any way, property violations are the only violations in which the criminal can fully compensate the victim. For example, if a thief steals an ox, he can return it to the owner or replace it. If a landowner fails to tithe, he can be forced to give a double tithe next time. If a violator failed to make good for what he stole or damaged, he was sold into slavery in order to make restitution. Putting the violator to death would have made restitution far more difficult.

Why the Republican-Christian “Charity-only” poverty solution is both evil and ineffective

breaker boys
[The following excerpt is  from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

The Charity Argument

How do Republican Christians avoid sounding like the devil while opposing a taxation system that redistributes wealth to the needy?

They promote charity as the sole solution. In other words, they believe that if mandatory wealth redistribution were abolished, the whims of the wealthy would meet the needs of the needy (which fails, thanks to the greed of the greedy). They make three major arguments as to why this is the better way.

First, for as long as I can remember, Republican Christians have made the claim that meeting the needs of society’s poor is the church’s job. But is this what the Bible teaches?

Let’s take a look at what the Apostle Paul wrote to young pastor, Timothy, on how to deal with the needs of impoverished widows in his church:

1 Timothy 5:9-10, “Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”

The Apostle Paul placed significant restrictions on who could depend upon the church for financial assistance. Widows who had not “washed the saints’ feet” didn’t qualify for church assistance. In other words, church assistance was prohibited, not only for non-Christian women, but even for women who were new believers and had not yet demonstrated that they were devout, committed Christians. This way, widows couldn’t pretend to be believers just so they could receive assistance.

Why was the church willing to only assist widows who were long-time members?

The next verse gives us a clue.

1 Timothy 5:16, “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, let her assist them, and let not the church be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.”

First century churches were comprised of few wealthy people, probably because they and the wealthy didn’t see eye-to-eye. Therefore, many churches struggled to meet the needs of their members and could only support the neediest ones. That’s why Paul calls for Timothy’s church to seek out all other options to meet widows’ needs before “the church be burdened” by supporting them with the little bit of money the church had. Meeting society’s needs wasn’t even a consideration. While Christians are to help out where they can, nowhere in the Bible are churches called upon to be the solution for poverty throughout a society.

Furthermore, even if first century churches would have had more than enough money to care for their own, Christians made up such a small percentage of the Roman population that their public assistance would have had little impact. Likewise, in modern America, where Christians have made up a smaller and smaller percentage of the population over the past few decades, the church will likely become less and less of a financial resource in the future. Even 50-150 years ago, when Christians made up a much larger percentage of the population than they do today, church assistance failed to come close to meeting the needs of the poor. Had it done so, our nation would never have needed to implement assistance programs in the first place. The church failed to care for the nation’s needy then, and it will fail even more in the future, as its financial resources dwindle due to a declining number of members. Having the church support all of our nation’s poor is simply unrealistic.

Second, Tea Party Christians claim that taxation takes away opportunities for Christians to commit the righteous act of giving to the needy, since the money they might have donated is redistributed by the government, instead. Those who make this argument effectively admit the following: Like Jesus’ opponents, the Pharisees, they see God’s Law as a way to accumulate righteousness points before God; the Law is there to build them up, and their spiritual pride along with it. They think it’s more important that they increase their personal righteousness through charitable giving than that the needs of the needy be met. They would rather that needy children suffer malnutrition and live in squalor due to the ineffectiveness of a charity-only system than give up their opportunity to prove how righteous they are.

As I already revealed in the chapter on God’s Law, this is not Christianity. God’s laws exist for the well-being of people – for the common good. When it comes to our behavior, the Law protects others from the ill effects of our sins; it doesn’t reward our righteousness. The Law is other-centered, not self-centered. So if a mandatory system better meets the needs of the needy, we should be willing to give up opportunities to prove our charitable righteousness for those needs to be thoroughly met.

Third, conservative Christians are quick to point to huge dollar figures that prove how charitable we are as a nation. According to GivingUSA, U.S. charitable donations exceeded $300 billion in both 2007 and 2008 (but haven’t grown much since). That sounds like a lot—until you compare it to the 2.2 trillion dollars of annual U.S. social spending. So you could say the government’s forced donations equal approximately seven times as much as is donated through charity. Also, $300 billion in charitable donations (a significant amount of which pays for charity advertising costs – a problem government programs don’t have) pales in comparison to the $1.8 trillion that the wealthy invested in hedge funds in 2008. (Hedge funds specialize in short-selling stocks. Short-sellers borrow stocks from the stock owners’ brokers and trade them, so they contribute no capital investments to companies and are of no benefit to society.) So it’s not as if the wealthy give a large percentage of their riches to charity.

Of the money the wealthy give, only a small percentage of it goes to people in need. In fact, Americans earning over 1 million dollars a year give 66% of their charitable contributions to health, education and the arts, while 17% goes to religious organizations. If you look up the annual “America’s Top Donors” report at philanthropy.com, a quick scan of any year’s list will reveal the nature of charitable donations among the American wealthy. Less than 5% of the donations go to meeting the needs of the needy. The wealthy enjoy giving to universities, the arts, and special interest organizations more than they do to the boring poor people who need it most.

Charitable funding has been proven to fall far short of what government taxation can provide. An excellent example of this is the Commission for Relief in Belgium, a highly successful, well-funded charity that saved Belgians from starvation once Germany had cut off their food supply in World War I. It was created by Herbert Hoover (before he was president) who, throughout his career, championed charity and volunteerism and denounced government handouts. The charity got off to a great start and initially needed little government assistance. But as time passed and the needs of the Belgians persisted (thanks to the on-going war), Hoover had to turn to the U.S government for funds. When it was all said and done, 95% of the CRB’s funds had come from the federal government. Had charity alone supported the cause, as many as a million Belgians might have starved. And let’s not forget that this happened during the years in which few people paid income tax and the top marginal rate was only 7%. Anti-tax Republicans say that taxes keep the wealthy from giving as much as they would like. But we see here that even during the low tax years, charity came up short.

