Shuck and Jive

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Sweet Tea Party

S. J. Dahlman wrote an important piece in today's Johnson City Press regarding taxes. He wrote about taxes, particularly in Tennessee, from a faith perspective. A tea party may be in order, especially in regards to taxation and justice:
“There’s a connection with all the social-justice aspects of the Old and New Testaments,” said Bill Howell, the Middle Tennessee organizer for Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, a statewide coalition for tax reform. “There’s a general preference for the poor expressed in the Bible.”

But the Tennessee tax system works exactly opposite, taking the proportionally biggest bites from its poorest citizens. At 11.7 percent, the total state tax burden on the poorest families, who earn less than $14,000 a year, is nearly four times the rate as for the wealthiest Tennesseans. This is according to a 2003 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C.

The main culprit is the sales tax, among the highest in the nation overall and the highest for groceries (even after recent changes). A loaf of bread, for instance, costs the same whether someone earns $14,000 or $140,000, and so high-income households spend only about four percent of their budgets on groceries. Low income households, by contrast, spend about 21 percent.

The stark bottom line: In proportion to their income, the poorest citizens get hit hardest by taxes while the richest get away easiest.

Now that is a reason to pour some symbolic sweet tea in the Tennessee River.


  1. Amen. The poor and working poor are taxed far too much in TN. The rich need to start paying their fair share.

  2. I wrote a post called "The Morality of Taxes" about 2 years ago, prompted by an article about Biblical scholar Susan Pace Hamill. Hamill is also a tax professor at the University of Alabama. I think you'd be interested in her work (there's a link from my post to the article). The quote that struck me was this:

    “The Bible commands that the law promote justice because human beings are not good enough to promote justice individually on their own,” she said. “To assume that voluntary charity will raise enough revenues to meet this standard is to deny the sin of greed.”This is what I believe a "Christian nation" should/would look like, but of course we aren't anything closet to that (nor am I saying we should be).

    Most interesting to me was the almost VIOLENT response my post got from conservatives, including the communications director for the TN GOP. They just couldn't handle the idea that someone would dare challenge their "Jesus loves me this I know because my wallet tells me so" so view of Christianity.

    Prosperity gospel inspires bad social policy and is a true evil.


  3. Er, "closet" = "close."

    I haven't had my coffee yet.


  4. Thank you for this, and AMEN. We ignore this key element (perhaps THE central element???) of both OT and NT gospel at our great (moral) peril.

    Preaching on it, today, in fact.

  5. WOW! Tax on food? Even NY state doesn't tax food. They used to get you for clothes though and station state police at the border for those crossing into PA to buy their clothes.

    Very weird. And wrong. You ought to be able to eat without the government breathing down your neck and collecting taxes.

  6. Liberals like Susan Pace Hamill always surprise me that they want to use threats and the use of force to help the poor. As a peace lover I would never promote the use of guns (what is is needed to collect taxes) to achieve good social goals. I hope other peace loving Christians join my sentiment.

    One Bible verse on this topic that comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 9:7
    Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And 1 Samuel 8 is also revealing.

  7. Paul, you amaze me with your ability to spin. Don't get dizzy, dear.

  8. 'use threats and the use of force to help the poor'

    I didn't see that in the article Southern Beale linked.

    Please point that out or provide a link of another article please.

  9. I'm making assumptions here (and you know what that means), but I think Paul is suggesting that making it a legal requirement to pay taxes that in turn provide for social programming is a form of threat and the use of force.

    I suppose he has a point. How far should we take that? Could we suggest that being required to pay for anything can be considered a threat and use of force?

  10. "Could we suggest that being required to pay for anything can be considered a threat and use of force?"

    That's simply the typical American "Me! Me! Me!" point of view.

    Most Americans forget that there's a social contract here. You want the benefits of living here? That's fine, but it's not free. Police and fire protection, roads, schools, none of these things come for free.

    I pay for all sorts of things that I don't directly benefit from, and/or things I disagree with, and the way I attempt to influence that is by voting. Yet at the same time I realize that others pay for things that I do agree with that they may not, and so it all evens out in the wash.

    Instead of pursuing the democratic process, some folks simply want to take their toys and leave.

    We don't need "violence" as Paul suggests to get them to pay. If they don't want to participate in America, there's the door.

  11. **Instead of pursuing the democratic process, some folks simply want to take their toys and leave.**

    Sounds like some in the PCUSA.

  12. Bob,

    In NY we were taxed up the yazoo, income, property, sales (although not as high as here and some things exempted) but we got services for them.

    Montana is actually more just than Tennessee. Income and property tax and no sales tax. There is a vehicle registration tax based on year and model.

    The crazy thing about TN is that the manufactured consent is so strong that the right wing convinces the most vulnerable to vote against their own best interests by focusing on so-called 'morality' issues, ie. God, guns, and gays.

  13. John wrote:

    'use threats and the use of force to help the poor'

    I didn't see that in the article Southern Beale linked.

    Please point that out or provide a link of another article please.
    See the Theological Declaration of Barmen... It is part of the PCUSA Confessions.

  14. What??

    What does that have to do with this post? I am totally not following you. Spell it out, please.

    Are you advocating anarchism? That we should have no laws because ultimately every law is en-FORCEd?

    Or is just that you decide to go libertarian and anarchist when a law might affect your wallet?

  15. I have asked you this several times now Paul. What are you saying?

    I make a post about tax laws that are unfair to our poorest residents. You go on about violence and the Declaration of Barmen.

    I don't get the connection. I have asked you to provide links and clarify. You do not do so. What is your point?