20 April 2012

Tithing and taxes

This little gem found its way into my Facebook news feed recently:
I'm all for a flat tax. Everyone above the poverty level pays 10% of their total income. It sounds pretty damn fair to me. Yes, this includes corporations too. 10% is good enough for God, it should be good enough for our government. If it's not, then why does our government need more money than God?
Well, gee; it's not much of a flat tax if some are excluded from it, now is it? Taxes are nothing more than a way to transfer wealth from one group to another. Even this proposed system would do exactly that.

That's not the point I wanted to make, though.

What I want to make clear is that tithes and/or charity (in God's name) and taxes should never be conflated or confused with each other. Taxes are involuntarily expropriated via the threat of government force. God, on the other hand, makes no such threats against person or property for failing to give. Not only that, but He doesn't even require that you give to a middle man. Whether you buy a meal for someone in need or give to a church that does, it's the same.

I'm certainly no theologian or saint, so take the following for what it's worth: Our (Christian) salvation is gained through the sacrifice that Christ made by dying on the cross and our belief in what He said about Himself, namely that He is Christ. Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:8-9, saying:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
I say this to make the point that our salvation is not dependent upon our charity, and thus there is no "donate or go to hell"-type threat looming over Christians. Now, certainly, those who are saved will, by virtue of their salvation, by and large be found to be donating (time, money, etc.) to the church and/or charity as God has instructed them. However, given what Paul said, I find it hard to believe that failure to do works (i.e. give to charity) invalidates salvation. After all, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

There are volumes that could be written about these subjects, and I'm not qualified to write them, although I did find this article instructive. In short, tithing and charity are voluntary; taxes are enforced through violence and/or the threat thereof. Never confuse the two.

16 April 2012

Taxes for thee but not for me

David Axelrod was on Fox News Sunday this past weekend and was asked about President Obama's taxes which were released this past week. I found the exchange over the Obamas' taxes very interesting and telling:
(CHRIS) WALLACE: It turns out that he [President Obama] paid a tax rate of 20.5 percent, which is a lot less than the 30 percent he talks about and yes, it is lower than what his secretary pays.


WALLACE: And the president has -- if I may, David, the question I have for you is: if the president feels so strongly about tax fairness, is he going to he contribute money to the Treasury and they have a special department just for this, to help with the deficit?

AXELROD: Listen, Chris, first of all, the reason that his tax rate was so low was in part because 22 percent of his income was donated to charity, mostly to these Fisher Houses around veteran hospitals. So --
At this point Wallace interrupted Axelrod to point out that Mitt Romney also contributes to charity. Axelrod agreed and then began to point out the differences between President Obama's tax proposal/plan and Governor Romney's. Wallace eventually returned to the original question:
WALLACE: I take it that he's [President Obama] not going to contribute money to the Treasury to help with the deficit.

AXELROD: Listen, well, that's not the way we operate our tax system, OK? We don't run bake sales. It's not about volunteerism. We all kick in according to the system. And the system allows that -- look, the fact that Mitt Romney pays 14 percent on $20 million income is not the issue. The issue is that the system permits it and he would perpetuate that and he would enhance it.
On the one hand, let me say, "good on Obama". If, as libertarians, we believe that taxes are theft, then we ought to commend any attempt to avoid paying them just as we would any defense against other criminal actions. On the other hand, it seems disingenuous of the president to call for the rich (millionaires, specifically) to pay 30% or more of their income in taxes while conspicuously failing to do so himself because the "system" allows it. Perhaps, it would have been wise for Mr. Axelrod to raise the point that the Obamas did not earn over a million dollars last year, and therefore, would not be subject to the president's proposal(s). But he didn't. In fact, he went on to defend the president's use of the system to lower his tax rate -- he's just following the rules. Nevermind that those rules permit him to contribute more.

There are a number of points raised by this story, all of which deserve a post of their own, but I don't have the time or energy to delve into each so deeply. Here they are, briefly and in no particular order:

  • Taxes are not voluntary and are collected at the end of a government gun.

    Axelrod admits as much when he says [emphasis mine], "that's not the way we operate our tax system, OK? We don't run bake sales. It's not about volunteerism. We all kick in according to the system." The only issue I take with his description is the use of the phrase "kick in". Stop enforcing tax laws; only then can we truly know how "voluntary" taxes really are.

  • No person should ever pay more than the "system" requires, the criminality of the system itself, notwithstanding.

    Obama's actions and Axelrod's defense of them (see the quote under the previous point) bear this out.

  • It's hypocritical to call out Mitt Romney for paying "only" 15% of his income in taxes.

    Governor Romney lives under the same tax system that President Obama does. Why is it okay for Obama to "kick in according the system" while Romney is vilified for doing exactly the same thing?

  • President Obama, himself, doesn't believe in his own tax proposal(s).

    As the Fox News story points out, Obama paid less in taxes, percentage-wise, than did his secretary. If he believes that a system in which this kind of "inequity" is allowed is "unfair", why wait for the system to change? Nothing is preventing him from correcting this particular injustice right now. Thus, we can infer that correcting this problem is less important to him than keeping his own money.

  • Why are taxes proportional to income but not other things, too?

    If taxes are what we pay for government goods and services, why don't rich people pay more for everyday goods and services like groceries and carwashes?

  • War is a racket.

    I note that the overwhelming majority of the Obamas' donations went to the Fisher House Foundation. It's been funny (interesting, not ha-ha) for me to see people on the political right who hate Obama with a passion turn around and lavish praise on him for donating money to this organization. Their love of war and support of those who fight it seemingly knows no bounds.

    The politics obscures the absurdity of it all. Why does the government pay for war and the private sector pay for cleaning up the messes left by it?

06 April 2012

Twitter account

Anyone know the owner of @johntyner? Any chance he or she would be willing to turn that account over to me?

04 April 2012

Distinction without difference

I've seen a lot of commentary over the last few days about the so-called "individual mandate" in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that discusses how the mandate is beyond the power(s) of the U.S. federal government and that the Supreme Court would be right to strike it down. Those same commentaries, however, then concede that the same federal government does have the authority to raise taxes and then use that money to provide health care, a la Social Security.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind:
  1. If the commentary, as described above, is correct, why is there such an uproar about the mandate? If the federal government really does have the authority--assuming it does so via the "proper" means--to force health care on every person within its jurisdiction, wouldn't it be far less injurious to individual liberty to allow people to choose from which provider they will get their insurance and the terms of that insurance? Furthermore, wouldn't it be far more economically efficient if individuals purchased insurance for themselves, saving the cost--both monetary and bureaucratic--of the government having to hire more IRS agents to collect the money and more functionaries to manage it?

  2. Isn't the real problem that the U.S. Constitution is all but worthless at this point? That is, if the mandate is such an affront to individual liberty, but the constitution allows the government to achieve the same ends via different means, what good is it as a protector of that liberty?