Why should we leave it up to the wealthy to determine who deserves charity?

Leaving the poor at their mercy is cruel. Republican politicians and pundits tell us the poor deserve no assistance, because they’re at fault for their poverty. They also say that giving to the poor makes them dependent upon handouts, so that they will become too lazy to work. They say this in opposition to welfare, but such a concept would be equally true for charity (not that it is true). I’ve even heard conservatives say that charitable food donations to Haiti have put Haitian famers out of business, as if charity fills Haitian bellies so much that Haitians desire to buy no more food from local farmers, because hunger has been eliminated from the land. If this is what the wealthy believe, we can be certain they’ll withhold assistance from the needy. All they’re doing is making excuses to hoard money. That’s why it’s much better to have a system in place where everyone who meets a standard requirement (like being unemployed or being of retirement age) receives aid, rather than leave it up to the whims of the wealthy to determine who receives aid, how much they receive, and when they receive it.

I challenge anyone to find a nation, past or present, that took care of its poor through nothing more than individual, voluntary charity, and did it as well or better than the United States has done through forced redistribution of wealth. Ancient Israel may have done as well or better, but as I’ve already demonstrated with numerous Bible verses, God forced them to redistribute wealth. A national system like this is the only method by which all people can be free from poverty. The voluntary charity solution promoted by Republican Christians rescues only a select few from poverty, and, as a result, has never come close to eliminating poverty in any nation in world history, including our own. Voluntary charity is a nice supplement to a mandatory national system, but it is not God’s preferred weapon against poverty. God refused to rely on voluntary charity to meet the needs of the needy, because He understood the nature of greed all too well.

The Tea Party Paradise

Republicans, especially those of the Tea Party persuasion, tell us that if we were to greatly reduce taxation and get rid of welfare, and maybe even Social Security and Medicare, that America would fulfill its potential and our lives would be so much better. To these people, I ask, “Where in the world is this working?” Most of the nations that have been capitalist for a long time (i.e., since World War II) have higher tax rates and larger welfare states than we do. This includes Germany and Japan, whose stock markets were annihilated by the war, and yet they have since greatly prospered in a matter of decades. However, there is one nation that does have a significantly lower overall tax rate and smaller welfare state than we do. It’s Mexico! Here are some numbers:

Total Taxes as a Percentage of GDP
*******Mexico       United States    Canada       U.K.       Sweden
1985     15.5%              25.6%                  32.5%           37.0%        47.4%
1995     15.2%              27.8%                  35.6%           34.0%        47.5%
2000    16.9%             29.5%                  35.6%           36.4%        51.4%
2009    17.5%              24.0%                  33.1%           34.3%        46.4%
[Source: OECD Tax Revenue Statistics]

Gross public social expenditure as a percentage of GDP, 2001
Sweden 35.1%
Denmark 34.2%
France 33.0%
Germany 30.6%
Austria 29.6%
Italy 28.3%
Belgium 28.0%
Finland 28.0%
Norway 27.0%
United Kingdom 25.4%
Netherlands 24.3%
Iceland 23.4%
Czech Republic 22.2%
Spain 21.7%
New Zealand 21.1%
Canada 20.4%
Australia 20.4%
Slovak Republic 19.8%
Japan 18.5%
United States 15.7%
Ireland 15.3%
Korea 7.1%
Mexico 5.7%
[Source: OECD/Statistics]
Many opponents of social government spending say people work harder if they can’t get handouts from the government. Apparently, the statistics bear that out:

 

Average number of hours worked per year per capita
Mexico      2250
U.S.            1787
Canada    1702
U.K.           1625
Sweden   1644
[Source: OECD/Statistics]
Mexico is the Tea Party paradise of low taxes, little social spending, and hard work. Yet, many Mexicans are willing to risk their lives to illegally come to our country. Why? Perhaps because Mexico has the highest poverty rate of the 34 OECD countries, the 2nd highest degree of income disparity (after Chile), and the 2nd lowest life expectancy (Turkey is #1).

One might argue that Mexico is a third world country. But is it? It’s the 13th largest economy in the world, and it had a 30-year post-WWII economic boom known as the Mexican Miracle. Its economy was much better in the 1960s and 1970s than it is today. But then, Mexico chose a different path than the United States did. It did little to create a system that shared the nation’s prosperity with the population at large. It also collected insufficient tax revenue to the point where it was unable to pay its debt in the 1980s and had to print money to pay it; thus, Mexicans endured several years of 100% inflation, which peaked at a rate of 160% in 1987. The every-man/woman/child-for-itself approach has been a disaster for Mexico. That’s why it looks like a third world country, despite being a large economy.

Republicans might argue that Mexico’s economic history differs from that of the U.S., and that other factors affect these numbers. Naturally, in economics, there are always other factors to consider. For example, Mexico owns its oil industry. That’s socialism (Mexico’s other industries are mostly free market, however). Contrary to what Fox News might tell you, socialism is the opposite of taxation. A nation that insufficiently taxes private wealth must compensate by owning businesses that generate revenue from profits. A nation that mostly owns nothing, like the United States, must rely on taxation of private wealth to pay its bills. Mexico’s reliance on oil industry profits rather than taxation of private, free market wealth had devastating effects on its budget when oil prices fell in the early 1980s.

Republicans may also argue that Mexico’s poverty stems from corruption. In doing so, they place the cart before the horse. Poverty causes corruption, and corruption is greatest where poverty is worst. When people have no hope of earning a dignified living legally, they often do it illegally. Breaking the law is their only shot at relief. For some it’s drug crime, for others it’s business corruption, and for some it’s becoming an illegal alien in a neighboring country where life is better all around.

