Progressive Taxation and Christian Faith

Some Americans believe that taxation is theft, and that taking care of the poor and vulnerable is the business of charity alone. Others call for a “flat tax” which they claim is more fair than progressive taxation, which imposes a higher rate of tax on those of higher incomes. Such ideas once represented a fringe of the political spectrum, but now they are expressed by serious candidates for the presidency. Since religious language is being used to support these ideas, a theological rationale is needed for progressive taxation and an adequate taxpayer-funded social safety net. To this end, here I present a “sound bite” and an “elevator speech”:

Sound Bite: “We tax ourselves to do what God requires of us, because the sin of greed prevents our voluntary charity from adequately caring for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Elevator Speech: “Our nation’s founders held the Judeo-Christian belief that all human beings are sinners. So they created checks and balances in the Constitution to restrain our natural greed for power. Our sin of greed also renders our voluntary charity inadequate, so through our democratic process we collect taxes from ourselves to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Jesus said ‘Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required’ (Luke 12:48). ‘Much’ means that this requirement should have an equalized impact on people’s lives, rather than being a flat percentage regardless of income. So those of higher incomes should be required to pay a higher rate of tax.”

Position Paper:
A very thorough theological argument for progressive taxation: “An Evaluation of Federal Tax Policy Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics” – Susan Pace Hamill, Professor of Law, University of Alabama

Supporting facts demonstrating that charity is not adequate to meet human needs:

Housing:

    Habitat for Humanity

(faith-based charity): total number of housing units built in the US since 1978: 30,000 units

    US Department of Housing and Urban Development:

Sec. 8 housing vouchers for low income families (30% of income paid as rent, rest of rent subsidized): 1,400,000 housing units annually (millions more households are eligible for this subsidy but cannot access it due to the limited funds for the program.)

Food:

The total food aid provided to needy Americans by private charity amounts to 6% of all food aid provided by the US government.
(Source: Bread for the World – a Christian charity)


Progressive Christians Uniting:
PRAYER FOR USE IN CONGREGATIONS – “BLESSING OUR TAXES” – April 15, Sunday, in churches around the US -

About Jim Burklo

Rev. Jim Burklo is the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. An ordained United Church of Christ pastor, he is the author of three books in print, OPEN CHRISTIANITY (2000), BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS (2008), and HITCH-HIKING TO ALASKA: THE WAY OF SOULFUL SERVICE (2013). See more about him at jimburklo.com .

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    Progressive income taxation strikes me as being the most fair and sensible way to go. Flat taxes, property taxes, and increased user fees are regressive in that they disproportionately harm poorer citizens who are less able to pay them. Moreover, progressive income taxation seems to be in the spirit of Acts 11:29.