Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Isaiah 58: 7-8
I am a catholic. My worldview is greatly affected by the fact that I am a christian. The above quote was part of the first reading at church this morning. I was greatly touched by this reading.
I think that most people would start looking at their own actions upon hearing this reading. I did. But I am also a trained public administrator. I also thought about tax policy.
We all pay taxes in one way or another, regardless of what Republican politicians would like us to think. And yes, taxes pay for benefits to the poor. I don’t necessarily enjoy paying taxes, but I don’t begrudge what they do either.
When I was thinking about it, I think of the Republican position on taxes. Low taxes are fine, but the net effect of Republican tax policy has been to concentrate wealth in the hands of the wealthy. I am not just using this as an excuse to beat up on Republicans. Don’t get the idea that I am a fan of Democrats; they have been complicit the entire time.
There is evidence that transfer payments work in fighting poverty. However, we are more apt to think about “welfare queens” when we think about welfare programs then we are likely to think about poverty alleviation. Then conservative politicians attack government efforts to fight poverty on the basis that government is ineffective at everything it does. Yet, these same politicians have nothing to say about transfer payments to corporations. Their problem seems to be with transfer payments to poor people.
My guess is that politicians would rather see money go to the wealthy because the wealthy are more likely to give campaign donations to politicians. Besides, the politicians are likely to be wealthy themselves. They are taking care of themselves.
When transfer payment money goes to a major corporation your taxes are subsidizing shareholders and corporate profits. I cannot guarantee that a poor person will use a transfer payment to buy food above beer, but I know a corporation will use transfer payments to enrich itself and its shareholders. The accumulation of wealth does not increase economic opportunity. It concentrates wealth in the hands of people who already have more money than they could ever spend.
I can admit, there are problems with welfare programs for the poor. I don’t think we should scrap welfare programs because some people are abusing the system. I do think those problems can be solved. But morally, are we a better nation for allowing our tax monies to accumulate in the hands of the rich rather than trickle down to the poor?