Nonetheless, there is no place in the world today where the Tea Party agenda works. Some will argue that it worked in the late 1800s and early 1900s, but the anarchist movements and the violent labor disruptions of that period, both in America and throughout Europe, proved otherwise. The people couldn’t bear their poverty and oppression, so they eventually voted away the oppressive ideology that the Tea Party calls righteousness.

By the way, how has charity worked as a solution for Mexico’s poverty?

Not only are there some very wealthy people in Mexico, but Mexico is next door to the wealthiest nation in world history. Eradicating Mexican poverty through charity should be a cinch. Yet, Mexico has the worst poverty of the 34 OECD nations. It looks like charity has failed them, as it has every nation in world history.

Here in North America, we’ve had three nations greatly benefit from the post-World War II era, during which the rest of the industrialized nations were at a disadvantage, since they needed decades to fully rebuild. The United States, having been an industrialized nation for the longest amount of time prior to the war, benefitted the most. But it’s now losing ground to Canada, whose median household income has surpassed that of the United States as of 2014. Quality of life for the working class in Canada is now better than it is here. That’s because Canada has chosen a system in which the rich pay higher taxes, and more of the nation’s wealth is shared with the working class through higher social spending. Mexico, on the other hand, chose the opposite direction of low taxes, low social spending, and a charity-only solution for the poor, and the results have been disastrous. Liberals want us to be more like Canada. Conservatives want us to be more like Mexico. We have a choice to make. Let’s hope we make the right one.

The Biblical Case for Progressive Taxation

progressivetax

[The following excerpt is  from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

 

Does a Secular Government Have the Right to force Wealth Redistribution?

Since we Christians tend to bury our heads in the New Testament and neglect the Old Testament, we ignore God’s design for the nation of Israel and build our entire poverty relief theology out of Paul’s statement to the Corinthian church in which he says, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [II Corinthians 9:7 – NRSV].” Republican Christians use this Bible passage to oppose taxation even more than the one in 1 Samuel that I quoted earlier. Out of context, it appears to command that we are only to share our wealth with the less fortunate if we really want to; no one has the right to force us to share.

Like most of the New Testament, this statement addresses a specific church crisis and individual Christians, not a government. It’s not an anti-taxation statement. Rather, it encourages those who already pay taxes to give out of their take-home pay as they see fit (the Romans paid taxes, too, so their situation differs little from ours). This verse lacks political value since it addresses individual hearts rather than government laws. (By the way, if you read all of Corinthians 8 & 9, you’ll see that Paul placed a lot of pressure on the church to share its wealth. He was not sending the message that the church should have done whatever it felt like doing. He used tact by appealing to their generosity rather than commanding them. He wanted them to feel good about giving rather than give while resenting Paul for commanding them to do so.)

As many Bible believers will tell us, we must use the Bible to interpret the Bible. We cannot pull one verse out of context without looking at what the rest of the Bible has to say on an issue. Unlike the “cheerful giver” verse, Romans 13:5-7 actually does address taxation, saying, “Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is do them; tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” The government has the right to tax its citizens, and we must pay taxes whether we like it or not. Our cheerfulness is not a prerequisite. Although I can’t help but think that God loves a cheerful taxpayer, too. If we’re fighting mad that we have to pay taxes, we probably love our wealth more than we love God and others.

Jesus also supported a secular government’s right to tax its people in a well-known quote from Matthew 22:15-21: “Then the Pharisees went and counseled together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, ‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this? They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then He said to them, ‘Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.’”

Tax opponents will argue that this passage isn’t about taxation. But is that entirely true?

Here’s the context: The Pharisees expected Jesus to answer by saying it’s a sin to give a percentage of one’s income to anyone but God, and that to pay a tax to the emperor is to submit one’s life to him in an act of worship, making the emperor out to be a god. They brought government officials with them, so they could have Jesus arrested for opposing the government tax. Jesus didn’t just give them a fancy answer, though, as many Christians suppose. Rather, He revealed truth they did not expect – that paying taxes is not worship, and that the government has rights over the money it produces. Money is not one of the “things that are God’s.” It is a human invention. Without the government, we have no money. We might have some shiny rocks or bags of rice to barter with, but we wouldn’t have bills or coins. Such an economy would be very primitive and wealth accumulation would be difficult.

So the Ron Paul website statement, “An income tax…suggests that the government owns the lives and labor of the citizens it is supposed to represent,” is anti-biblical. The government that creates money for us has the right to tax it, but in no way does taxation imply that the government owns the taxpayers. Also contrary to Ron Paul’s libertarian claims, the Bible shows that taxing income percentage is the godliest method of taxation. God’s system employed no excise taxes or sales taxes (like the Fair Tax), probably because they burden the poor more than the rich. To say that taxing a percentage of income is evil is to say that God is evil. And to say that a sales or consumption tax is more righteous than income tax is to say that humans are more righteous than God. If there’s any tax we should fight against on a moral basis, it’s sales (consumption) tax, not income tax.
Progressive Taxation

Not all Republican Christians will dispute what I’ve shared thus far. They’ll agree that taxation is necessary, and that having a system to meet people’s needs aligns with God’s will. But progressive taxation, in which wealthier people pay a higher percentage than poorer people, is where they draw the line. They label progressive taxation as “unfair” and, therefore, “stealing.” Some even call it a “punishment for success.” And they point to the very same Bible passages I’ve already shared as proof that everyone in ancient Israel paid the same percentage of their income. At first glance, this argument holds up well.

