Attention Tea Party Advocates

http://cdn.front.moveon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Warren-LARGE.jpg

Thanks Elizabeth.  There are no self-made persons in this country. And there would be no social fabric to this country were it not for taxes— no roads, no fire department, no police department, no traffic lights, no garbage collectors,  etc.  And as Elizabeth says, we have an obligation to those who come after us, to pay it forward.  For example, we need enough money in the S.S. system so my children will have it when their day comes to need it.  Frankly there are two things needed for that to happen: 1) of course we need to be fiscally responsible, and 2) no matter what, we need to RAISE TAXES.  Yes you heard me, raise taxes.  We need to all pay our fair share for living in the country we do, with the lowest tax rate in any industrialized Western democracy.  Sooooooo, it’s time to stop whining about taxes.    Do we need to reform the tax code so the wealthy pay their fair share—– you bet we do.  Do we need to reform the tax code to eliminate ridiculous loop holes?  Of course we do.  Should major corporations have to pay their fair share of taxes?  Of course they should.   Are there some people paying a disproportionate amount in taxes—- yes there are (see Warren Buffet’s point about himself and his secretary).

It is interesting that one of the things that both Jesus and Paul insist on is——- paying your taxes!    I’m just sayin’ –do your civic duty and stop whining. The fact that the tax code is not perfect is no excuse for screaming for lower taxes—- fix the code, and make sure everyone, including major corporations pays their fair share.   Enough said.

  • http://withthosewho.com Ben DeVries

    Well said, Ben.

  • Anonymous

    Thought this was an interesting chart showing that the percent of the government income paid is almost exactly the percent of income of the payer. So the rich pay almost exactly the percent of the government’s budget that they receive in their own income (and the same for almost all other income brackets) — this was from a Washington Post article by Ezra Klein yesterday.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that in a country where we have the right to vote and the freedom of speech to do so, that it is the responsibility of voters to speak about problems in things like the tax code, and government waste.

    I don’t believe we need to raise taxes, we need to control spending. And if you’re familiar with the Laffer curve concept, there’s a point of taxation that will maximize revenue to the government, and tax rates higher than that will cause lower revenue to the government even with higher rates.

    Obviously we must have a level of taxation, and the government is needed to provide things like roads that benefit everyone, which are impractical for the private sector to provide. But these expenses need to be managed properly, and not used as a way to buy votes in a crony capitalistic way that seems so prevalent today.

    And I think we have much to be thankful for to the Tea Party. They are doing what they should do, be a voice calling for responsibility and constraint on the part of the government. And exercising the freedom of speech in a responsible manner. I think it’s a good thing.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure how to interpret the fact that the two sets of bars track each other, but I am intrigued by the 80-99%iles (the 5th, 6th, and 7th sets of bars) and why they seem to be paying less tax than the 60-80%ile (4th set of bars). Is this group particularly good at tax avoidance?

  • Anonymous

    I’m guessing that the reason the lower tax rates pay the percentage they do is to local taxes, such as sales taxes. They pay very little to no federal income taxes (except the extremely regressive Social Security tax).

  • Anonymous

    Ezra Klein interpreted it to say that really we are a much less progressive taxation country than what think we are. Yes federal taxes are pretty progressive, but once you figure in all taxes then it is much more even. And the reality is that the very rich actually have most of the money, both in income and in taxes, so it is all in how you look at the data.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Moore/1515739436 Robert Moore

    So, in other words, shut up and go along with any old tax increase congress and/or the president says we need. Is that it? Why is it that the government ALWAYS proposes new taxes but rarely includes a sunset date? NOR do they ever track how those taxes are used and how effective the program they are taxing us for?

    I have a question for all of those “Tea Party” detractors: have you ever gone to a Tea Party event or actually spoken to a Tea Party member, or do you get all you WANT to know only from media sources?

    The Tea Party message, for the most part, is “Fix our tax system and entitlement programs BEFORE you raise the taxes”. Otherwise it just goes into that slush fund that gets transferred from one place to another without proper accountability.

    And one last thing Ben: It is very disingenuous of you to mention what Paul and Jesus said about taxes IF you are using their words to say we shouldn’t complain about our modern tax rate. The Roman system had no appeal process because it was not a democracy. Our system is a representative democracy so, in essence, we tax ourselves through our representative in congress. The responsibility is up to US to make sure that they are performing in a responsible manner AND in our best interests.

    We pay taxes at every level of commerce and income, and it is COMPULSORY with penalties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    Dear Ben Witherinton,

    You are an excellent Biblical scholar and I have tremendous respect for you. I have benefited from many of your published writings. However, on taxes and economic policies, this short blog post without actually discussing numbers and rates in effect “jumps the shark.” I think a fair examination of the facts leads to an alternative conclusion. Let me highlight a few points of response.

    First, Elizabeth Warren is deconstructing arguments that no one–not even the Tea Party is making. There have been so many responses to this already. Two problems in short order is (1) Warren assumes corporations aren’t paying enough already and (2) Warren assumes that corporations contribute little or nothing back in terms of societal benefits. This false to consider the jobs they provide and the skills and education that often give directly to workers. In effect, she assume corporations don’t pay it forward, when indeed they already do. This is Adam Smith 101, that even though they may not intentionally do good, the aggregate effects are that they do pay it forward in multiple ways.

