This week we will take a look at a ‘stealth’ enemy that can very well take control of our nation just as surely as a foreign invader. To finance the ongoing growth of government and its explosion of expensive and ever increasing spending on ‘benefit’ programs is very costly and must be paid for by some method. Where does the government get the money to pay for this? It must either borrow and go into debt, or collect taxes and fees…or it can do both. Currently it does both to feed its insatiable appetite, an appetite that is in no way supported by the Constitution. This invasion of uncontrolled spending, borrowing, and taxation might as well be a foreign invader as we are having to sacrifice our future and the future of our children for immediate gratification.
Significantly, under the Biblical plan, everyone paid the tax at the same rate; whether someone was rich or poor, the percentage was the same. Under this uniform tax, the rich paid more than the poor in actual amount, but each was treated exactly the same, which is the definition of justice. Evil or good, just or unjust, rich or poor, God was impartial (Matthew 5:45). This Biblical system of taxation is known as “capitation taxation”, which is “an assessment levied by the government upon a person at a fixed rate, regardless of income or worth”. [“Capitation Tax”, Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: S. Converse, 1828)]. This system was placed in the Constitution: No capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken. (Art. I, Sec. 9). The Founders required that federal taxes be applied evenly to every person, divided evenly based on census population numbers.
In the late 1800’s, a dramatic different system of taxation was advocated under the rise of ‘Progressivism’ and ‘Poststructuralism’…two parallel anti-Biblical paradigms that teach citizens to view themselves not as a part of the country as a whole but rather as part of some group, whether black or white or brown, gay or straight, rich or poor, young or old, union or non-union, etc. This worldview regularly pits one group against another…as when Congress passes hate crime laws protecting some groups but not others. America was characterized by the Latin phrase, E Pluribus Unum, meaning “out of many, one”. This common unity overcame all the differences. But ‘Progressivism’ and ‘Poststructuralism’ reverses that emphasis to become E Unum Pluribus, or “out of one, many”. Under this approach, in 1894 Congress passed a tax that singled out the wealthy and treated them differently from others. In 1895, the Supreme Court properly struck down that 1894 law as being in direct violation of the clear wording of the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field warned that such a tax would literally change the face of America. “It will be the stepping stone to other, larger and more sweeping [law], till our political contests will become a war of poor against rich…a war constantly growing in intensity and bitterness.” [Pollock v. Farmers Loan and Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429, 607, 1895]. ‘Progressives’ and ‘Poststructuralists’, following their defeat at the hands of the Constitution, began advocating a constitutional amendment to change the Biblical approach to a non-Biblical one (where were the churches?). Under their proposal, the rich would be treated differently from the poor through a system of “progressive taxation”, which “takes a higher proportion of large incomes than of small ones”. [“Progressive Tax”, Dictionary.com]. In 1913, that proposal was ratified as the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, thus permitting the practice of uniform and capitation taxation to be replaced with the progressive approach, which is what Congress now regularly and even aggressively pursues, pitting one group against another and inciting class warfare that further divides the country. Forsaking God’s plan in establishing order in our society only invites destruction…’shoal waters’ that only wait to tear apart our ‘ship of state’.
In 1913 the top tax rate was 7% and was reserved only for the wealthiest…those who made $500,000 or more ($11.6 million in today’s dollars). [Federal Individual Income Tax Rates History: Nominal Dollars”,http://taxfoundation.org/sites/taxfoundation.org/files/fed_ individual_rate_history_nominal.pdf]. By 1990 the top tax rate was 28%, and it too was reserved for the wealthy…which at that time had been lowered to include those making more than $32,450. [National Taxpayers Union, “History of Individual Income Bottom and Top Bracket Rates”]. By 2013 the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans paid 30% of the total revenues collected from income taxes. [Associated Press, “The Top 1% of Americans Will Pay 30% of the Nation’s Federal Taxes in 2013: Report”, March 3, 2013]. This is certainly far more than anyone can consider ‘fair share’. To feed its addiction to spending the government keeps raising tax rates and dropping thresholds so as to place higher taxes on lower levels of income.
There is no justification in the Bible for a ‘progressive’ tax rate. Many societies and nations have adopted a progressive tax rate, but the justification for it will have to come from somewhere other than the explicit pattern of taxes and tithes found in the Bible. This brings into question what is ‘fair’ with regard to taxes? People may have subjective preferences or emotional preferences of one rate or other being ‘fair’, but those preferences will often be influenced by self-interest rather than by some objective standard of fairness. For example, take into consideration where taxpayer ‘A’ has $50,000 in taxable income and taxpayer ‘B’ has $500,000 in taxable income. Assuming a tax rate of 20%, they pay the following: Taxpayer ‘A’ $10,000 and taxpayer ‘B’ $100,000. What is ‘fair’? Even with a ‘flat tax’ taxpayer ‘A’ might say he is paying far more than his ‘fair share’ and that he should pay $0 and that taxpayer ‘B’ should be paying $110,000! If taxpayer ‘B’ is queried about the same subject, he might say he is paying far more than his ‘fair share’ with a ‘flat tax’. He pays $100,000 and receives the exact same government benefits as the taxpayer who pays $10,000. How can one paying ten times more than the other yet receiving the same benefits be ‘fair’? Then along comes a third taxpayer…a progressive…we will call taxpayer ‘C’. He believes taxpayer ‘B’ should pay even more because even if he pays more he still has more left over. That would leave us with the assumption that taxpayer ‘B’ does not deserve what is left over and could get by on a lot less. By paying $200,000 he could still have $300,000 left over and pay the taxes for the tax payers in taxpayer ‘A’s’ situation. It is very easy for people in taxpayer ‘A’s’ position or taxpayer ‘C’s’ position to assume that they have some kind of superior moral judgment that is able to decide how much taxpayer ‘B’ “really deserves” to live on. Granting people what they deserve to live on determined by some government formula would be communists totalitarianism of the worst kind. It would destroy incentives for work and excellence and productivity. The earliest colonists in America found that to be true. The best approach is that each person deserves what he/she has legally earned. In Luke we are given the parable of the servants who were each given a mina to use in business. The one who made the most of his mina was commended by the master and given great reward. The master…who stands for Jesus…rewards the servants according to what they had done with what they had been given, even though the rewards varied from servant to servant. It is very important to note that the ‘fair’ or appropriate rate of taxation does not depend on how much each person has left after paying taxes. It is of no concern to the government as to how much is left over after taxes. That money does not belong to the government or to society, it belongs to the taxpayer. This idea is based on biblical teaching and is the reason God commands people, “You shall not steal”. A person’s property belongs to that person, not to the government or to society or to that person’s neighbor. Some might say that taxpayer ‘B’ makes too much money. Well, salaries are determined according to the varying market demand for certain skills and abilities. If we don’t like it, the way to change it is to change the spending habits of society. Society gets what it decides to pay for.
Next week we will look at the impact of the current ‘progressive’ tax system on the average US tax payer who is trying to be responsible in their own support but is being beat down by a system that goes further and further into debt but has fewer and fewer citizens ‘footing’ the bill. Where are the churches in taking a stand against this financial ‘invasion’ of its congregations? Will it eventually get to the point that members of the congregation have to choose between paying taxes or tithes and rely on the ‘food pantries’ for subsistence?
– Bob Munsey