If our society were structured like that of ancient Israel, I would agree that a flat tax would be the way to go. But our society differs from theirs. And it’s these differences that I believe justify a progressive income tax. Here are the justifications:

1) The Bible actually did have a progressive system. But it only had two tiers. Those who inherited land paid; those who lacked land did not. As I stated before, our society is more complex. American citizens are scattered across a broad spectrum of income levels. Therefore, it makes sense to have a progressive marginal tax rate system. A two-tiered biblical system would be impossible to implement, because there’s no sole criteria by which we can draw a line between the haves and the have-nots.
2) Ancient Israel did not have a system of corporate liability protection that legally stole from society, through bankruptcy, to enrich the wealthy. It’s only right that we balance this injustice with a progressive income tax system that takes money back from the wealthy to share with society. If our system can amplify disparity of wealth, then our system can be modified to lessen that disparity. And if society can be forced to bear the debts of the wealthy, it’s only right that society be entitled to share in their gains.
3) Wealth was far more evenly distributed in ancient Israel. Approximately 95% of Israelites owned land on which they could grow food, build houses, run businesses, and raise their families. In America, prior to the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) in 1934 and Fannie Mae in 1938, only about 40% of Americans owned land. With 95% of ancient Israel’s population having similar wealth, a progressive system among taxpayers would have made little difference.
4) America does not have a Year of Jubilee to minimize its disparity of wealth, like ancient Israel did. Thanks to the Year of Jubilee, no one could acquire a lot of land, because it had to go back to the family who originally inherited it within 50 years. With limited land in an agrarian society, one’s ability to produce a family fortune was also limited. When ancient Israel adhered to God’s system, it lacked the disparity of wealth that America has today. Once they moved away from the system, however, and were ruled by kings, some of them, like Solomon, amassed great wealth and disparity increased.
5) Many American corporations grow wealthy through deceiving customers and sneak-charging. Others encourage their sales reps and marketers to lie. Even those who don’t still benefit from deception, because nearly all sales departments contain some liars. Meanwhile, some businesses engage in the deception of what I call salary slavery. They hire prospective employees on a salary instead of an hourly wage while telling them they’ll work a 40-45 hour week, and then they work them 60-70 hours a week while paying them no additional money for the extra hours worked. All of this is stealing. The government cannot micro-manage businesses enough to eliminate all of this deception. But it can tax corporate owners who benefit from it at higher rates and give some of their ill-gotten gains back to society.
6) If business owners make millions, then it stands to reason that they either underpay their employees and/or overcharge their customers. In other words, they fail to share with those who made them successful. Who’s to say that paying employees the minimum necessary to fill the position is righteousness? Perhaps righteousness is to pay them according to their contribution to the company’s success. Or perhaps it’s to pay them enough to support their families.
7) America, in a time of military crisis, can draft the lives of low income Americans to keep America safe and stable enough for the rich to prosper. It’s only right, then, that America can draft the excess wealth of the rich when the American soldiers and families who made such sacrifices find themselves in financial crises. Every family that’s been here awhile has sacrificed sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers to the protection of the common good. And they may be called to make similar sacrifices in the future. America is a group effort. Yet, when the wealthy are confronted with progressive tax rates, some of them cry, “I did it all myself. I owe them nothing.”
8) Last, but certainly not least, progressive taxes are merciful:
Mercy Rates

Republican economists have argued that the rich and the poor should pay the same income tax rate, because poor people don’t stay poor from year to year and the rich don’t stay rich. They’ll site statistics that show a large number of people moving out of the bottom income quintile (the bottom 20% of income earners) into higher quintiles (even though there’s little income difference between the bottom and middle quintiles – those in the middle quintile struggle, too). These stats look this way, because many young people start with minimum wage jobs while still dependent on their parents during their high school and college years, then get better entry level professional jobs after college, and then some move up the ladder in their fields and their pay increases. However, not all low income earners move up the ladder, and not all can depend on their parents. In fact, some have children depending on them, so they can’t afford to pay the same tax percentage as the rich. In fact, without welfare assistance, they may not live long enough to have a chance to move to a higher quintile.

My first year after graduating college, I had an entry level job that paid just a little above minimum wage. I struggled to afford my studio apartment in an impoverished part of Nashville. I had student loans, a car payment (because I needed to get to work), and I had no furniture. I remember having nothing but bread and butter for dinner, because it was all I had in the refrigerator until payday. I would walk for exercise, because I couldn’t afford a gym, and I walked for 4 months with holes in the bottom of my sneakers, feeling the pavement with every step, before I finally saved up enough money to buy new ones. I found myself poor, despite all of my hard work, education, and total avoidance of drugs, alcohol, and even cigarettes.

Having studied economics in college, I was aware of flat-tax proposals to establish a rate of approximately 20% federal withholding tax for all people. I had previously favored such a tax, because it was fair. My experience in poverty shattered that view. There’s no way I could have afforded 20%. I would have had to give up heat, food and electricity in order to afford a flat tax. I then realized that lower tax rates for the poor are acts of mercy, or as I call them, mercy rates.

Conservatives may argue that I eventually escaped poverty and moved out of the lowest tax bracket. In fact, ten years later I owned a ranch house on 3 acres of land and enjoyed nice vacations and Eagles season tickets. But could I then build a time machine and go back ten years to my former self to share my money with him? Obviously, not. When I was poor, the fact that I might someday earn more was of no consequence to my survival at the time. I needed a mercy tax rate, and fortunately, our progressive tax system gave me one, so I could live to see better days.