    Second, show me any person in this country that does not pay for police, fire and roads? Warren and others debunk a straw man. Even a company that owns its property where its factories and warehouse reside pays for these services. In fact, local regulations often require a company putting in a new facility to upgrade local roads. Antidotal evidence, up the road from my house a Lowe’s is building a large facility. They have had to pay for re-pavement and widening of two major intersections nearby. This is true of the nearby WallMart distribution center as well.

    Third, our corporate tax rate is actually one of the highest in the world. In 2005 it was near 40%. Only Japan was higher. The effective U.S. corporate tax on new investment was 34.6% in 2010. In 2010 only Argentina, Chad, Brazil and Uzbekistan were higher. Yes some corporations exploit loopholes which are unjust when not comprehensively offered. The tax code needs to be reformed but corporate taxes need to be reduced because it results in unfair double taxation (money is tax 1st in the corporation’s earnings, and again in the individual earnings received out of what the business made). However, we will not continue to attract corporations or retain them given increased regulatory burden and our high corporate tax rate in comparison to the rest of the world (including the 1st world).

    Fourth, I don’t think Warren Buffet is a fair example of someone genuinely thinking his tax rate is unfair. His own investment has been delinquent for several years on the current taxes that they owe. So if he really wants to pay more taxes perhaps he should have is company pay the ones it currently owes. Buffet own statements have been debunked again and again. In fact a few years ago buffet claimed that his his secretary making $60,000 was charged a 30% tax rate. One IRS tax chart would simply dissolve this perpetual misrepresentations by Warren.

    Fifth, what exactly is the “fair share” the wealthy owe? The top 1% of wages earners already pay 38% of the income taxes while they make only 20% of all the income. The top 10% of wages earners shoulder 70% of the income tax burden while making only 46% of the income. How is that not more than “fair”? In fact, it is more than fair by any reasonable definition. This is not necessarily an argument against reducing their taxes but it is at least an argument against raising their taxes claiming that they “don’t pay their fair share.”

    Sixth the problem isn’t a revenue problem, it is a spending problem. This is true according the CBO’s own analysis. Average federal spending from 1950-2000 was 19.8% of GDP. During that time tax revenue averaged 18% of GDP. Projected tax revenues by the CBO between 2016 and 2021 will be 18.2% of GDP (even assuming the Bush tax cuts are made permanent). However federal spending levels are projected by the CBO at 23.8% of GDP far higher than historic averages. This examination of long term trends clearly demonstrates that it is not as if suddenly taxes are too low. Federal spending has markedly increased beyond historic levels (and these budgetary figures do not include items like social security).

    I agree that it is our civic duty to pay taxes. Even the Tea Party is arguing for this. However the issue is fiscal restraint. It is also our civic duty (an option the first century did not have) to hold our government accountable through fair elections. Of course the tax code is not perfect. This is why Paul Ryan and most Tea Party folks are in favor of closing loop holes. Here they agree with Demoncrat’s policy statement (N.B. democrats are just as guilty of corporate favoritism as Republicans are accused of being).

    However an honest approach to the numbers demonstrates that tax rates are unbalanced and extremely high already. When the largest wages earners (individuals and corporations) are already paying the largest percentages of our taxes it is irresponsible to balk about their need to be “paying their fair share.” Given the percentages they already pay it is reasonable to ask what indeed is a fair share?

    Respectfully,
    Tim B

  • Rick

    I don’t know if Warren Buffett is a good one to mention.
    From Human Events:
    “Funny thing is, it turns out Buffett was being… shall we say… disingenuous when he claimed his “leaders” never got around to asking for his “shared sacrifice.” His company, Berkshire Hathaway, has been fighting the IRS tooth and nail to avoid paying its federal tax bill for nearly a decade. How much of the State’s rightful money has this hypocrite been clutching in a white-knuckled death grip? Oh, only about a billion dollars or so.”

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, that’s helpful. Computing overall tax burden is definitely important when looking at how “progressive” our system is. At present this varies from one locale to another…unless Herman Cain gets his way and then even the federal system will be much less progressive than before.

  • Michael De Master

    Dear Proffesor Witherinton,

    I greatly appreciate the time and effort you take in this blog to share your knowledge, thoughts and views. When it comes to New Testement debate and discussion, you are thoughtful, respectful of differring opionins and clearly state your position with carefull and critical consideration of the facts and evidence. You treat these issues as serious matters worthy carefull and critical thought. As Mr. Bertolet points out, when it comes to current political and economic issues, I must say you appear to adhere to different standards.

    As a “Tea Party advocate” (and Christian), you have grossly misrepresented what I understand the term to mean. We are not opposed to (or whine about) taxes for roads, bridges, parks and other public infrastructure. We are not opposed to public education, police and fire protection. In an attempt to cast us in the most “extreme” light, these public goods are purposely cited to paint us as unreasonable. This is simply not true for the vast majority of Tea Party advocates.

    We believe in limited federal government not out of some self serving motivation but because we truely believe that it leads to the most good for the most people. You conceed that our federal government is wasteful and corrupt, yet your answer is to give it more money, power and control. If we accept the premise that man has a sinfull nature and has shown throughout history a desire to gain control and power over other men, why would we think that it is just a matter of finding the right benevolent human rulers this time?

