Who pays taxes?

A news story in the Washington Post follows the Democratic party line in complaining that the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes.  But notice how the facts get in the way of the thesis!

As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday’s tax-filing deadline, ponder this: The super-rich pay a lot less in taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so much less than that in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college and even for paying other taxes.

The top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank. . . .

The sheer number of credits, deductions and exemptions has Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled. House Republicans want to eliminate breaks to pay for lower overall rates, reducing the top tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent. Republicans oppose raising taxes, but they argue that a more efficient tax code would increase economic activity, generating additional tax revenue.

President Obama said last week that he wants to do away with tax breaks to lower the rates and to reduce government borrowing. Obama’s proposal would result in $1 trillion in tax increases over the next 12 years.

The proposals from the GOP and Obama included few details, putting off hard choices about which tax breaks to eliminate.

In all, the tax code is filled with $1.1 trillion in credits, deductions and exemptions, an average of about $8,000 per taxpayer, according to an analysis by the independent national taxpayer advocate within the IRS.

More than half of the nation’s tax revenue came from the top 10 percent of earners in 2007. More than 44 percent came from the top 5 percent. Still, the wealthy have access to much more lucrative tax breaks than people with lower incomes.

Obama wants this to change so “the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.” . . .

The vast majority of those who escape federal income taxes have low and medium incomes, and most of them pay other taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and retail sales taxes.

via For richest, federal taxes have gone down; for some in U.S., they’re nonexistent – The Washington Post.

So it turns out that the rich already pay taxes at a rate nearly twice that of the average, that the top 10% in income already pay half of the nation’s taxes, that the top 5% already pay 44% of those taxes, and the 45% of Americans who pay nothing at all are not the wealthy but poor and middle income people!

Isn’t it a bad thing for so much of the government’s income to come from only 5% of its citizens?  And that nearly half of Americans cannot claim the stakeholder status of “taxpayer”?  Not that I begrudge anyone’s good fortune in getting tax breaks, but if taxes should be raised (not that I think they should be), shouldn’t those who don’t pay any get targeted before people who are already paying half of the government’s income?

As a matter of principle, shouldn’t everyone chip in something, if only a couple of bucks?  When the topic is tax fairness, isn’t it unfair for a few to pay so much, while so many pay nothing?

Protestant as one who confesses

Fred Sanders sheds some light on what “Protestant” means on the anniversary of the Protestation of Speyer, which was yesterday:

Today (April 19) is the anniversary of the 1529 Protestation of Speyer, which is generally regarded as the first time that the word “Protestant” was used to refer to a religious position distinct from Roman Catholicism. A coalition of German princes and leaders refused to abide by the imperial ban on Luther’s teachings, and called instead for the free spread of gospel teaching in their territories.

These days, in English at least, we sometimes hear that “Protestants” are by definition people who “protest,” that is, people defined by their disagreement with something, their dissent, their rejection of something. It is, in other words, considered a term that stands for nothing positive, but draws its meaning only by negation. . . .

The word seems to come from pro + testari, to testify forth, or to hold forth a position on something. Its primary historical meaning has been to assert, to maintain, to proclaim solemnly or state formally. . . .

So I protest against this bogus etymology, and I maintain that “Protestant” means something a lot closer to a word like “declare,” as in “having a message and sticking with it.” If you know Protestants who are mainly negative, blame them; not the word.

via Protestants, not Protesters | The Scriptorium Daily: Middlebrow.

Liberal theologians, such as Paul Tillich, use the term to argue that the essence of Protestantism is to protest all “static dogmas” and the like, in favor of  free form negation and openness to change.  Thus they justify their lack of beliefs and make themselves a tradition for it.  In reality, though, “protestant,” in the sense of the protestants at Speyer means pretty much the same as “confessional”!

HT: Joe Carter

Full faith and credit

Remember how government bonds have been considered a sure investment because they are backed by  “the full faith and credit” of the United States of America?  Well, the Standard & Poor bond rating agency is having its doubts about what our government’s “full faith and credit” is worth:

S&P changed its outlook on the United States from “stable” to “negative” and said the federal government could lose its AAA rating if officials fail to bring spending in line with revenues.

The AAA rating identifies the United States as one of the world’s safest investments — and that has helped the nation to borrow at extraordinarily cheap rates to finance its government operations including two wars and an expensive social safety net for retirees.

Stock prices fell nearly 2 percent in the hours after the report’s release, before ending the day down about 1 percent. The dollar and Treasury bond also slid in the wake of the report, but recovered by the end of the day.

via S&P lowers its outlook on U.S. debt; stocks decline – The Washington Post.