Republicans look at the progressive tax structure backward. They see the low rates as the standard rates and the high rates as penalties for the rich. The truth is that the rich pay the standard rates, and the poor get mercy rates, since they cannot afford the standard rates. If the nation is going to tax its wealth, it will have to tax the people who earn that wealth; so the standard rate is the one that taxes most of the wealth, not most of the people. According to the 2010 Summary of Federal Income Tax Data, the top 1% of income earners earn 18.9% of the nation’s wealth, the top 10 % earn 33.8%, the top 25% earn 67.6% , and the bottom 50% earn only 11.75%. So the bottom ½ of the population earns less than 1/8th of the money, but the top 25% earns 2/3 of the money. It’s this money and these people who should pay the standard rate. Although, to be fair, the poorest of the top 25% only earned $69,126 in 2010, which isn’t a whole lot of money when trying to raise a family, so they deserve a little mercy in their tax rates, too. And that’s exactly what we do. We have a progressive tax structure that extends different levels of mercy to different income brackets. The poorest receive the most mercy, and the wealthiest receive no mercy because they lack nothing. Of course, since such a large percentage of the population gets mercy rates, the wealthy have to be taxed even more to cover the poor’s share. If our disparity of wealth wasn’t so great, our tax rates wouldn’t have to be so progressive.

Why No Christian Should Oppose Wealth Redistribution through Taxation

RedistributionofWealthDuringObamaPresidency123013

[The following excerpt is from my book, “Rescuing Religion from Republican Reason.”]

“An income tax is the most degrading and totalitarian of all possible taxes. Its implementation wrongly suggests that the government owns the lives and labor of the citizens it is supposed to represent. Tellingly, ‘a heavy progressive or graduated income tax’ is Plank #2 of the Communist Manifesto which was written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and first published in 1848.”

So said the website (in 2012) of Ron Paul, a former Libertarian, Republican, Tea Party congressman and presidential candidate. To him, income taxes are evil. To scare you into joining his campaign to abolish them, he links them to Karl Marx, the founder of communism. Marx’s dream of a communal existence in which all people share all they produce with society is effectively 100% taxation. To Marx, communal ownership of property was righteousness and personal property was evil. Since God’s system for ancient Israel assigned property ownership to individuals, not to the community, we may conclude that Marx’s system is evil. Therefore, Ron Paul and many other Tea Party libertarians insist that, to be righteous, we must despise communism and cling to its ideological opposite – the idea that income tax is evil.

Likewise, former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has championed the abolition of the income tax in favor of a hefty national sales tax deceptively called the “Fair Tax.” This consumption tax would charge everyone a percentage of every good or service they buy (real estate would not be taxed, since it is not produced). Low income earners, who spend almost all of their income on necessities and basic enjoyment, would spend the highest percentage of their income on the tax. So if the tax were 40%, low income earners would pay almost 40% of their income to taxes, since they spend nearly all of their money on goods and services. Meanwhile, if a person earning a billion dollars spends only 1% of his income (which is 10 million dollars) and invests the rest (this includes real estate), he pays only 0.40% of his income to taxes. This, of course, is what’s known as a regressive tax, because the poor pay a higher percentage of their income than the rich do. To Fair Tax proponents, however, the regressive and oppressive nature of this tax is of little concern, because income tax is morally wrong in their eyes. In fact, they’ll go as far as to call it “stealing,” and label redistribution of wealth from the haves to the have-nots as “sin.”
From Poor to Rich

Of course, Christian Republicans and Libertarians cite biblical support for their anti-tax rhetoric. One of their favorites is this quote from 1 Samuel 8:10-18, which says, “So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots…He will take one tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers…He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day [NRSV].”

The context here is that God had appointed judges to rule over the Israelites once they settled the promised land around 1400 B.C. Around the year 1000 B.C., the Israelites had begged God to let a king rule over them, so they could be like the neighboring nations. This passage was God’s warning that they wouldn’t like having a king rule over them, because he would enslave them, force them to fight his wars, and oppress them by taking what they produced to enrich himself and his friends.

Tea Party libertarians claim that our taxes enrich our rulers and their friends, just like the taxes of ancient kings did. They make it sound as though the politicians have the IRS place the tax revenues directly into their bank accounts. They’ve yet to produce any evidence of this. But that doesn’t mean they’re entirely wrong. Corruption and scandals do occur. Local and state governments have been particularly susceptible to corruption, since local and state government is often small, weak, and easily intimidated and influenced by the money and power of the wealthy. Plus, the local media is also small, weak, and easily intimidated. But on a national level, with massive media machines dedicating teams of people to exposing political corruption, it’s unlikely such scandals are the norm, especially at the federal level, where all eyes are watching.

This is not to say there hasn’t been a sneakier way of redirecting tax money into the accounts of politicians. For example, the Norfolk Daily News reported on October 23, 2011 that Nebraska Tea Party Senator Deb Fischer (R) benefited from federal farm subsidies: “As a rancher, Fischer has benefited from a federal program that environmentalists and others describe as an expensive subsidy that needs to be trimmed or eliminated.” This is why we should be careful when voting for politicians from the business world. They sometimes manipulate the government to direct tax money to their businesses. Nonetheless, when looking at the nation’s total budget, it’s difficult to make an item by item case demonstrating that any significant percentage of our tax money enriches politicians.

A strong case can be made, on the other hand, that politicians direct tax money to businesses whose owners fund their campaigns. Examples include oil companies who receive subsidies and banks who receive bailouts. But worst of all are the defense contractors who get rich every time a Republican gets elected president. For you to see what I mean, here’s a breakdown by fiscal year of total defense spending by president:

Defense Spending by Year (in Billions) [Source: Data360.com]
1981 Carter $196.23
1982 Reagan – Rep. $225.88
1983 Reagan $250.60
1984 Reagan $281.55
1985 Reagan $311.18
1986 Reagan $330.80
1987 Reagan $349.98
1988 Reagan $354.73
1989 Reagan $362.10
1990 Bush 41 – Rep. $373.85
1991 Bush 41 $383.10
1992 Bush 41 $376.80
1993 Bush 41 $363.00
1994 Clinton – Dem. $353.80
1995 Clinton $348.80
1996 Clinton $354.83
1997 Clinton $349.85
1998 Clinton $346.08
1999 Clinton $361.13
2000 Clinton $371.05
2001 Clinton $392.95
2002 Bush 43 – Rep. $437.70
2003 Bush 43 $497.95
2004 Bush 43 $550.78
2005 Bush 43 $589.05
2006 Bush 43 $624.88
2007 Bush 43 $662.30
2008 Bush 43 $737.80
2009 Bush 43 $776.00
2010 Obama – Dem. $817.73
2011 Obama $820.80
2012 Obama $816.23

