The rich benefit from society and should give back

A deal President Obama struck with Republican leaders last week will extend tax cuts across the board including, controversially, to … Continued

A deal President Obama struck with Republican leaders last week will extend tax cuts across the board including, controversially, to the richest Americans.

Some politicians argue that religious values should be reflected in the public square. Should this faith-based view of politics be applied to the economy? Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

In a time of economic turmoil and record poverty levels, are tax cuts for the wealthy moral?

In a time of massive unemployment, huge deficits and falling income for the middle class and the poor, tax cuts for the wealthy are a form of legalized theft. In the last decades we have seen an unfathomable transfer of wealth from the poor and middle classes to the rich. The income gap has grown astronomically. Middle class income has not risen in thirty years, while the speculators and the loan sharks who are responsible for this current crisis still get their inflated bonuses.

How do the rich make their profits? Do they manufacture goods? Then they must ship them on the roads and rails that are built with public money. Did they invent Ebay or Facebook? Then they profit from the internet which was developed originally with government support. Do they hire workers? Then much of their workforce has been educated and trained in public schools, community colleges, universities that are publicly funded. All business and commerce depends on the common infrastructure. Those who benefit extraordinarily from the commons must contribute back their fair share. If they do not, they siphon wealth away from the rest of us. They are asking us to subsidize their luxuries while we pinch pennies and scrape the bottom of the pan.

Some people might say that the rich deserve their golden hordes, that they earn their wealth by providing jobs. But subsidizing the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us does not create jobs–witness the current levels of unemployment! Moreover, it comes at the direct expense of the real, productive work of the world. Those who choose professions that involve caring for others, nurturing children, teaching, nursing, healing, farming, providing food, clothing and shelter surely deserve rewards for their labor. Now they are being asked to forego the pensions they counted upon for comfort in their old age, the health care they need to remain strong, the education that could allow their children to thrive, the homes they’ve scrimped and saved for, and to mortage their grandchildren’s futures all so that the ultra-rich who profit from their work can avoid their share of our common social responsibilities.

We are all interconnected. That is the core teaching of the Goddess traditions and of indigenous and earth-based spirituality, as well as the underlying moral principle in religions of the book, and the basic insight of the ecological sciences. We are all interdependent. Your well-being supports mine. If you go hungry, how can I, in good conscience, feast?

Interconnection and interdependence are the bases for true abundance. If the bulk of the people have no money, who will buy goods? In a forest, trees that grow in the sunlight actually send nutrients to trees that grow in the shade–even trees of a different species–through the underground network of mycorrhizal fungi that links root systems. They know that sharing resources creates more resilience and benefits for all.

Moral people give back. Moral people care for others, sharing both wealth and burdens. Moral people ask, not “What more can I take from society” but “What more can I contribute?”

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  • GabrielRockman

    “The rich benefit from society and should give back”The rich should give back, or the government should steal from the rich to give back? “But subsidizing the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us “I don’t think Starhawk knows what subsidizing means.

  • zorro2

    Our elected leaders keep giving the rich and powerful bigger and better tools with which to bludgeon the rest of us.

  • Ken16

    “How do the rich make their profits?” Starhawk asks. By providing goods and services that other prople value more highly than the money in their accounts.

  • elodeviheart1

    I am especially drawn this topic, as the S510 bill that was tabled was absolutely shocking. We are all braced for something. We all know that GMO foods want to control the market system, as well the the growing fields. We will continue to speak out against GMO foods and report the physiological reactions that many people and animals have to them. Isn’t this what Mary Queen of Scots went through declaring the rights of country people to an insane Congress in a time a famine?? I for one am very grateful to live a state (California) where I can use foodstamps while on unemployment. Other states as Tennessee are not as liberal with welfare, and growing food is imperative, as well as creating local markets to trade and buy, just for the sake of survival! These upper class senators have no idea what lid they are pushing here, and certainly do not have the right to even introduce the thought of such control. Who will grow their food for them when this debacle is over?? If their children cry at night we will still pray for them.

  • elodeviheart1

    I would like to speak to the experience if growing food as the most creative giving thing anyone can do. Especially inner city poor who learn that they can produce something for their families and not live off government or have to theft. We are talking about growing food here (we all know that medical marijuana can be grown as well.) Most people can grow enough to eat regular organic produce just in their backyard, if they are able to learn. Health reform needs healthy foods available to create a better forum for all.

