Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Taxes, the budget, and moral values

So, have you been enjoying those tax cuts? No? I can’t say that I’m very surprised. As a matter of fact, the few bucks that George W. Bush threw at my family have been replaced with tuition increases for my kids in college, higher interest rates, rising food costs, and higher premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for my health insurance. I’m really looking forward to higher prices for natural gas and electricity this winter, too. Does anybody remember $3 per gallon gasoline? Let’s see, that was just a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it? Oh, and last month my employer had its first sizable layoff in years. Yessir, those tax cuts sure have done wonders for working men and women everywhere!

In fact, George W. Bush and the Republican Congress have made no secret of their disdain for working men and women. Their tax “reforms” which eliminated or drastically reduced taxes on wealth, including capital gains taxes and the “Paris Hilton” inheritance tax, make their core values very clear. Accumulated wealth and income from wealth are valued. Income from wages is not. If you’re like most people and your income comes from the sweat of your brow, well, that’s just too bad. As Leona Helmsley used to say, “Only the little people pay taxes.” At least until she went to prison for tax evasion, that is.

George W. Bush’s tax “reforms” have wreaked havoc on the middle class, while wealthy taxpayers have watched their incomes skyrocket and their taxes plummet. Furthermore, Bush's tax cuts have wrecked public services and undermined prospects for long-term economic growth. Thanks to Bush’s tax “reform,” middle-class workers today are faced with a higher tax rate on their wage income than the 15-percent rate that millionaires pay on their investment income. Can someone explain to me how this is fair or moral? I sure don’t understand it. One of our core American moral values is our belief in fairness. Our tax system should reflect those values, not flout them. There has been very little that was fair about our federal tax system for many years, but Bush’s “reforms” have managed to make a bad situation even worse.

As the federal budget deficit has continued to climb, George W. Bush and the Republican Congress have pressed for even more tax cuts for the wealthy, while pushing funding cuts in dozens of programs – cuts that will hurt our most vulnerable citizens: children, the elderly, veterans, disaster victims, the unemployed. Jim Wallis said it best, “The choice to cut supports that help people make it day to day in order to pay for tax cuts for those with plenty goes against everything our religious and moral principles teach us. It says that leaders don’t care about people in need. It is a blatant reversal of biblical values … It is one more example of an absence of morality in our current political leadership.”

Our federal budget and tax laws establish the priorities for our country. They reflect our values as a nation, and what we believe is important for current and future generations. The prophet Isaiah said: “Woe to you legislators of infamous laws … who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan.” I wonder what Isaiah would say today about the values of George W. Bush and the Republican Congress.

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