To be fair, Bush 41 didn’t increase defense spending by much, even though he had the Gulf War to win. But Reagan’s last defense budget was 85% higher than Carter’s last one, despite there being no wars on his watch, and Bush 43’s last defense budget was 97% more than Clinton’s last one. Meanwhile, under Bill Clinton, annual defense spending only increased by 8% over his 8 budget years – a rate lower than that of inflation. Today, the U.S.A. spends 5-6 times more on defense than any other nation and has 11 aircraft carrier fleets when no other country has more than one. Unsatisfied with such largesse, Republican Mitt Romney supported the spending of an additional $200 billion dollars per year on defense when he ran for president in 2012 (according to his exchange with President Obama during their third 2012 debate), despite no new wars or increases in threats. Apparently, the Republicans have some close friends among the defense contractors. They are guilty of behaving like the kings of the Old Testament, taxing the workers to benefit the rich and powerful. As a result, they’ve let the military industrial complex gorge itself on American tax dollars. They’ve ignored the warnings of former WWII Supreme Allied Commander and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, upon leaving office in 1961, warned, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

From Rich to Poor

Contrary to Tea Party claims, much of our tax money goes not into the pockets of politicians, but to the benefit of the needy and society at large. These expenditures include Medicare, Social Security, welfare, unemployment compensation, infrastructure, and agencies like OSHA, the EPA, and the FDA that monitor and restrict business practices to protect us from the harmful effects of greed. Since the people who have most of the nation’s money, the wealthy, pay most of the taxes, we can say that our system redistributes wealth from those who have it to those who don’t. This is the opposite of what God warned against in 1 Samuel 8. He warned against taxing society to enrich the wealthy, not taxing the wealthy to help the needy.

In fact, God mandated redistribution of wealth from the haves to the have-nots in ancient Israel. The Bible does not call this redistribution a tax; it calls it a tithe. The word tithe means 10%. As I stated in the last chapter, 12 of the 13 tribes of Israel had land on which to grow food and support their needs. The other tribe, the Levites, had little land. So God required that the haves support the have-nots in Numbers 18:24, “For the tithe of the sons of Israel, which they offer as an offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance; therefore, I have said concerning them, ‘they shall have no inheritance [of land] among the sons of Israel.’”

The Levites were not the only have-nots in ancient Israel. Widows unable to remarry, orphans, and resident immigrants also had no land on which they could provide for their needs. So God required the landowners to provide for them, too, as we see in Deuteronomy 14:28-29, which says, “Every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce for that year, and store it within your towns; the Levites, because they have no allotment or inheritance with you, as well as the resident aliens, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, may come and eat their fill so that the word of God may bless you in all the work that you undertake [NRSV].”

This was not God’s only tax on the landowners for the sake of the poor. He also required that landowners share a significant percentage of their crops with the needy by leaving them behind at harvest. Here are a couple passages saying so:

Leviticus 19:9, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God [NRSV].”

Deuteronomy 24:19-21, “When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, orphan, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow [NRSV].”

Some may cry that such an entitlement system is unfair, because the farmers did all of that work, and then the poor, who did no work, get to share in the harvest. This is true. It is unfair. God cares about the well-being of His children more than He cares about fairness. God knew that those who lacked land had little opportunity to provide for themselves, so He sought their well-being ahead of all else.

On the other hand, God’s system may not have been so unfair after all. The men of the twelve tribes received land by inheritance. They did not have to work to obtain it. They had an advantage over the poor from the very start. Such an advantage is also unfair. So we can conclude that God’s mandatory redistribution of wealth merely provided balance to a system that would have been unfair to the unprivileged had no redistribution of wealth been required.

Likewise, America’s taxation system provides a similar balance. It’s a bit more complex, because our society is more complex than that of ancient Israel. We can no longer base the system on land ownership, because we are no longer an agrarian society. The line between the haves and have-nots is not so clearly-defined for us. Today, the haves may benefit from Ivy League educations, paid for by their wealthy parents, through which they access connections to powerful people in the corporate world. As they go through college and into the world, their parents cover their costs of living until they land a great job. Therefore, they need not work so many hours to support themselves that they lack free time to learn, dream up ideas, and make connections. Meanwhile, the have-nots may go out into the world with little or nothing and have to work two jobs just to get by. They lack the time, money and connections that fuel business success. Those who inherit connections and money (if your parents paid for your college education, you inherited your wealth) are similar to the landowners in ancient Israel, while those who lack money and connections are similar to the Levites, widows, orphans, and aliens.

Why did God command wealth redistribution from the prosperous to the poor?

Apparently, His intent was to eliminate poverty. In Deuteronomy 15:4 He says, “However, there shall be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God…” How could the nation’s prosperity reach the poor and eliminate poverty unless there was a system in place to ensure such an outcome? God created an entitlement system that distributed the nation’s prosperity to everyone in the nation. Not all would prosper the same, but none would have need when the nation did well. Today, the United States of America is the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. If we aspire to run our nation as God would, we must maintain a system that eliminates poverty by sharing the nation’s wealth with all of its inhabitants.