    Government is neccesary for man. Tea Party advocates are not anarchists. But if governemnt is neccesary, we believe it’s power should be limited and as local as possible.

    Lastly, I could not disagree with you more in your closing “enough said”. I say let the disscusion continue, no whining neccesary.

    Respectfully

    Michael De Master

  • Anonymous

    No, the tea party’s message is “keep your government hands off my medicare”. They are simply crazy. They want cuts in government spending, just not for them. Most of them are older, and so they are the ones consuming much of the government’s spending. 50% of all government spending goes to SS and medicare. They are the ones who consistently voted for higher spending and lower taxes for themselves, and now want to keep their “socialized insurance” (medicare) while denying it to the rest of of us, while also forcing cuts on the rest of us who weren’t so reckless.

    As Jesus said, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s”. Jesus didn’t say that depends on the type of government you live under.

  • Anonymous

    The “laffer curve” is quackery and not true any way, unless you are talking about 90% tax rates.

    The simple fact is that Americans now pay less in taxes than they have since the early 1950s. Taxes are lower now than they were when Obama came into office. Americans pay too little in taxes, and need to pay more.

    The tea party is crazy. Their motto is “keep your government hands off my medicare”. Just a bunch of crazy old people.

  • Anonymous

    Ben is completely right. Americans pay less in taxes now than they have since the early 1950s. The federal government is one big insurance company with an army. Half of federal spending goes to SS and medicare, while another quarter goes to defense. American companies pay the second lowest effective tax rates (tax rate minus all deductions) in the industrialized world. Americans are under-taxed and over-entitled. Sadly I think Ben is wrong about the rich being the problem here. The rich are too few in number to make tax policy. Taxes have become a cultural issue. What we have in the tea party and among many on the political right is the equivalent the sans-culottes marching down the street demanding more power to the aristocracy.

  • Anonymous

    Paul Ryan wants to end medicare. It would seem most who agree with him are 55 and older and wouldn’t be affected. Effective corporate tax rates for American companies (tax rates after deductions) are the second lowest in the industrialized world. Half of all federal spending is SS and medicare, with another quarter for defense. The problem with spending is rising medicare costs, which is exactly what the healthcare law addressed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    What data do you have to support that the Laffler curve is not true? Even Kennedy argued that cutting taxes would actually create more jobs and income and spur the economy.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEdXrfIMdiU

    Actually taxes as percent of GDP have remained at about 18% from 1950 to 2000. CBO budget predictions (including an estimate if the Bush tax cuts would continue) put income at about 18.2% of GDP for 2016-2021.

    Your knowledge of the Tea Party, its desires, and its demographics is seriously lacking in data as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    Paul Ryan has consistently argued that Medicare would not be changed for anyone 55 and older. Even Democrats have argued that if we do not change Medicare benefits the system will fall apart. Of course, more recently this has unfortunately been politicized and polarized.

    Your argument has been the tea party is made of old people and old people want to change SS and medicare. In fact, the older generations are very concerned with preserving things as they are (in fact politicians have exploited this fear) and the younger generation (especially when in the Tea Party) is concerned about reducing benefits. I think the argument could be made to honor our commitments for those heading on to the system and making changes for the future so that is a system. The fact remains that we cannot payout future benefits at the current rates.

    The problem with income tax deductions is that they are not fair and universal. In fact, Paul Ryan and others in the Tea Party are in favor of reducing or all but illuminating loopholes and reductions. However, the corporate tax rate remains one of the highest, and typically only the larger companies with the more high powered lawyers are able to exploit exemptions (evidence: GE paid no corporate tax).

    Medicare costs have already gone up thanks to the new healthcare law. The data simply does not support that costs will go down because of the healthcare law, and indeed they have not. However, Ben Witherinton’s post was not specifically on these issues, just the tax rate and the need to raise taxes.

    Medicare and SS is a boondoggle. It needs long term fixing if they are to remain solvent. Even NY Times writer and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman (no conservative and no friend to conservatives) has called SS a ponzi scheme.

  • Anonymous

    ohhh I know all too well about the tea party.

    As for the Laffer curve, my evidence is the 1990s and 2000s. Taxes went up in the 1990s and people worked more and made more. All were reversed in the 2000s. It may tell some people what they want to hear, but simply isn’t true.

    Oh and, I like how you combined 1950 through 2000, as though there wasn’t a steady variance. Tell us what the difference was between the 50s and 90s.

  • David Capp

    You’ve actually in your comment admitted to the accuracy of the Laffer curve (when you commented about 90%). I think you’re assuming that the tax percentage in the Laffer curve is static, which it is not. The revenue to the government exploded in the Reagan administration, which brought marginal tax rates down by huge proportions, giving evidence for the Laffer curve.

    And Timothy is exactly right on your statements about the tea party. You obviously don’t know it well at all. It appears to be a straw man argument regarding the tea party.

  • Anonymous

    Paul Ryan wants to “save” medicare by ending it. The problem with medicare is health care inflation, which is exactly what the healthcare reform law addresses. Democrats want to save medicare by saving it, not by ending it.

