Religion and the Republican Party, Part II of III

The Bible makes the rich man’s responsibility clear in Luke 12:48: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.”

Furthermore, Pope John XXIII explicitly addressed taxation in his 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra: “In a system of taxation based on justice and equity it is fundamental that the burden be proportioned to the capacity of the people contributing.”

However, not to be deterred in its drive for low taxes, the Republican Party has spurned these commands in favor of fiscal policies that favor the wealthy, not the poor.

Take, for example, taxation at the state level. Though the federal tax code is progressive (meaning it favors the poor over the wealthy), many state tax codes are overwhelmingly regressive (meaning they favor the wealthy over the poor). As a result, at the state level, many poor and middle class individuals pay a much higher percentage of their income in taxes than high-income individuals.

To my dismay, the Republican Party stands at the forefront of this injustice. Four of the top five states with the most regressive tax codes (Florida, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas) have Republican governors and bicameral Republican majorities. To put things in perspective, in Florida, the poorest 20% of taxpayers pay 514% more in taxes as a percent of income than the top 1% of taxpayers; in South Dakota, the poorest 20% pay 534% more in taxes as a percent of income than the top 1%.

In addition to injustices at the state level, federal tax cuts signed by George W. Bush in 2003 were unjustly favorable to America’s wealthiest families. After the cuts went into effect, the top 20% of earners experienced a 2% decrease in the percentage of federal taxes they were responsible for paying, while the middle class experienced a 1% increase. In short, the Bush tax cuts increased the middle class’ tax burden while decreasing that of the top 20%, and in doing so blatantly ignored Pope John XXIII’s commandment that tax burdens “be proportioned to the capacity of the people contributing.”

To be clear, I don’t want the government to “soak the rich.” I believe taxes should be low for all individuals, no matter their income. Nevertheless, I cannot reconcile my faith with a tax code that favors the wealthy over the poor, a tax code the Republican Party seems all too willing to endorse.

As before, the GOP’s hypocritical message doesn’t end with torture and taxes. On the contrary, when it comes to immigration, Republican hypocrisy reaches a zenith.

Come back tomorrow to see the 3rd part of this 3-part series examining how the GOP fails the faith when it comes to public policy.