Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with Socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
I had a conversation with a teenager recently who parroted the typical bumper sticker thinking of our culture: “Why don’t those rich people pay more taxes?” I asked him how much they are currently paying? He admitted that he didn’t know. I asked him what percentage of the national tax revenue would meet the definition of “their fair share?” He didn’t know exactly. I then gave him some facts to consider:
- 86% of all income taxes are paid by the top 25% of income earners.
- The top 50% of income earners pay 97% of all income taxes.
- The top 1% of income earners pay 39% of all taxes.
This young man was shocked. He had never heard these facts. As I looked into his eyes, he looked…almost…like he was…THINKING for the first time. He was engaging his brain and chewing over the chasm between his assumptions and reality. I encouraged him to look it up. I suggested he research the facts to confirm them. Then I asked him to think some more.
If those facts are true (and they are), does it look like the “rich” are paying their fair share? If not, how much would be enough? Did you know that when the income tax was first proposed by politicians, they promised the national income tax would NEVER be more than 1% tax on ONLY the top 1% of income earners? We are a long way from that promise.
Then I asked him, what happens when the producers of an economy get taxed more? What are the consequences of that decision? Hmm, well, unless they have a magic money tree in the backyard, the new money they pay in taxes is no longer going somewhere else. Where might that money come from? Well, when a producer pays more in income tax, they have less money to hire people. Who gets hurt by that decision? The poor and middle class workers. When a producer needs to pay more in taxes, where else might they come up with the money? By increasing prices on their products. Who gets hurt by that? The consumers who buy their stuff, usually the poor and middle class. What happens if they increase the price, but no one buys them anymore? The producer lowers the price and cuts costs somewhere else in the organization by laying off people. Who gets hurt by that decision? The poor and middle class.
The rich versus poor mantra that sweeps through the American political scene is so, well, predictable and old hat. It’s like listening to someone sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. The verses are so redundant. As a pastor, I care about all the members of my church. I care about my poor friends, middle class friends, and rich friends. When I work with friends trying to find a job, I am hoping there is a company who is hiring so they can make an income. If we punish the people who are hiring or divert their money away from hiring into nameless bureaucratic waste, why are we surprised when unemployment remains high?
I want low taxes for everyone, so that the poor and middle class can find work. It’s not about rewarding the rich. It’s about fairness, property rights, and opportunity for all. All through the Old and New Testament, God reveals Himself as one who does not show partiality. He doesn’t treat people differently based on outer appearance, wealth, status, or background. God treats all people without partiality. The dialog at the typical water cooler (if there is such a thing anymore) is sadly almost pure partiality today.
Romans 2:11. For there is no partiality with God.
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