    In theory older people should be concerned with preserving things for posterity, though I suppose if that were actually true these people wouldn’t have voted for tax cuts and spending for themselves for 30 years, along with deregulation to accompany their reckless overconsumption. They may think they care about posterity, but their behavior has always been to undermine posterity.

    You are right, deductions are not good. We have high tax rates but high deductions, so we pay low taxes. What some on the right want to do is end deductions (though they can never tell us which ones) without addressing the revenue problems. The problem is that the tax code doesn’t bring in enough revenue, and few on the right (and fairness, many on the left too) don’t care to do anything about this.

    Medicare costs have actually decreased over the last year, even though the law hasn’t even come into effect yet. Healthcare inflation over the last decade was 100%. The system is going to fly apart if left to itself, which is why healthcare reform was so important.

    You need to get your news from somewhere other than drudge or hannity. I follow Krugman quite closely every day, and I assure you, he never said such a thing. Actually I think his blog address why this is not the case a couple days ago.

  • Anonymous

    Certainly. If you taxed at 100% (or nearly) some might be discouraged. Though not only is that an extreme example, even in the 1940s-1950s the richest were taxed at 90% and didn’t work less. So if anything experience shows that even the extreme example is only barely true in some situations. Changing the tax rate from, say, 30% to 35% has no such effects.

    Revenues went up under Reagan because they always go up. Inflation and non-recessionary (which is to say, positive) GDP guarantees this. No one would have predicted otherwise. What predictions were made that were proven false was that Clinton’s tax increases would be economically destructive, and they certainly weren’t.

    Oh I know the tea party all too well sadly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    In the 1950s the highest income tax bracket ran at about 90%. However what you paid in actual taxes ran far less because it was calculated by gradation (20% on first $2,000; 21% on next $2,000, etc).

    1990-1992 the top marginal tax rate was 31%; 1993-2000 top marginal tax rate was 39.6%.

    The averages were hardly skewed by looking at a long term trend through both Democratic and Republican presidencies.

    Still if you think I mislead with the numbers in the early 1950s taxes as percentage of GDP were:
    ’50=14.4; ’51=16.1; ’52=19; ’53=18.7; ’54=18.5; ’55′ 16.5 (see the White House Office of Budget and Management)

    In 1947-50 income as percent of GDP is actually lower.

    Income as percentage of GDP
    ’91-’93 was ca. 17.5%
    94-96 was ca. 18.4%
    ’97-99 was ca. 19.5%

    On average about the same or in some cases just slightly higher.

    Spending during ’91-99 was still at about 20-22% GDP. While in the 1950s it averages from the low end of 15.6% of GDP to a high of 20.4% GDP in 1953. We were actually more deficient in the 1950s when the highest marginal tax rates were higher (this only proves the issue is spending not taxes).

    Of course actually dollar amounts, income in the 90s was higher because the economy was actually larger.

    Actually in the 2000s spending as percentage of GDP is on average about the same as it was in the 50s. A couple of low years around 16% and a couple of high years arounds 18-20%.

    The reason I combined things is to show averages for those who argue that income as percentage of GDP is lower. In fact it is not. I was comparing a long term trend with short term predictions of the CBO.

    Maybe you have more of a specific complaint about the numbers. But there they are. I see nothing that invalidates my original statement. Perhaps you have something you could point out.

    I’m not an economics major, but the Laffler curve still holds. Your antidotal argument about the 1990s and the 2000s hardly says anything. Arguments can go either way with “evidence” like that, including previous decades impact on the current one, and the global economic issues (such as say Japan in the 1990s) etc.

    I stand by the numbers, I am only saying what others have said. The data itself comes from a White House report.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely do not agree with you on this. The 90% tax rate also had lots of lots of loop holes and deductions. The net result is that people didn’t effectively pay 90%. What Reagan did was reduce the tax rates, and reduce the loop holes. Plus, the rich are much more willing to expose their money to taxation at a lower rate, than if the rates are high. At high rate times, they will shield their money from taxation.

    And I see no reason to believe you know the tea party well… your view doesn’t at all match my experiences with the tea party.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    This is my last reply. But it’s been fun.

    Krugman wrote the following back in the 90s:
    “Social Security is structured from the point of view of the recipients as if it were an ordinary retirement plan: what you get out depends on what you put in. So it does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today’s young may well get less than they put in).”

    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR21.6/krugmann.html

    Other nobel prize winning laureates like Milton Friedman and Paul Samuelson have also called SS a ponzi scheme.

    It my mind, it goes to show how much this stuff is politicized. You can’t say something that is true if the other side has said the same thing. That tends to be accurate of both the right and the left.

    In fairness, Krugman has defended himself arguing that because SS is pay-as-you-go it is not quite the same as a Ponzie scheme (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/14/the-ponzi-thing/).

    Krugman isn’t making hysteria. He’s very critical of those who prophecy doom or gloom or argue that it should be absolved (changing it isn’t the same as absolving it). Krugman however states “in the past it {SS} had benefited from the fact that each generation paying in to the system was bigger than the generation that preceded it, and that this luxury would be ending in the years ahead.”

    –my apologizes to Ben Witherington for hijacking the blog post comments sections. I’ve been a regular reader for a time but never commenting.

    I hope I don’t come across as ‘trolling’

  • Anonymous

    Yes, Krugman is quite clear that it is not a ponzi scheme. This is because it isn’t. The original ponzi scheme lasted 200 days, which is typical since they are so unstable. SS has lasted for over 70 years.

