Tag Archives: taxation

Jesus and Taxes

People have used the story of Jesus and the tax question as a way to try to convince me to support government welfare.  For me, at least, they are barking up the wrong tree.

If you want to explore the subject a bit more, Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the story that includes the context and the various interpretations of the story.

The most important thing to understand about the story is that the question, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar?” was not asked sincerely.  The men who asked it were not trying to find out Jesus’ opinion of taxation; they were trying to verbally trap him.

Jesus’ enemies kept watching him closely, because they wanted to hand him over to the Roman governor. So they sent some men who pretended to be good. But they were really spies trying to catch Jesus saying something wrong.  (Luke 20:20, CEV)

Jesus’ answer, therefore, should not necessarily be taken as a categorical answer on whether it is right for government to tax people or on whether it is right to comply.  Much less is it proof that Jesus expected the governmetn to take care of the needy.  (I agree that people are obligted to pay taxes, but it does no follow from that that the government is obliged to redistribute money.)  Jesus’ answer was actually a clever way to dodge the trap that was set for him.

Jesus knew that they were trying to trick him. So he told them, . . . (Luke 20:23, CEV)

The trap was to work like this:  If Jesus said that the Jews should refuse to pay taxes, then his opponents could accuse him of rebellion and turn him over to the Roman authorities.  If he said that they should pay them, then the people, who resented Roman occupation and their taxes, would turn against Jesus.

“Show me a coin.” Then he asked, “Whose picture and name are on it?” “The Emperor’s,” they answered. Then he told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.”   (Luke 20:24-25, CEV)

As he often did, Jesus turned the trap around on them, exposing them as hypocrites.  By asking them to show him a Roman coin, he was pointing out that they used Roman money, and if you use Roman money, then you are obligated to pay Roman taxes.  In addition, the image of Caesar on the coin was considered idolatry to the Jews; therefore, Jesus showed that the Jewish leaders were willing to compromise their beliefs for financial security.

The Jewish leaders had a love-hate relationship with the Roman government.  They were unhappy that their country was under the rule of another.  However, they had worked out deals with the Romans in order to retain religious freedom for Jewish people and a semblance of power for themselves.  By retaining their positions of religious authority and limited civil authority, they were able to make a great deal of money as well as keep their power.  Jesus was exposing the embarrassing fact that they were financially in league with their Roman oppressors at the same time they supposedly opposed them on religious and political grounds.

Jesus’ question has very little to do with whether or not citizens should pay taxes to their legitimate government leaders.  Rather, it has to do with what citizens should do when an outside power is ruling and oppressing them.  Jesus’ answer seems to be, “If you are going to cooperate with the occupying force by accepting their currency, then cooperate with them fully.  Don’t pretend to be against them on the one hand, but use the benefits that they provide on the other hand.”

The second half of Jesus’ statement is the most stinging.  Since he is talking about the image stamped on the coin in the first half, he is talking about the “image” stamped on people in the second half.  In the book of Genesis it says that human beings were made in the “image” of God.  So Jesus is saying, “You belong to God, because his image is stamped on you.  Therefore, give yourselves to God and don’t fret about the demands of the Emperor.”

So, if you want to use this story to tell me to pay taxes, which I do, by the way, then I will use it to tell you to commit your life, body and soul, to God.  That is Jesus’s central message in it.  Are you doing that?  Are you consecrated to God?

Jesus’ command implies that the Jewish leaders were not already giving to God what belonged to God, that is, themselves, and apparently this would have rung true with the common people and endeared Jesus to them even more than before.  Thus, an attempt by Jesus’s enemies to poison the people’s minds toward Jesus ended up making Him even more popular.  His implied rebuke, on top of exposing their hypocritical ties to Rome, left the Jewish leaders bewildered and prompted them to slink away.  They saw that they were in the presence of a superior person, and they were embarrassed and ashamed.  They were not ready to do as he said and give themselves to God.

The Worst of the Health Insurance Bill

     I want to start with a question. Why have advocates of the President’s health insurance bill referred to it as a “health care” bill.  Is the government going to build hospitals and hire doctors in order to provide health care for everyone?  No, the government is going to provide some kind of new health-insurance program and mandate certain policies for existing health insurance providers.  So let’s stop calling it a health care program and call it what it is–government-sponsored health insurance.  And let’s stop saying that people in America do not get health care.  With few exceptions, people have access to health care in America, although not everyone is covered by health insurance.

     Now on to my main topic–the three worst aspects of the health insurance program being proposed by the administration and Congress. 

The government will not call the fees it imposes taxes: “The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax imposed by this chapter for purposes of determining the amount of any credit under this chapter or for purposes of section 55.” (page 203, lines 13-18)

What makes this provision bad is that it tricks people into believing that the government’s health insurance program will not cause taxes to be raised.  By not calling a tax, a tax, people will believe that they are getting absolutely free health care, as if doctors and nurses are suddenly working out of the goodness of their hearts and as if hospitals do not have to pay the utility bills.

The government will not let you sue over coverage limits and costs decisions: “There shall be no administrative or judicial review of a payment rate or methodology established under this section or under section 224.” (page 124, line 4–page 125, line 2)

I had brought up this subject before.  If a private insurance company fails to provide promised coverage, their customers have legal recourse.  It is not always easy, but an individual or group can sue a private insurance company for breach of contract or otherwise failing to cover people according to the law.  Can you sue the government?  Apparently not.  You and I will be at their mercy when it comes to getting the care that we need.

