A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Republicans in the Senate, just passed a number of budget cuts against the poor during this holiday season. But the wealthy came out great as 96 percent of tax cuts go to the top 1 percent in 2006. And here's some other ramifications:

17 million low-income Medicaid beneficiaries would be subject to higher co-payments.About 80% of the savings from the increased co-payments would come from decreases in the use of services such as doctors’ visits and prescribed meds

More than 100,000 people would ultimately lose coverage altogether because they would have trouble paying the premiums.An estimated 255,000 fewer children in low income families not receiving welfare assistance would receive child care aid than received it in 04.

Correction: About 25,000 children will lose out in participating in Head Start in 2006 and approximately 65,000 fewer low-income households will receive rental assistance in 2006

A good ruler: Pslams 72:14-16 "delivers the needy when they cry for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, And the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence, And their blood will be precious in his sight"

7 Comments:

At 3:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a correction to report: The cuts to the food stamp program were not part of the final version of the bill that the Senate passed. Otherwise, as always, your posting was very informative and helpful to those of us who recognize the social justice message of the Gospel.

 
At 12:54 PM , Anonymous ron kozar said...

You have a very well-done, thought-provoking blog here. Let me throw some conservative gasoline on your liberal flames:

About the tax cuts benefitting the wealthy, don't the wealthy still pay taxes at higher rates than everyone else. Wouldn't it be fairer if, simply, everyone paid the same rate?

 
At 1:58 PM , Anonymous ron kozar said...

And one more thing. . .

There's no small amount of moral arrogance in quoting biblical passages in support of government programs. The programs that you propose to measure against the "ruler" of Psalm 72 call not for charity in any meaningful sense, but for taking money (through force or the threat of force) from those who have earned it and giving it to those who have not. I know of know biblical support for this.

 
At 8:57 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

Ron Kozar

-It's an issue of priorities. Who needs help and who is doing well? Incomes for the wealthiest have skyrocketed while poverty has increased under Bush. It seems that given how few resources exist in our federal budget, you wouldn't try to reduce spending on the folks who are the most in need.

-It's also an issue of impact. The tax cuts are not large ones, making much impact on many wealthy pocketbooks as opposed to the poor, where such cuts can mean no access to health care, child care and the like.

-I picked the passage from Pslams specifically because it dealt with governments, not private charity. Do you imagine that the kings of Israel had no taxation? And what does Jesus say about such a thing? He says they are what is due, not echoing the libertararian claim that you have made on this subject.

-But this passage is not one concerning charity per se, it's concerned with justice, what a good society requires. Charity is what comes up and beyond such a thing. It's not a substitute for justice, even if is also reflective of the good.

 
At 10:12 AM , Anonymous ron kozar said...

Thanks for the good rejoinders. My responses, in no particular order:

There is a morally relevant difference between paying taxes and collecting them. You are right that Christ, in his statement about rendering unto Caesar, spoke of paying them. I am not aware that he ever advocated collecting them (which, again, would necessarily involve either force or the threat of it), even if the resulting booty is to be used to help the poor. Are you saying that either He or the Psalms do advocate it?

You speak of tax and budget policies being an issue of priorities. Is fairness not a priority? If it is, where is the fairness in taxing high earners at a higher rate than low earners (who, by the way, often pay zero in federal taxes)?

But even if you don't see tax cuts for the rich in terms of fairness, then consider them in terms of economics. Aren't tax cuts good for the economy? Every dollar that you seize from J. Paul Getty is one less dollar that Getty can use to build a new plant, store, or factory somewhere. Leaving the dollar in Getty's hands would allow him to build that factory or whatever, thereby creating more demand for the labor that your unemployed poor person would like to sell. That, in any event, is the purpose behind the tax cuts that you condemn -- a worthy purpose for anyone who gives a darn about the poor.

Having said all of this, neither I nor any conservative would probably mind very much if taking from the rich and giving to the poor truly benefitted the poor. Our experience with the welfare state, however, doesn't show that it benefits them. Creating entitlements for the poor has had the effect not of ending poverty but of subsidizing and perpetuating it.

Again, thanks for not throwing chairs at me for being a conservative commenter on a liberal blog. I will check again after Christmas and hope you have a chance to reply (and probably blow me out of the water) in the meantime.

 
At 8:21 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

Ron

No prob..I enjoy the dialogue. I do think the role of taxation, collecting and paying is a requirement for a state, something that seems to be assumed in the Bible and today.

The question becomes rather what kind of tax system makes sense, is fair, etc. Because the impact of a gain or loss of income is substantially more when it affects the poor the thought behind a progressive system of taxation takes that into account, asking less from the poor, not the same as the wealthy. And there is also a sense that those who have much also have greater obligations, have benefited greater from society.

In terms of economic growth..I think the conservatives had a point when taxation was amazingly high for the wealthy before Reagan. Now we as a society pay as much taxes (with adjustments) as we did in the 50s, before there was medicare, medicaid, etc. Just as there is diminishing returns with ever higher taxes, so at some point you have the same result when taxes are low, another cut is less likely to produce any affects.

Two other economic factors should be noted. One is the way in which lower income Americans have less savings, are much more likely to put extra $ right back into the economy. Which means that helping them out (say like the rebate) would appear to make more sense if you wanted to increase demand.

And there's also the issue of deficit spending. If the choice is between tax cuts and record deficits, I think a case could be made that our economic long term possibilities are better served at curbing the latter. Record deficits which are out of control can crowd out opportunities for investment, etc.

Do social programs work? I would agree that not every program has and they should be evaluated on that basis. And yes issues of dependency can be raised. But the sort of programs being cut don't strike me as raising these issues. Cutting back on child care doesn't strike me as helping families get back into the workforce. Cutting enforcement dollars to make dead beat dads pay, doesn't strike me as teaching responsibility. Head Start, a study a few years back noted that for every dollar we spend on the program we save $3 back in future costs in education and other programs, given children the possibilities to succeed in their future schooling, these should be things that we can support across partisan divides.

 
At 8:25 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

One other thing to note in terms of poverty: the biggest issue is in terms of the working poor. That is, people who work full time and more and do not have access to the basic goods of life such as health care, housing and the like. In that situation it's not a "work ethic" which is the problem, it's the lack of wages...so that any serious social response to poverty has to hit on those issues, something I believe a number of folks in the mainline are working on in terms of Walmart for instance.

 

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