  • Anonymous

    They may not have paid 90% but they didn’t pay what they pay now (less than 15%, sometimes less than 0%). The rich were no more or less virtuous or willing to “expose” their money to taxes in the 80s than they are now or in the 50s.

    The tea party to you is what you want to think it is. It isn’t so noble.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    They may not have worked less in terms of hours and energy. But they produced less wealth. It is an important distinction. Wealth creation not “working more” is what benefits economic growth.

    Revenues only up when there is an ability to create wealth. More ability to create wealth (regardless of your income level) actually enhances the growth. The reasons revenues always go up in America is that in our history long-term we have always have policies that support freedom and by-and-large favor economic liberty.

    From 1970-1979 0 GDP went up from 1 trillion a year in 1970 to about 2.5 trillion in 1980.

    From 1980 at 2.7 trillion to 5.7 trillion in 1990.

    It didn’t just go up but in the 80s, 90s and 2000s it went up at significantly higher rates than in the 40s (granted the depression and WW2), the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

    There is also less incentive to climb in income brackets. The overall effect on the economy is less income creation, and actually creates more people who remain in the same income brackets (the fear of the left). However lower taxes and more income production actually creates more variance of individuals at the brackets and so prevents an aristocracy of income elites.

  • Anonymous

    My anecdotal evidence of the only good examples where we could see the laffer curve in action? If it is true in any practical way, why didn’t we see its predictions over the last 20 years?

  • Anonymous

    Typically the rich don’t produce much wealth. Often they actually destroy wealth, as with Vulture Funds. Revenues are up whenever there is inflation or positive GDP (which is to say, no recession). I hate to break it to you but other countries also “support freedom” and even those who don’t grow (inflation+GDP) over time. North Korea is one example. Revenues go up here and in most of the rest of the world because we have inflation and are not always in a recession.

    Lower tax rates cause “an aristocracy of income elites”. Over the last 15 years, as with in the 20s, we have near record low taxes and near record gaps between the rich and everyone else. The western countries who have higher taxes (like Sweden) almost always have lower gaps between rich and poor, thus no real “aristocracy of income elites”.

  • Anonymous

    Well, we are going to disagree. I see no reason in your argument to believe that my perception is wrong. You can respect that or not, but I’m not going to continue this with you.

    Dave Capp

  • Anonymous

    Krugman holds to Keynesian economics…because it accurately describes economic systems and makes predictions that turn out to be accurate.

  • Anonymous

    Again, I disagree with you and Krugman.

    Dave

  • James Mace

    Lamentably, though expectedly, bigoted. ‘Nuff-’nuff.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to you all for commenting. This was, as some of you figured out, intended as a stimulus plan by me to stimulate conversation on a hot topic. It worked! You took the bait! Hooray. But seriously folks, it is clear enough to me that we are not on the whole paying enough taxes to support our infrastructure any more, not matter how you slice and dice it. Unless the percent we spend on the military goes down from 25% to something close to 15%, we will never have such money for all kinds of worthwhile things, including basic healthcare for all U.S. citizens. And please, if we are going to talk about such issues, lets not make the stupid mistake of of using pejorative terms like ‘socialism’ to settle an issue which can only be settled by reasoned argument and careful consideration of various viewpoints. I realize name-calling and labeling is a favorite pasttime on blogs, but at least some of the discussion below is meaningful and helpful, and deals with actual evidence and facts. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but please don’t insult my intelligence by using the old canard— stick your field, you’re incapable of understanding economics. For your information, I took economics during my education. I got an A in it. I think I do get the basics. One thing I definitely is that Americans do not understand that you cannot do economics in isolation any more— we do have a global economy, and the sooner we wake up and see the possibilities and problems of that, the better we will be. Isolationism will get us nowhere, except in continual decline into a second rate world power. Keep talking!! BW3

  • Matthew

    I think this post is subpar. As was pointed out above, nobody is complaining about taxes for roads, police, etc. Many Americans believe that smaller government is simply and philosophically a better option than big government. Just because others are used to and expect big government doesn’t mean big government is a better system.

    Maybe people aren’t so much misinformed about how our taxes compare to other countries in the western world… maybe people don’t want to be like other countries in the western world when it comes to size of government and economic issues. And who can blame them?

  • Anonymous

    Well, it definitely got us talking, and that’s good. But I do think the original post doesn’t accurately reflect the position of the tea party. And I don’t believe that we need tax increases, as they do suppress economic growth. I too took Economics in my undergrad studies, with good grades.

    I appreciate that we can come to disagreements on economic and political issues and hopefully respect those who come to another position. I do appreciate your position, but I don’t find that I can agree with it.