Tiger Mothers vs. Vocation

One of the best things I’ve read on the Tiger Mother controversy is this column by Pam Nielsen in the Lutheran Witness:

If you are a parent, your children are your vocation and your most important calling. God sets the standard for you: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). To raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is to raise children with God’s Word, in His Church, where His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are given to all who believe. These are the “first things” for Christian moms, dads and children.

In sharp contrast, Ms. Chua and many others have determined quite a different standard or set of “first things” in raising their children. We’re familiar with them because we have been tempted to make them primary in our homes too: good grades, first place, social standing, perfect performances and winning championships. These are the world’s marks of success, but they are not God’s. In our efforts to achieve these worldly standards, sometimes the “first thing” of bringing our children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord becomes a second, third or fourth thing.

How? When we frequently skip church and Sunday School for team practice or tournaments. When we complain that Pastor’s assignments and requirements for confirmation are too much, even as we pay for extra tutoring in math for our child. When we disdain helping our children with learning Bible verses and the catechism while spending long hours creating the perfect science project.

The doctrine of vocation puts these things in their proper order. Our efforts are always in view of who we are in Christ, forgiven and saved ones, who share their God-given gifts with their neighbor. Practices, tournaments and tutors are not bad things; they just aren’t the “first things.” It’s God-pleasing to urge our children to do their best in all that they attempt, not for their own gain or glory, but for the good of their neighbor. The child who excels in math and science might help find a cure for a disease or design a new safety feature for a car. The child gifted in music provides beauty and joy and might one day lead the church’s song. The child that learns to condition his body physically might become the soldier or fireman that saves someone’s life.

God in Christ gave His life for us and our children. We teach them to do their best, not for themselves but for others. In living out our vocations, God provides countless opportunities to tell our neighbor about the “First Thing,” His Son, Jesus Christ, who saves us from sin and death.

via The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – The Lutheran Witness.

Democracy rules, except when my guy doesn’t win

Nigeria elected a president, the incumbent, who received twice the votes of the other candidate.  But the president is a Christian, so Nigerian Muslims are rioting, setting fires, and protesting the election:

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has won a presidential election with results being reported in all 36 states, as riots broke out in the mainly Muslim north to protest the outcome.

Election officials announced Monday that Mr. Jonathan received million 22,495,187 votes in Saturday’s polls, nearly twice the number of his main challenger, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who garnered 12,214,853.

Officials say Mr. Jonathan has met the requirements to avoid a run-off vote. A candidates must win a simple majority and at least a quarter of the vote in 24 states.

Earlier Monday, news of Mr. Jonathan’s likely win sparked riots across Nigeria’s northern region.

Opposition supporters claimed the vote had been rigged and torched homes, burned tires and hurled rocks at police to protest the results.

Many in the Muslim-majority north backed Mr. Buhari, a Muslim. President Jonathan, a Christian, dominated the mostly Christian south.

Riots Break Out in Northern Nigeria As President Declared Winner | Africa | English.

There has been a debate about whether Islam is compatible with democracy and political freedom.   It appears that some Muslims are willing to use democracy and to demand political freedom when it advances their agenda.   That is, they use it instrumentally, as a means to their end.  But if the end is not what they want, they reject the process.

HT:  Carl Vehse

The Bible readings for Holy Week

Pastor William Weedon explains about the appointed readings for Holy Week:

Why did we read about BOTH the triumphal entry and the Passion and death of our Lord in the Palm Sunday liturgy. First, remember that the observance of “this happening” on “the same day” is a rather late convention in the Church’s liturgical life. The foundational mystery is celebrated each and every Lord’s Day: Christ crucified is raised from the dead. Even on Palm Sunday that remains the focus. And come Holy Week the Church delights to hear the Passion story told from each Evangelist’s perspective. Palm Sunday belongs to Matthew; Monday we begin some of John’s story (actually continued from the processional Gospel on Palm Sunday); Tuesday is Mark’s and Wednesday is Luke’s. Come Thursday we go back to John and hear of some events on Maundy Thursday. Friday is given over wholly to John’s Passion. So rather than thinking of it as a progression from this to that, in the Western liturgy we hear the whole story as it is told all four times during Holy Week, so that nothing of what Scripture gives us about our Lord’s passion, death, and burial is lost.

via Weedon’s Blog: So Katie and Sandy.

So even if you aren’t going to church every day this week, as a discipline for the week, read each of the passion narratives in each of the four Gospels.

Does anyone have any other customs, practices, or recommendations for Holy Week?


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