A deal President Obama struck with Republican leaders last week will extend tax cuts across the board including, controversially, to the richest Americans.
Some politicians argue that religious values should be reflected in the public square. Should this faith-based view of politics be applied to the economy? Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
In a time of economic turmoil and record poverty levels, are tax cuts for the wealthy moral?
Failing to respond to the needs of the less fortunate is immoral. But responding in a way that only requires people with more money than you to sacrifice doesn’t strike me as terribly noble. Remember, Jesus said, “Whatever you did for the least of these,” not “Whatever you made your neighbor do for the least of these.” There’s a difference.
Write your Congressman, call your Senator, demonstrate in front of the White House. But don’t stop there. Write a check, text a donation, serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Go through your stuff and see if you have more clothes than you need. (If you ask Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist, if you have two coats then you have more than you need.) Give those suits you know you’re never going to fit into again to people who need professional clothing for job interviews — and get them dry cleaned before you drop them off.
If you’re wearing a ONE bracelet but aren’t giving away at least one percent of your own income, I have a hard time taking you or your moralizing seriously. If you think you should be taxed more than you are, you don’t need to wait around while you’re working to change that legislatively. Give away the money you think you ought to be taxed beyond what you’re taxed already. That should help you sleep better, and will make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people you help.
Maimonides taught that the greatest act of charity is to provide somebody with a way to earn a living. It may be useful in thinking about this issue to bear in mind that most of us were hired by people richer than we are.
If you think only that other people should be taxed more than they are…examine yourself, your way of life, your generosity in random acts of kindness and in planned, deliberate care for those in need — or lack thereof. And then work toward living differently. Jesus called it taking the log out of your own eye.
That’s moral, and it’s important — whatever happens with the tax code.