    But thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Dave Capp

  • Anonymous

    Matthew it does not make sense that a large complex country like the United States would need a smaller government than say….. Australia another Western democracy. Our country has big issues, big military, big lots of things and big world impact. The notion that smaller government is inherently better makes no sense to me at all. Nor do I think devolving more power to individual states helps. We already have too many differences between the states in terms of taxes, laws and the like. The issue becomes is it possible to be ONE nation, not a federation of 50 individualistic states. There has to be balance between the One and the many when it comes to both structure and philosophy. Otherwise, we can say goodbye to either dealing with endemic NATIONAL problems that affect us all, and we can say goodbye to being a country of worldwide influence and importance as well. Do businesses think its a good idea to get smaller, have less revenues, hire fewer employees, and in general downsize? Not unless they are in survival mode. Why should we think this would help us govern this nation better and make it work more efficiently? I am all for cleaning up graft, waste, and corruption at any level of government, but that is no argument for smaller government. BW3

  • Anonymous

    Matthew it does not make sense that a large complex country like the United States would need a smaller government than say….. Australia another Western democracy. Our country has big issues, big military, big lots of things and big world impact. The notion that smaller government is inherently better makes no sense to me at all. Nor do I think devolving more power to individual states helps. We already have too many differences between the states in terms of taxes, laws and the like. The issue becomes is it possible to be ONE nation, not a federation of 50 individualistic states. There has to be balance between the One and the many when it comes to both structure and philosophy. Otherwise, we can say goodbye to either dealing with endemic NATIONAL problems that affect us all, and we can say goodbye to being a country of worldwide influence and importance as well. Do businesses think its a good idea to get smaller, have less revenues, hire fewer employees, and in general downsize? Not unless they are in survival mode. Why should we think this would help us govern this nation better and make it work more efficiently? I am all for cleaning up graft, waste, and corruption at any level of government, but that is no argument for smaller government. BW3

  • Anonymous

    Again, I have to ask: “Have you ever BEEN to a Tea Party event, or have you ever spoken with an admitted member of the Tea Party? Probably not, I’d assume…

    As for your comment on “Give unto Caesar”, did you know that the IRS considers ALL of your income to be property of the Federal government? Go ahead, give it ALL to Caesar if you want to go by your take on Jesus’ statement.

  • Anonymous

    Oscar my man yes I have indeed talked to members of the Tea party, even had a debate with them. I have only seen their events via T.V. And where in the world did you get the idea that I thought we should give everything to Caesar??? To the contrary that saying means, give Caesar back his worthless pieces of metal, and give everything to God because the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. In short, God owns it all, not Caesar. And that brings me to the crucial point— you and I are not owners of anything any more than the government is. We are only stewards of God’s property, and part of our good witness is to pay our taxes….. period.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    I hope my first post didn’t come across as you were incapable of discussing economics. I just thought that “Enough said” without discussing the numbers or arguing what a fair tax should look like was as I said, “jumping the shark.” Maybe rhetoric got the better of me.

    I agree with you that it is indeed a global economy that’s why I think it is wise to favor policies that support free trade, while being careful to weigh ethical issues like real exploitation.

    I appreciate your goal in trying to discuss this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.bertolet Timothy Bertolet

    I think several arguments for smaller government that are worth considering:

    (1) In ineffectiveness of the federal level to solve national problems.

    (2) Hayek’s argument of the fatal conceit, the idea that no distance centralizing organization can have all the knowledge quick enough to effectively solve problems. I think returning things to the local level and empowering people via liberty and local government is a far better solution. School choice and local control versus federal curriculum standards seems to be an apt illustration of this.

    (3) I am all for cleaning up waste and corruption, however I think this can happen more effectively when power resides more directly through local government. This is one reason our federal Constitution is a document of negative rights limiting the expanse.

    (4) People working together are the best solution for solving problems. I think people are able to best partner, work together and creatively innovate when individual rights are respected, guarded and things are not plained from a more centralized structure. Even large corporations that are successful are mobile, the better CEOs empowering people to make decisions on the ground. It seems limited (but not non-existent) federal government can accomplish this best.

    (5) Power tends to corrupt. I think human nature is to try to rest control from other to solve problem and “fix things.” I find it difficult to envision larger more centralized systems that won’t break down with more corruption and less effectiveness. So the best way to allow for competing visions, views and methods is to allow power and activity to be diverted away from centralization of a larger federal government.

    (6) We are still ‘E pluribus unum’ –I think our plurality will enhance unity as opposed to deriving unity first and then trying to maintain diversity.

    Thanks for raising these issues and interacting with the discussions. While some can go too far in their desire to reduce government (almost to the anarchist level), I think by and larger a larger problem is the more common trend to sweep things up under one umbrella thinking that the best way to handle problems is that national level. Granted some problems should be handled at a national level, but too many get sent to the level under the guise of unity and ability to resolve.

    Just my thoughts. Thanks for hosting them.
    Tim B.

  • Pastordave

    Again, I love your theology BW3, but you are definitely a liberal when it comes to politics. I think the arguments presented in this thread show that liberal views are often skewed and misplaced and Timothy won the day on this.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Pastor Dave: This word just in. It’s not about being ‘liberal’ its about trying to work out the social and economic implications of Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of the NT. This word just in—- Jesus was not a social conservative on a whole host of issues, including money. Read my book Jesus and Money. BW3

  • Anonymous

    Hi Pastor Dave: This word just in. It’s not about being ‘liberal’ its about trying to work out the social and economic implications of Jesus’ teachings and the teachings of the NT. This word just in—- Jesus was not a social conservative on a whole host of issues, including money. Read my book Jesus and Money. BW3

  • Roberto

    Dr. Witherington,
    I am really finding some of the dialogue to be quite funny! I’ve studied macro and micro economics and NT Testament theology. I can tell you this; you are a much better economist than Hayek, Friedman or von Mises are as theologians!