  • Peter22

    I think that the moral case contains many other points than are mentioned in the article. Among them is a point that about half (or possibly a little more) of the US population receive more in government subsidies than they pay in tax.While I agree that a degree of progression in the rates is sensible, my impression is that a great deal of anger is being heaped on a small part of the population. Anger does not help clarify fairness. Tailoring special rates for a small part of the population (those making more than $250k) comes close to a bill of attainder that is specifically prohibited by the constitution.A related point in the text suggests that the very rich obtain wealth by exploiting the facilities that government creates. To the extent that is true, you may be suggesting that such exploitation should be discouraged or taxed. Personally, I believe that the more obvious consequence of that would be to raise the cost of the services for all and discourage users.On a broader level, I do agree that one should give back to society and everyone should pay a fair share of the cost of government. Note that this is a general statement about fairness and defining fairness in the abstract is a famous unsolved problem.A countervailing obligation is that the government should not speculate with other people’s money. Specifically, the programs they attempt should be those provided for in the Constitution, not ones prohibited in the 10th amendment. They should also be ones where the solutions are provably effective and efficiently accomplished.The importance of this point is the realization that we are not discussing what people’s conscience should make them inclined to do, we are (in discussing federal taxes) discussing what will be compelled (even by threat of imprisonment or other use of force).It is a very mixed message to say what folks should do when the intent is to compel contributions by force and the funds extracted are used for a wide range of social programs that might attract some, but are not actually appropriate to be combined with compulsion. In many cases it is not provable that they do more than mitigate some of the pain.

  • Pizen

    Give back? Give what back? I don’t think I was given anything.Nearly half of the population pays no federal income tax. So just over half of the country subsidizes just under half for all of the “essential” government “services” they can consume. And it’s never enough. The government has an insatiable appetite for income, which is the definition of greed if I ever saw one.

  • Ombudsman1

    The entitlement mentality on display is breathtaking.If I give you a dollar every day of my labor, if I refuse to give you that dollar at some point, I’m not *stealing* that dollar from you. You just assumed that since I gave you a dollar for so long that I was obligated to do so.Only person of poor reasoning can conclude that when someone is allowed to keep the money earned by their labor that it is theft because they won’t give as much as you’d like.I’d blame it on your being Wiccan, but I’ve seen some Christian “authorities” on here who have all the logical faculties of a stuffed animal.

  • Don30

    “The rich benefit from society and should give back” So do the poor. Where do people spend their unemployment checks on essentials? Wal-mart. Where does the bread come from at many food banks? Donated by Large grocery chains. Who donates the most money to Charities? The rich. When jesus told the story of the woman who gave two pennys, he was talking about how great her heart was. When it costs $150,000 for the Salvation Army or Volunteers of America to house 10 faimilies in assisted housing that 2 cents isn’t worth 2 cents. A flat tax would be great, but the likley hood of that happening is minimal. Stop blamming others for your problems and realize that there have always been rich and there have always been poor but thankfully our society does a pretty good job of taking care of each other. If you doubt me take a trip to Eastern Europe, Haiti, India, or any other place where they have a real poverty problem. Someone wiser than me once said “America is the only country in the world where the poor drive their own cars to rallies against poverty”.

  • Ombudsman1

    “Speak truth to power – and yet, and yet, I feel so helpless.”Because you’re not really speaking any real truth.This idea that anybody making over $250K is exploiting the rest of the people ignores the fact that this government has set class warfare upon us.Do you think the professional couple a few miles down the road from you working as an engineer and lawyer is exploiting you? Do you think that you’re entitled to some of their income? Is your feeling that everything should be fair?You’re coming up with all kinds of fancy ways to say “I want more stuff, and I think you should pay for it because you make more than me”.That’s pretty much your entire argument. At least be honest with yourself about what you’re saying. You’re not speaking any real truth because you don’t understand the nature of power and who actually wields it.

