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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

On the margins

Am I right that the two solutions to the national budget crisis most often suggested are (1) eliminate services to the poor and (2) raise taxes on the rich. If democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch, I suppose it is not surprising to see two non-middle class groups targeted. And, since there is no constitutional right to government services or low taxes, budgets it would seem would directly reflect the will of the majority.

When presented with scriptures about the treatment of the poor, perhaps most graphically in Matthew 25:31-46 although it is far from a unique scripture on the topic, I am perplexed by those who profess to be Christians that advocate for option (1).

Of course, this opens me up to a charge like, "Then how can you be in favor of no-fault divorce laws given Matthew 5:31-32's requirement that divorce only be granted in the case of infidelity." But, the thing is, the prohibition on divorce suggests that followers of Jesus should not get divorced, but for limited circumstances. The position on the poor says that followers of Jesus should take care of the poor. I can vote for a supporter of a no-fault divorce law and not get divorced. I don't know if I can vote for a supporter of kicking people off AHCCCS and still claim to care for the poor. Also, I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that the institution of marriage is radically different now than in Jesus' time--most people recognize that this command was directed at helping women who previously could be cast out for no reason. By contrast, I think poverty is still poverty.

Now, I personally think the best solution to the budget crisis is to raise everyone's taxes. Certainly before we start eliminating/modifying by elimination Medicare. I support a progressive tax rate, but it makes more sense to me that we all should bear a relatively higher burden in order to support our priorities. But if we are going to pick on one group on the margins, it is hard for me to see how Christians can advocate for picking on those at the bottom.

As Bill O'Reilly says, "Tell me why I'm wrong."


Luke said...

I don't think that you are wrong. I often hear people that do think you are wrong arguing that they don't really disagree with your main points, but they disagree about how those on the margins should be helped. They fall back on the argument that the government is bad and inefficient at everything that they do and that they should be able to choose to support the poor through their own charitable giving or through giving to the church (because churches are oh so proven to be efficient at handling money).

I understand part of their argument, but it mostly seems to me a mask and an excuse to be taxed less when a large percentage of those making the argument aren't really supporting the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens. And if we were to go to a system where only those that chose to help others give to help others, surely there wouldn't be enough resources to provide that help.

I'm with you on this, Jim.

JimII said...

Luke, I'm glad you are with me.

I used to think charity was superior to welfare, but because charity is not sufficient, we must support welfare. I no longer think that. I believe the economic disparity in our country, particularly the way wages are set without regard for anything that we value, that I think welfare is a necessity for capitalism to be morally tolerable. It is a matter of justice.

That said, I don't have a problem with those who believe that charity is the ideal. I certainly don't question their sincerity.

However, in the interim, there is no justification for voting for those who would make things worse for the poor. And as for who should bear the burden? Well, look, I don't think that is a close question.

I really believe that the biggest problem we have with our well being is greed. I think it is a sin that is destroying our nation.