    Ultimately Adam Smith et al, have more in common with ancient forms of paganism then with Christianity. Invisible free markets that correct themselves through the power of Capitalism, which has a large emphasis on self-interest/self-indulgence and not on the interest of others. Putting our hopes into the “free market”.

    The world has always needed regulated economies. That is where Warren hits it on the head. No one makes it “on their own”, even assuming as we shouldn’t enlightenment espousals of rationality and individualism.
    For goodness sake, Israel’s economy was regulated through the Law and they lacked all the technological sophistication that makes it easier to get around the legal framework. And they had taxation as well….
    Peace

  • Michael De Master

    Dear Professor Wintherington

    As you have shared, the mildly provocative tone and tenor of your post was to stimulate discussion. Most certainly you have succeeded. While the discussion of economic theory and policy has been interesting (nothing more interesting than monetary vs fiscal policy vs business cycle theory, right?:)), I was struck by the passionate reaction (including my own) to the blog post. Being right or defending being wronged seems to motivate us to action but should not be the aim of the exercise. You can “win” and argument and lose the Truth. I personally struggle with how my faith in Christ should guide me in my role and responsibilities as a participating citizen. Your point about the Christian’s responsibility to dutifully pay taxes is not in dispute. For me as you have pointed out the bible is clear. To be law abiding and respectful of governing authority is also clear to me (Romans 13:1-7). To pay our debts as individuals and by extension to pay the debts of our governing bodies is also to me a clear me (Romans 13:8 although one might interpret Paul to mean more than monetary debt).

    What I struggle with and why I became supportive of the Tea Party position is this. Is it not my Christian responsibility to speak out about the squandering of God’s resources through corruption, waste, fraud, inept inefficiency and poor policies? Is it not my duty as a Christian to speak out against adding more debt on more debt? These are the questions I struggle with. I have been blessed in my life (I am not rich) and believe that Christ calls me to share those blessings. But I also have a responsibility for stewardship and care. If we are truly in Christ, we are to be selfless, loving, kind and obedient. This makes it difficult to find the proper role as citizen.

    John RW Stot once wrote: “Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love. Love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by Truth.”

    The conversation continues.

    Peace in Christ

  • RobertH

    +1 and Amen. Excellent response, Tim B.

  • Mag1102009

    A simple way of understanding the problem is by looking at the economic health of our government, juxtaposed against the economic condition of the average American. We have accumulated unprecedented amounts of debt, both as individuals and as a nation. Can Americans continue to take on new debts at a time when our personal income is falling and the job market uncertain? That same question in regards to our government is no different. Can the government take on massive new debts–fighting what appears to be an endless war, while substantially increasing the size of government with new entitlements at a time when tax revenues, (the government’s primary source of income) are falling?

    The problem is circular in nature. The well-being of the average American is inseparable from the fortunes of our government. The Tea-Parties recognize this and so should the rest of the nation. We can’t spend our way to prosperity, any more than a person who is unemployed or under- employed can use credit cards to spend their way to prosperity. Eventually the bill will come due and the only thing you will have is more debt and no way to pay for it. Not without substantially raising taxes across the board, which will only harm a struggling economy—or by printing more money and devaluing the currency further, creating inflation, either way Americans will be lose.

    On the other hand what should we cut back on? Spending for the poor, widow and orphan or military expansion and endless wars in the Middle East? There is little doubt that abuse in the area of entitlements is rampant, but the same is true for military spending and the various forms of corporate welfare as well. I believe that you will find greater philosophical diversity among the Tea Party than the media fairly portrays.
    Politicians are busy attempting to maintain the status quo, namely their own position and power, with almost no real will to make the hard choices. Both Herman Cain and Ron Paul are at least attempting to move beyond politics as usual. Ron Paul however, is unelectable; such is the nature of telling people what they don’t want to hear. Herman Cain is a more likely and likable candidate—with both an impressive record in his personal life and in the private sector—albeit with very little real political experience.
    His 9-9-9 plan is simple and workable, with a few strategic changes. The biggest obstacle will be its immediate impact on the poor, for whom a 9% increase in the cost of living could be devastating. It would likely be portrayed as a substantial tax cut for the rich and a tax increase for the poor, which it would be. The only way this works is if you exempt food and perhaps a few other basic necessities. It would then, be less harmful to the most vulnerable of society and help to free up a lot of frozen capital for investing, creating new jobs, a simplified, less regressive tax code, helping to create an economic boom. But unless Americans are willing to substantially cut spending and begin to eliminate the massive waste and fraud in government, nothing much will change. The chickens will eventually come home to roost and the suffering that we see now will only be a prelude to something far worse.

    Our military problems are likewise chained to a corrupted form of crony capitalism, that in no way mirrors the free market principles that are the basis of American prosperity. The situation in the Middle East is a prime example. The only commodity of real value in that region of the world is oil, (Israel is a different debate for another time, although there are clear linkages). We could fairly easily replace our need for Middle Eastern oil by importing more from Central America and by drilling for it domestically. If we really wanted to solve this particular problem we could move to natural gas, which we have in abundance. This would create new jobs and give us much needed new tax revenue, which in part answers the question at hand.