Today, Tea Party politicians and pundits teach that mandatory income redistribution from the wealthy to those who lack wealth is stealing and therefore sin. Meanwhile, they believe it’s righteous to steal from society to enrich the wealthy through corporate liability protection (which enables corporate owners –also known as shareholders – to force their debts on society through bankruptcy when they go out of business, all while they get to keep the gains they have been paid out during the company’s better years). It seems to me that if Satan were to design his own system, this would be it, because it’s the polar opposite of God’s system. God offered no liability protection for the wealthy, but imposed a mandatory, national system of wealth redistribution from the prosperous to the poor. To say wealth redistribution is evil is to say that God is evil, because God created wealth redistribution. And how can we not support such a system when it provides a balance to the liability protection advantage the wealthy enjoy in modern America?

 

Boortz, Neil; Linder, John; Woodall, Rob; FairTax – The Truth; Answering the Critics (New York,, Harper Collins, 2008)

NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1985, 2002) Old Testament Chronology Chart.

Johnson, Simon; Kwak, James; White House Burning, (New York, Random House, 2012), p.200

Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040

Where are the peacemakers in the gay marriage debate?

One of Jesus’ most famous lines was, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Unfortunately, in today’s political world, they’re nowhere to be found.

The gay marriage debate has always been one of my least favorites. I often find myself in the center of the spectrum, where few others are found. I can relate to some viewpoints on both sides, but that has made both sides despise me for not fully agreeing with them. There’s a good chance that by the end of this article, you the reader will also disagree with me. But I’ll go ahead with what I have to say, because somebody needs to attempt to inject some peace into this mess.

The past couple weeks have been quite tumultuous with the passage of the Religious Freedom law in Indiana. And bringing the controversy to a head was the closure of Memories Pizza, a Christian-owned business whose owner said in an interview that her business would refuse to cater gay weddings. In an interview with Fox News after the closure, she reaffirmed her belief by saying, “it’s against our belief to condone, to cater, to their wedding. We’re condoning that [the gay wedding] if we do that.” Such statements led some individuals to make threats to the pizzeria owners, while many more phoned in fake orders and others protested outside.

As usual, I think both parties are behaving badly. Here’s the way I think good people should behave: Let’s say a gay couple asks a Christian company (caterer, florist, baker, etc.) to service their wedding. I think the Christian owner should say, “That’s not within my religious belief system. I would prefer if you would ask someone else to do it.” But if the gay couple insists, then the owner should provide service to them. Conservatives will counter that the Christian can’t do this because he or she is violating the Bible. But that’s inconsistent with how most evangelical Christians behave. Evangelicals all but ignore the Sabbath, for example. Many of them perform activities related to their jobs on Sundays, and almost all of them do household chores, even though the Bible prohibited doing such minor chores as kindling a fire on the Sabbath. So Christians push the limits of what the Bible allows, even on a big Ten Commandment sin like breaking the Sabbath. On the business service front, most Evangelical Christian bakers, caterers, florists and photographers provide services to weddings that serve alcohol, even though most evangelicals believe that drinking is a sin, and they all believe that drunkenness (which happens at most wedding receptions) is a sin. If they were to be consistent in their beliefs, they should conclude that to service weddings that serve alcohol is to condone alcohol use and abuse. The truth is that Evangelicals disobey the Bible left and right, but they are intently focused on the sins of others. Since gays are rarely Christians, evangelicals attempt to pull the logs out of the gays’ eyes while ignoring the lumber yards in their own eyes. And when they can’t do that thanks to discrimination laws, they cry that they are being persecuted for their faith. That’s a bit extreme, and it dumps fuel on the fires of the American culture wars that our politicians invented.

On the other hand, I think that if a business owner refuses to service a gay wedding, the homosexuals should simply take their business elsewhere. Why insist on giving your money to someone who doesn’t respect what you’re doing? Wouldn’t it be better to spend your money at a business who is on board with what you’re all about? Unfortunately, as soon as a business owner, such as the owner of Chick-fil-a, expresses their view that they don’t believe in gay marriage, the homosexual activists go ballistic and try to drive people away from their business, and in some cases, they even make threats. That’s way too extreme. I realize that gays will say that they are offended by anyone who doesn’t approve of them and their desires to get married. But guess what else many business owners don’t approve of? Their workers, especially if they’re in a union. If you could give most business executives and major shareholders truth serum and then interview them about their thoughts on labor, you would hear even worse things than have been said about gays. So what would happen if workers boycotted every business run by executives who despise the working class? They wouldn’t have anywhere to shop! To expect that most business leaders are going to share our values is simply unrealistic. And even when it comes to regular folks, most people are slow to change their values. People who grew up racist, especially those who were racists in their adult years, will never stop being totally racist on the inside. Likewise, people who grew up under the mindset that homosexuals are mentally-ill weirdoes will never shake that feeling. Yes, with enough pressure, we can shut these people up, but they’re unlikely to change on the inside. I think the homosexual activists need to be mindful of the fact that people are slow to change. When someone utters the opinion that they haven’t quite accepted homosexual behavior and marriage, they should show some understanding and respect those people, not terrorize them.

When homosexuals terrorize people simply for saying that they don’t believe in gay marriage, Republican Christian leaders, like Mike Huckabee, use these examples to convince Christians that they are under persecution. Huckabee said just last week that the gays “won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel.” Evangelical Christians believe this and then, as a result, eagerly embrace everything Huckabee and Fox News tells them, including the belief that the rich are the righteous heroes in our society and the poor are the lazy moocher class – the very opposite of what the Bible teaches. Again, extremists on both sides are ruining our country and creating division that could someday have serious consequences.

I would like to introduce a forgotten concept – it’s called “being the better person.” As the Bible says in 1 Peter 2:20, “But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.” It also finds favor with men. Civil rights activists lead by Martin Luther King Jr. peacefully suffered violence, and they didn’t retaliate by trying to run all racists out of business. But by being peaceful resistors, they showed themselves to be the better people, and the nation rallied to their side. In Acts, chapter 5, the Apostles rejoiced that they got to suffer for Christ, and they never retaliated against those who persecuted them. Today, both the gays and the Religious Right take offense at the slightest instance of not getting their way and lash out at the opposition while hosting their own pity parties, even to the point of accumulating riches for the tiny bit of suffering they’ve endured.