The government will ration your care: Establish an annual limitation on cost sharing to ensure that “the cost-sharing incurred . . . with respect to an individual (or family) for a year does not exceed the applicable level specified–$5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family.” (29.4-29.16)

So it’s there in black and white.  You will be covered, but only so much.  Under a private insurance plan, you decide how much coverage you get, based on what you think you need and what you are willing to pay out of your own pocket.  You can purchase extra policies, as I have, to cover catastrophic illnesses or accidents.  Under the government system, it sounds like you had better not get too sick or need too many tests or operations.

This section of the bill does not seem to mean what the folks at World Magazine thought.  It seems to refer to the part of health care expenses that individuals will pay out-of-pocket.  It does strike me though as odd.  If people will still have to pay that much out of their own pockets, how is it different from the current system in which most private insurance plans have deductibles or co-payments?

SOURCE:  World Magazine, “Washington’s Prescription

Click on the link to read more of the contents of the health insurance proposal and to find a link to the entire bill, if you are brave enough to read it.  Most of the politicians planning to impose us on it do not intend to read it all, apparently.

Raking in the Dough on Obama

     There have been so many ironies surrounding Barack Obama’s candidacy and election.  The latest is that lots of entrepreneurs are selling merchandise related to him.  They’d better sell the stuff now, because Obama’s tax plan won’t make it easy for them to keep their profits.

Simple Solutions to the Energy Crisis

     Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a woman who would make a great president someday, has written an essay on how we could solve our energy crisis in America.  Please read her brilliant piece, entitled “The Energy Crisis: Where We Are and Where We Need to Go.”

     Here are a few choice excerpts:

We need more energy! We should be increasing our production of oil, natural gas, clean coal, and nuclear power – and those resources should come from America, instead of foreign dictatorships.

     Simple, yes?  But not easy.  As she says,

Unfortunately, enacting this agenda won’t be easy. The Democratic Leadership in Congress is determined to “punish” energy companies with new taxes, even if the greatest victim of those taxes is the American consumer.

     She astutely outlines the problem and tells what she and others have done to achieve a solution.

When investigating America’s assortment of energy problems, a common theme starts to emerge: the more you look around, the more you’ll find government taxes, regulations, and subsidies that distort the market, raise prices, and increase our dependence on dictators thousands of miles away.

In May I joined my Senate Republican colleagues to introduce legislation that would go a long way toward solving our energy problems. How? By increasing the supply through development of our own natural resources. Our bill, The American Energy Production Act of 2008, will remove unnecessary government barriers to domestic energy production.

     What do you think the solution is?

  •      Keep paying ever-increasing prices to foreign countries?
  •      Keep taxing ourselves into economic death?
  •      Keep subsidizing the farm industry to change food into fuel?

     Do you know who is hit hardest by those “solutions”?  Not the rich guy with five brand new cars.  He can keep paying whatever it costs to fuel those cars.  It will hurt the working poor people who can barely make ends meet. 

     How will the working poor even get to work if gasoline prices keep rising?  How will they feed their families if food prices keep rising?  And those are American poor folks.

     What about the people in the Third World who depend upon our surplus food in order not to starve to death?  What are they supposed to eat?

 SEE ALSO:

Do the Right Thing:  Start Drilling!” by Victor Davis Hanson

Deregulation Works” by Ken Blackwell

Drill Now for Energy in America” by Roy Innis

    

Another Look at the Fair Tax

     I had heard about the Fair Tax but had not looked into it very carefully.  It sounds like a good idea–better than our present system, anyway.  I have always been a Flat Tax proponent myself, but with Mike Adams pushing the Fair Tax, I thought I should learn more about it.

     For anybody who wants a short summary, read “Fair Tax” at Wikipedia.  It’s thorough and balanced.

     After learning a bit about the Fair Tax, I have a few thoughts–nothing set in concrete but just some preliminary thoughts.

1.  As I said it is better than our current system.  It’s simpler, because it replaces several taxes with one tax.  It eliminates the need for the numerous forms that the IRS requires people to fill out.  It shortens the tax code by eliminating the numerous exceptions, exemptions, and refunds. 

2.  It is based on choice.  If I buy a more expensive house, then I pay more tax.  If I buy a less expensive house, then I pay less tax.  That gives me control of my money.  I can buy the less expensive house and put the rest into my child’s college fund or into my antique collection.

3.  Because it is based on choice, it does strike me as fairer than our current system.  It may not seem fair to pay more for an item than it’s actual price, but that’s fairer than having money subtracted from your paycheck before you even see it.

4.  I don’t like the idea of a monthly prebate check going out to people, but it’s no worse than what we have now.  If there were no prebate in the system, there is no way that liberals would ever accept it.  It’s hypocritical of them to say that they don’t think the government should be sending money out.

5.  I think it’s crazy that critics worry that the Fair Tax will reduce government revenues.  Then CUT BACK, for heaven’s sake.  Some of them complain that the proposed rate of 23% is too high, and then complain that it won’t bring in enough money.  Well, if it’s too much for people to pay, then the government is spending too much.  It’s common sense.

6.  The opponents of the Fair Tax tend to speak of income tax as though it is the normal default system, although it is relatively recent in the history of the United States.  Our government financial system can be whatever “we the people” want it to be, really.  We don’t have to compare any tax reform proposal to the current income tax system as though it is the divine standard.

7.  Some of the criticisms of the Fair Tax can be levelled against our current system or against some other system.  The simple facts are that nobody likes to pay tax, the real issue is out-of-control spending, and no system is ever perfect.

     I’m not sold on the idea yet.  I need to think about it some more.  The folks who advocate the Fair Tax impress me, because most of them have made a lot of money and obviously know more about economics than I do.  On the other hand, many economists dislike the system and provide sensible-sounding reasons for disliking it.  Who’s to say?  Economics is obviously more of a philosophic and creative field rather than a truly scientific one.  It’s kind of like–I don’t know–climatology.