    Natural gas burns 90% clean, and costs about half of what a gallon of gas costs, making it beneficial to the environment and a boon to the economy, while giving average Americans more money to save and spend. The OPEC nations would either be forced to adapt or self-destruct under the pressure produced by tremendous financial losses—including lowering the cost of oil per barrel as the result of competition from domestic producers of both oil and natural gas. That alone would create an immediate economic benefit. The radical element that is now tolerated and even modestly supported would most likely be cut off.

    Competition forces not only innovation, but, better relationships. China is a good example. They are willing to buy our debt and devalue their own currency in order to access American markets and consumers—a necessary key to their own prosperity as well as ours. It is clear, or at least it should be, that taxes aren’t the real issue. It is very easy demagoguery however, articulated in terms of class warfare instead of intelligent business practices.

    We are living out a very old story—one of colonial occupation and militarism on the one hand—and the question of; “what is the appropriate role of the law” on the other? Jesus in his time spoke to both. Taxation was and is a major issue, because cumbersome political and legal systems are expensive and so are armies. Can a man be moral because he keeps the Law? Or must a man be changed from within—and in doing so, live in liberty.

    Mark

  • Mag1102009

    A simple way of understanding the problem is by looking at the economic health of our government, juxtaposed against the economic condition of the average American. We have accumulated unprecedented amounts of debt, both as individuals and as a nation. Can Americans continue to take on new debts at a time when our personal income is falling and the job market uncertain? That same question in regards to our government is no different. Can the government take on massive new debts–fighting what appears to be an endless war, while substantially increasing the size of government with new entitlements at a time when tax revenues, (the government’s primary source of income) are falling?

    The problem is circular in nature. The well-being of the average American is inseparable from the fortunes of our government. The Tea-Parties recognize this and so should the rest of the nation. We can’t spend our way to prosperity, any more than a person who is unemployed or under- employed can use credit cards to spend their way to prosperity. Eventually the bill will come due and the only thing you will have is more debt and no way to pay for it. Not without substantially raising taxes across the board, which will only harm a struggling economy—or by printing more money and devaluing the currency further, creating inflation, either way Americans will be lose.

    On the other hand what should we cut back on? Spending for the poor, widow and orphan or military expansion and endless wars in the Middle East? There is little doubt that abuse in the area of entitlements is rampant, but the same is true for military spending and the various forms of corporate welfare as well. I believe that you will find greater philosophical diversity among the Tea Party than the media fairly portrays.

    Politicians are busy attempting to maintain the status quo, namely their own position and power, with almost no real will to make the hard choices. Both Herman Cain and Ron Paul are at least attempting to move beyond politics as usual. Ron Paul however, is unelectable; such is the nature of telling people what they don’t want to hear. Herman Cain is a more likely and likable candidate—with both an impressive record in his personal life and in the private sector—albeit with very little real political experience.

    His 9-9-9 plan is simple and workable, with a few strategic changes. The biggest obstacle will be its immediate impact on the poor, for whom a 9% increase in the cost of living could be devastating. It would likely be portrayed as a substantial tax cut for the rich and a tax increase for the poor, which it would be. The only way this works is if you exempt food and perhaps a few other basic necessities. It would then, be less harmful to the most vulnerable of society and help to free up a lot of frozen capital for investing, creating new jobs, a simplified, less regressive tax code, helping to create an economic boom. But unless Americans are willing to substantially cut spending and begin to eliminate the massive waste and fraud in government, nothing much will change. The chickens will eventually come home to roost and the suffering that we see now will only be a prelude to something far worse.

    Our military problems are likewise chained to a corrupted form of crony capitalism, that in no way mirrors the free market principles that are the basis of American prosperity. The situation in the Middle East is a prime example. The only commodity of real value in that region of the world is oil, (Israel is a different debate for another time, although there are clear linkages). We could fairly easily replace our need for Middle Eastern oil by importing more from Central America and by drilling for it domestically. If we really wanted to solve this particular problem we could move to natural gas, which we have in abundance. This would create new jobs and give us much needed new tax revenue, which in part answers the question at hand.

    Natural gas burns 90% clean, and costs about half of what a gallon of gas costs, making it beneficial to the environment and a boon to the economy, while giving average Americans more money to save and spend. The OPEC nations would either be forced to adapt or self-destruct under the pressure produced by tremendous financial losses—including lowering the cost of oil per barrel as the result of competition from domestic producers of both oil and natural gas. That alone would create an immediate economic benefit. The radical element that is now tolerated and even modestly supported would most likely be cut off.

    Competition forces not only innovation, but, better relationships. China is a good example. They are willing to buy our debt and devalue their own currency in order to access American markets and consumers—a necessary key to their own prosperity as well as ours. It is clear, or at least it should be, that taxes aren’t the real issue. It is very easy demagoguery however, articulated in terms of class warfare instead of intelligent business practices.

    We are living out a very old story—one of colonial occupation and militarism on the one hand—and the question of; “what is the appropriate role of the law” on the other? Jesus in his time spoke to both. Taxation was and is a major issue, because cumbersome political and legal systems are expensive and so are armies. Can a man be moral because he keeps the Law? Or must a man be changed from within—and in doing so, live in liberty.

    Mark Magula


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