I can’t speak for the gays, since I am not gay. But as a Christian, I think that we Christians need to be the better people and be the ones to compromise when it comes to the desires of others. Lord knows that we compromise the Bible’s teachings when it comes to our own sins, as we repeatedly taking chances that God will let our sins slide. In fact, in Acts 15, the Apostles decided to end the Biblical requirement that new believers be circumcised, because they feared that upholding that rigid law would keep Romans away from the faith. If the people who knew Jesus personally could compromise for the sake of others, I think we too can relax some rigid laws for the sake of the public perception of the Gospel. Doing so will not only cease to repel Americans from the church, but it will also prevent war – the very thing that peacemakers are called to do.

Rebuking Huckabee’s Book: Chapter 4 – “Uniform Diversity” – An Oxymoron

This is a very hypocritical chapter in which Huckabee whines that the left calls the right names like Nazi’s or anti-abortionists or racists, but he totally ignores the right calling liberals communists and socialists, or the right comparing Obama to the Nazi’s at every turn. He even says our liberal-controlled world tells us that, “Calling a communist a communist is hate speech, but calling a conservative a Nazi is free speech.” He refuses to acknowledge that most of the people Republicans call communists and socialists are actually capitalists who believe in making merciful modifications to the system. To Huckabee, when he calls someone a name, that’s really what they are, but when liberals call someone a name, it’s a false accusation.

Early in the chapter, Huckabee calls the website, Right Wing Watch, “a hate group which exists to make sure no one utters an opinion that’s out of line with the left”. I went to that website and what I found were various articles about things Republicans, including Huckabee, actually said. All it takes to get people upset is to actually quote the extremist statements of the Republicans. I didn’t see the site as something that limits free speech. I find that Huckabee’s quote here is hypocritical, because all of Fox News would have to be a hate group, by his definition, that makes sure no one utters an opinion that is out of line with the right. When guests on O’Reilly and Hannity’s programs begin to make logical arguments to the contrary, O’Reilly and Hannity talk over them and cut them off. When Huckabee had a show on Fox, he rarely had guests on his show who disagreed with him at all. Worse yet, I have been banned from making comments on Huckabee’s Facebook page, because I’ve made too many logical points to the contrary. After I started making logical comments on his website, my computer got hacked, and my website access page and video-making software were disabled. Now, Huckabee’s site no longer allows for anyone to leave comments. That shows you how much Mike Huckabee “makes sure no one utters an opinion that’s out of line” with him!

Next, he condemns the bank SunTrust for cutting ties with the anti-gay Christians from the TV Show “Flip it Forward.” Huckabee said, “That didn’t go over well” with those who had “read the First Amendment and thought that destroying people’s livelihoods because of their religious beliefs seemed more like practices from North Korea, not North America.” Again, the First Amendment does not guarantee us any protection from corporations, and that’s normally the way the Republicans like it. I once submitted a request to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Republican Christian litigation group, when I was being discriminated against by my employer at the time for refusing to defy my Christian beliefs and lie to customers, and I received no response from them. Republicans, like ADF and Huckabee, have shown no concern for protecting us from corporations, but only now that some corporations refuse to work with those who condemn gays are Republicans starting to care about protecting people from corporations. So they only believe in protecting freedoms when it’s their own kind they’re protecting.

Huckabee then makes the false claim that Obamacare has phantom networks of providers, because there was one woman in California whose doctors were listed on the network, but were not actually a part of it. What he failed to mention is that Obamacare is not an insurance company, rather it helps people get insurance through providers like Aetna and Blue Cross. These insurers have always had network lists, but I’m sure they make errors from time to time, and Huckabee wants to turn that into a national phenomenon. But I know from having Obamacare myself, through Blue Cross, that the network lists are generally accurate. I get the feeling that, as time goes by, Republicans will convince millions of Americans that the whole in-network, out-of-network system was created by Obamacare, even though the insurance companies created it decades ago and have been using it ever since.
The only good point he makes in this chapter is that we are under constant pressure to change our politically-correct words. He uses the example of changing “alien” to “Illegal immigrant,” to “undocumented immigrant,” to “guest worker,” to “dreamer.” It is a bit annoying, but nothing that would make me sell out my biblical principles. I’m not going to dedicate my vote on Election Day to word definitions. Yet, this is one more area where Huckabee tries to distract people from the way Republicans exploit America for the sake of the corporate wealthy predators that they serve.

Next, even I was surprised when he the called Rutgers University students “little snots”, because they protested that they wanted Condoleezza Rice arrested for war crimes when she was scheduled to speak at commencement. That kind of name-calling is the purest form of judgmentalism, something the Bible opposes, but Huckabee has no trouble practicing such a sin, because he merely uses Christianity for political gain. His use of the term “little snots” shows just how angry Huckabee gets when someone opposes the slaughtering of thousand of people in the name of turning a countries oil fields over the global oil – the master of the Republican Party.

Finally, Huckabee makes some sense when he points out that democrats had taken him out of context when he said that women are incapable of “controlling their libido unless Uncle Sugar” comes forward to save them, because a reading of the entire quote shows that he attributes this thought to what the democrats supposedly think, not to himself. Sounds fair, but I wonder why Huckabee didn’t just include the whole quote in the book if his claim is that the democrats only used part of his quote. Of course, Huckabee fails to mention the time Obama said that when it came to “roads and bridges” provided by society and depended upon by businesses, that “business owners didn’t build that.” Republicans jumped all over the last words of that quote to make it look like Obama was saying that business owners didn’t build their businesses. So again, Huckabee’s complaints about the left just as easily apply to the right.