  • CHAOTICIAN101

    The issue here transcends whether the Tax Giveaways for the wealthy are moral or not! At issue is the governance of the nation! What is immoral is the acceptance that a desirable thing, unemployment benefits, can be purchased by an undesirable thing, tax cuts. What is immoral is the high-jacking of the political process by dirty tricks, arcane rules, acts of privilege and power! What is immoral is the need or decision to do a backdoor stimulus using tax cuts, tax loopholes, tax termination! If a stimulus is needed, then a real stimulus, thought out and enacted is what is needed. If tax cuts are affordable and appropriate, then this should be done as well. What is immoral is the so-called compromise, horse trading of our politicians along with the connivance of our President to accomplish anything! Balancing bad stuff to get good stuff; bribing politicians with pork and earmarks; giving and receiving political favors; the blatant purchase of public representatives by corporate, wealthy, religious, other special interests; these are immoral, these are malfeasance, and these are acts of treason!

  • washerwoman

    “LEGALIZED THEFT” to allow someone to keep more of the money he earned?OTOH, taking at gunpoint the money I have earned in order to hand it to someone who didn’t earn it but will keep voting you into power sounds like legalized theft.

  • micheleroyalty1

    I used to make about $500,000 per year, was subjected to alternative minimum tax, so had no deductions at all. Sure, I complained,but I

  • robinlandseadel

    Dear Star,The difference between a true christian and a Christianist can be found in that person’s willingness to share. As I recall, the first time I ran across the “legend of the long spoons” was via Judy Foster:Our Friend, having a near death experience, contemplates his life of sin and anxiously awaits his fate in the next world.An escort meets him at the boundary of hereafter and with a welcoming smile says, “You’re not ready yet friend; you still have another chance. But you’ll return soon, so let me show you what goes on here on the other side.”Together they enter a great hall where a long candle-lit banquet table is laden with bowls of steaming, fragrant soups, succulent roasts, perfectly cooked vegetables, aromatic loaves of bread, the finest of wines, fruits of every kind, and a dazzling array of cakes and pies. Diners fill every chair, but shockingly, amid luxurious bounty, the scene is one of pain and anguish. Skeletal forms are twisted and moaning in starvation, with barely the strength to strike at each other with their spoons.Looking closer, our Friend sees that all spoons have long handles—longer than the diners’ arms; too long for the diners to feed themselves. “So this is Hell,” gasps our Friend. “Anger and misery amid abundance. Where’s the Devil?” “Evil resides in the hearts of men,” says Escort, “But, come, let me show you something else.”The two enter another great hall. And in that hall there is another long, candle-lit banquet table, covered with a similar incredible spread of delicious foods, drinks and sweets. Here the sounds of laughter, chatter and song fill the hall while healthy and happy diners are enjoying the company and the bounty before them.They, too, have long spoons, but they are feeding each other. “And this,“ the Escort tells our Friend, “is heaven.”And a Merry Christmas to you!

  • kesac

    The best thing the rich can do for the rest of us, is to spend their wealth in our stores and or places of business, hire our services, and other wise create opportunities to raise up the rest of us.

  • lafred

    The standard right-wing meme, that taxation is theft, rests on the idea that what we “earn” is solely the result of our own effort, & therefore belongs totally to us. I’d like to put up a counter thought – that we inherit most of what we have, & owe it to our posterity to transmit what we can to future generations, & also use it, if we can, for the present general benefit.We inherit the air & water, & the genes of the plants & animals we eat. We inherit our bodies & minds, which are of a value (bought by the deaths of innumerable creatures) we could never imagine repaying. We inherit the land, & buildings, & cities & countries, & the very structure of our life, the sun & moon & earth & sea in their lucky balance. Most usefully to us, we inherit the culture & brain work of myriads of human beings before us. Where would the billionaires of today be without the invention of the alphabet, or geometry, or organic chemistry, or the quantum theory? Or the systems of banking & legality (backed by governmental force) they build their fortunes on? Who did they pay to use all these things? How did they “earn” this?These elements are the property of all men, & should be used for all men’s benefit. In the (very near) future, the common intellectual property, the science & culture of man, is going to lead us into a world of technological possibility that is almost unimaginable. Machines will think, & work will be unnecessary. Who will be rich then? What will ownership mean? What will you “earn”?If we can’t learn to share our capabilities & resources, if we can’t work out some system for getting the fruits of our accumulated intellectual wealth to everyone, we will be doomed by the selfish to a planet demolished by heat & storms, with masses of miserable humanity fighting for crumbs from the miser’s tables. In a world where a hedge-fund manager, who produces nothing physical, & mostly does actual damage to the general economy, “earns” billions, while a nurse who works a triple shift & saves two lives, “earns” one ten-thousandth of that, some basic notion of fairness, equity or justice, demands we reorder our system of compensation. Redistribution by common consensus seems fair to me.

