Friday, April 15, 2005

Tax Day 2005

This is not going to be easy.
Three unrelated posts are in my head that I see as all being connected.

My friend Bob links to a post at The Dawn Treader commenting on the broken window theory, referred to by a classic article in the Atlantic, 1982. (I vaguely remember seeing it at the time, but since then a number of people have used it as a touchstone. But I digress...)
The blogger describes himself as a 41-year old Christian following the Centurions Program of Chuck Colson, aimed at promoting a "Biblical worldview thinking for the restoration and renewal of culture." I very much like this comment from his blog:

There are several applications from this fascinating case study.

One, making small changes can bring about big results over time. That is important. Many of us think that we cannot make a difference in this world. But -- you never know. Small things can make a big impact. As White says, "when we live like salt and light, with lives infused by Christ, it affects the world around us in disproportionate measure. We become the mended windows and the scrubbed-off graffiti."

Two, we are called to live in such a way as to bring about justice and order in society. In so doing, we promote shalom. We become agents of common grace to redeem that which was corrupted by the Fall. We help restore moral order and promote the tranquility of order. Once again, quoting White, "The key to making a difference is not a massive program but what some have called the 'monastic option' - humble, deliberate acts of cultural preservation. This is precisely what a deepened soul with a developed mind, following God's call and rooted in a church, accomplishes. Small, individual acts of living like and for Christ".

The second post that I have in mind is from another blogger/writer I have been following for a few months, Deborah White. Her freelance blogging contributed to her being retained by About, just lately bought by the New York Times, so her's is getting to be a bigger and better bully pulpit. (Say it fast..."bigger and better bully pulpit..." Nice rhythm...)
She comments on the estate tax.
Like it or not, this one seems to be getting momentum and may well soon add to our national debt. Big thanks to all our Senators and Congressmen who can't see how spending assets we don't have is going to hurt anything.

The Bush Administration recently proposed a permanent repeal of the federal estate tax. This repeal would decrease government revenues by about $745 billion over 10 years, plus interest. The total loss to federal government coffers would be $1 trillion from 2012 to 2021.
On April 13, 2005, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted 272 to 162 to permanently repeal the estate tax.


Finally, here is where the two posts above get linked. I picked up the link from Deborah's blog.

Bob and The Dawn Treader may not take kindly to this, but I feel "led," as they say, to follow through with what I am about to write.
In the spirit of moving toward the restoration and renewal of culture I point to the work and writing of Heleny Cook.

This Tax Day, I'm telling Congress to stop giving me tax breaks. I'm wealthy. I don't need them, and they're bad for our country.

As a teacher, I can't look my students in the eye and tell them millionaires should get tax cuts while schools and libraries are hit with budget cuts.
As a citizen, I can't face a military family and tell them they should sacrifice while millionaires get tax breaks.

The budgets passed by the House and Senate deserve an F for economics and ethics.
It's irresponsible to dig our nation deeper into debt to give tax breaks to millionaires.
It's immoral to cut health care and child care to give tax cuts to millionaires.

Our government is not fulfilling the promise of equal opportunity for children, it is undoing it.
Households with incomes above $1 million got tax cuts averaging $123,600 last year. That tax break could cover the pay of three teachers.

Tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent will cost more than $1 trillion over the next ten years if they are made permanent.
That translates into $300 million a day less for education and public health and safety. It means $300 million a day less for clean water, clean air and renewable energy, $300 million a day less to invest in research, job training and small business development.

Federal tax revenues have fallen to their lowest level as a share of the economy since the 1950s. Medicare and Medicaid didn't even exist in the 1950s.
We can't build 21st century education and healthcare on a 1950s tax base.
We're becoming a society increasingly divided between haves and have-nots. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is one layoff or illness away from bankruptcy.

The tax system is being reshaped so that a growing share of tax revenue comes from workers' paychecks and a shrinking share comes from wealthy investors. Already I pay a larger share of my teaching income in taxes than I pay from the income I earn on my inherited investments. That's wrong.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in the education and research that are essential to our nation's progress.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should fully fund Head Start and assure that no one is closed out of college because they can't afford to go.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in affordable housing and health care.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should strengthen Social Security.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in renewable energy sources so we can reduce our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels that damage the environment and spark international conflicts.

Public opinion polls show that most Americans believe it is more important to have a strong safety net and fund education, environmental protection, health care, Social Security and other vital services than cut taxes. A majority says it's more important to reduce the deficit than to reduce taxes. Most Americans believe that upper-income people pay too little in federal taxes, not too much.

It's time for Congress to act on these priorities. It's time for Congress to stop robbing the poor and middle class to give to the rich. It's time for Congress to support the goal of equal opportunity instead of undermining it.

When I paid my taxes this year, I also took action to change irresponsible tax policies. I'm supporting the Responsible Tax Pledge sponsored by Responsible Wealth, a national network of businesspeople, investors and other affluent Americans concerned about growing inequality and working for more widely shared prosperity.

I'm donating my 2004 tax cut to organizations fighting for fair, adequate and responsible taxes. My students deserve no less.


She identifies herself as a teacher.
I have a notion that she isn't in it for the money. From what she says, she isn't into much of anything for the money. She is one of those rare individuals who seem to know when they have as much as they need.

I pray I have not gone too far into mixing the sacred and the profane, but in my life I have never been good at sorting through mind-stuff, faith-stuff, politics-stuff and heart-stuff and keeping them all neatly compartmentalized.
Heleny Cook isn't the Catholic Worker talking.
These are not the words of somebody who has taken a vow of poverty.

The intelligent reader can connect these dots. Just as there are people who bristle at the mention of tithing, there are also a good many people for whom social justice is a different pigeon hole from their faith.

Anything I say further will just make people mad.

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Unrelated note...
Don't miss the next post referring to Fred Wilson's blog, composed before this one, but much more comfortable reading.

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