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?”