  • lukeshiva

    Speak truth to power – and yet, and yet, I feel so helpless.Suggestions as to how to respond – EFFECTIVELY?I want to be Chaplin in Modern Times; I want to be a cog in the wheel.

  • Athena4

    #1 – there’s a huge difference between Communism as Marx and Engles thought it up and what was put into practice by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. #2 – Lafred did not call for the elimination of personal property. S/He was describing a more equitable arrangement than our current laissez-faire capitalism. #3 – Paying taxes is patriotic. The government taxes people in order to fund its operations. That includes building roads, bridges, schools, prisons, courthouses, printing money, the Armed Forces, food inspections, nuclear materials storage, cyber security, caring for veterans, funding vital scientific research, etc. All of these are vital functions that a modern state must perform so that its citizens can be safe and protected. Taxes are part of that social contract that we pay as Americans. If you don’t like taxes, don’t drive on roads, make sure that the food that you make your dinner with hasn’t been inspected, don’t get on the Internet (which was developed by the Government); make a call on a cellphone (which sold the rights to the frequency spectrum), or take an aspirin (safety monitored by the FDA). But go ahead and stick a yellow ribbon onto the back of your gas-guzzling SUV to show how much you “support the troops”.

  • jobandon

    I’m going to Starbucks sweetie. I’ll leave extra change for Barista. I’ll be a little poorer, but as the romantics say for richer or for poorer and in sickness and in health. Hope you are healthy. Thank heavens for the Weavers.

  • GabrielRockman

    LAFred – do you realize that you have advocated communism and the elimination of personal property? You have eliminated the incentive for innovation. Without the incentive for innovation, there would be no alphabet, or geometry, or organic chemistry, or the quantum theory.If we owe it to our posterity to transmit what we can to future generations, then we must NOT listen to you. Redistribution by common consensus will lead to a deterioration of anything of value.Without the ability to improve our own lives through our own actions, humankind will regress back to the stone age.

  • allamer1

    Well, Starhawk, you will be relieved to know that taxes have not been cut. Another thing is that we have progressive tax rates, so the rich and middle class pay a higher percentage than the poor. I notice that you connect taxes with the plight of the poor. However, taxes are paid for government services which benefit everybody, like roads, the courts, and the military. Being poor is just a matter of a person’s economic condition. Many people, including myself, have been poor. No one is guaranteed anything in life, although many feel entitled. Being poor or not has nothing to do with government. However, concern for the poor is something anyone can have and can do something about. Many people, and certainly the rich, do help the poor. Your line of thinking seems to equate the economy with government. All of us should be a part of the economy by producing useful goods or services. If we do it especially well, we improve life in our society and may become wealthy. For most of us, we do it well enough to make a living. Either way, it is not attributable to government. Unfortunately, some people do not make any economic contribution to society. Instead, they rely on the support of the people who do economically contribute to society and pay taxes. That is not moral.

  • laurellea

    You claim, “We are all interdependent. Your well-being supports mine. If you go hungry, how can I, in good conscience, feast?”It is in error you assume this “good conscience” of others. Note how they twist this assumption in their defenses posted in response in order to cause your pleading to resemble one of arrogance. They successfully discredit your attempt to reason with what has proven to be unreasonable from time immemorial. Such is the sad state of affairs, and it seems a formidable schizophrenia that has latched hold of our faculties. The cognitive dissonance one finds maddening has thus wrought some a four part harmony. There is no capacity within such people for the greater understanding of all things. They despise and have sent the “big picture” and all its truths to the ever rising inferno of denial. Some feel everything is alive. Some think everything is dead. Theirs is a world of scarcity and a philosophy of the virtue of greed, self preservation, exploitation of the “inferior.”Ironically, if such words find ears more fit for truth on other fronts,light shed is reduced to mere preaching to the choir. It feels like the darkness is spreading.The only protest that has any impact is to remove the unjust rewards. People are beginning to understand the only thing that can be done is to drop out of their game. This movement is power. Do not contribute to the growth of what they defend as “their hard earned” wealth. Cease all behaviors you possibly can that support their immoral system. Find ways to fight back against the coming darkness. Find others who know, and who know how, and continue to speak truth to power.