Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Church in the Teapot



Previously on this blog I’ve made note of model church programs at First Baptist Leesburg (FBL) in Florida, the former pastorate of Dr. Charles Roesel (who, for full disclosure, I consider a personal friend, and whose son is my local ministry partner). FBL is a church that I see as doing the Gospel right – acting on the commission we have to not only preach the Gospel, but also help the poor and needy. They have a “ministry village” which includes services for the homeless, a thrift store, and much more.


They’re a church on target with their mission. They’re also dead in the heart of territory here in my home state ruled by those who complain that they have been “taxed enough already.” Many Christians have piled in to this movement for whatever reason; I have observed that in many cases, said Christians are very well off, and have a tax bill that is dwarfed by their expenses in other areas of their personal budgets, including travel and personal entertainments. 

Nevertheless, they say, we pay enough taxes and don’t need to pay more.

The church as a whole doesn’t seem too interested in stressing civic duty, and has all too often acceded to the attitude that government is always a problem. Well, now for FBL, the chickens are starting to come home to roost on that attitude.



A news story here refers to the basics. FBL has hanging over its head the very real possibility that they may have to pay some $55,000 in “fire assessment” fees. That would amount to 1/20th of their current budget.  And although they would no doubt spread the pain around to various programs, there’s no doubt that some of that would have to come out of the budget for the programs that are and always will be Dr. Roesel’s and FBL’s legacy. Other churches, smaller ones, would also have to pay large fees relative to their budgets.


I’ll frame the matter a little more distinctly with a past living example. As I said, the area FBL is in is radical “taxed enough already” territory.  Residents there are so stingy that one fire station had been housed in a motel for years because residents didn’t want to pay the taxes needed to build a real fire station. (More recently, they finally will be building one.)



Other stories of similar nature emerge from that and other counties under the same influence here. In the same county, residents have also been too stingy to fund the construction of sidewalks so that students didn’t have to walk in the streets mere inches from traffic.



I’ve heard of trickle down economics, but I thought it worked the other way.

Here’s the bottom line. One way or the other, essential services like fire protection have to be funded. And now churches like FBL may end up paying for the stinginess of that county’s residents. In turn, the poor and needy served by FBL will pay also, in their own way.


Now note, please, what I am saying and what I am not. 


I am not saying there is not government waste that could be cut. One of my favorite books some years ago was titled The Government Racket by Martin Gross. It was a catalog of outrageous government spending. But waste on the federal level is not a reason to deny funding to a local entity that may or may not need to trim expenses, any more than we refuse to feed one hungry person because another is wasting food.


I am also not saying that the situation is ideal in any event. In a perfect world, citizens would band together to voluntarily fund communal services like fire and rescue, without any taxation. Or, wealthy members of the community would step up and pay for those fire fees on behalf of local congregations. (I’ve been through Leesburg many times. There are citizens there who could wrap fish in $55,000 every year and still live in mansions.)


I’m disturbed by this for more than one reason, including some personal ones I will discuss in some detail later in a forthcoming e-book titled A Church Without Conscience. For now let’s just say that the Tekton ministry almost came to an end as a direct result of the same sort of attitude towards taxation. 

In the meantime, FBL and other churches will be asking for waiver of these fees, according to news stories, and it remains to be seen whether Dr. Roesel’s legacy as a servant of Christ will continue to receive the support it both needs or deserves – or whether the selfishness and stinginess of well-fed citizens will trump that legacy. That includes citizens who claim the name of Christ, but in their daily lives remain insulated from the troubles that Dr. Roesel’s missions were meant to address.


Are we sheep…or are we goats?





28 comments:

  1. First, I don't think we can legitimately argue that people are goats or blame people for being viscerally opposed to tax increases, without acknowledging the Federal elephant in the room. Federal spending has historically run around 20-25% of GDP, so as much as one in four dollars anyone will ever see is being taken and spent on whatever Federal foolishness you most object to. We need to recognize that people will have a lot of emotional difficulty separating Federal and local taxes and accepting an increase in the later when the former is so wasteful. This objection really can't be dismissed with the argument that those people just need to grow up and separate the two.

    Second, we need to acknowledge that much of the time government, regardless of the level, funds specials interest programs in preference to essential services, and then puts the essential services on the chopping block first in order to convince people to approve a tax increase. Did that jurisdiction with the fire department operating out of a hotel really cut everything else it could to get money for a fire station, and still come up short, or did it go straight to demanding a tax increase? I doubt anyone outside of that government knows, and I wouldn't count on city council members or their staff to give an honest answer if they did know.

    Unfortunately, there is no real solution. People are sinful and try to obtain wealth and power for themselves. Since there are no angels available to run for city council, the best we can do is minimize the power of government as much as possible to reduce the attraction for those who crave power, and devolve that power as much as possible so that other, still sinful, people (like me) can keep watch to try to minimize the abuse of power. The most local, and most accountable, spending will occur at the individual level (looking at me here, what did I give to charity this year?)

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  2. >>>First, I don't think we can legitimately argue that people are goats or blame people for being viscerally opposed to tax increases, without acknowledging the Federal elephant in the room.

    I already did that. I said:

    "...waste on the federal level is not a reason to deny funding to a local entity that may or may not need to trim expenses, any more than we refuse to feed one hungry person because another is wasting food."

    "We need to recognize that people will have a lot of emotional difficulty separating Federal and local taxes"

    Then they need to get control of their emotions and start looking at it intellectually instead, I'd say. But yes, I recognize this; it's part of the problem: No use of thinking, all use of feeling.

    "This objection really can't be dismissed with the argument that those people just need to grow up and separate the two."

    In terms of the truth of the matter? Yes, it can be, because that is indeed what they really need to do. In practical terms, though, obviously not, because too many people are still juvenile in their mindset (especially in the church, as Bergler notes) and especially when it comes to "MY money".

    >>>Second, we need to acknowledge that much of the time government, regardless of the level, funds specials interest programs in preference to essential services,

    Any who want to raise that here need to prove that this is what's happening in the city of Leesburg specifically. I know the place fairly well. I don't see it happening there. And it still remains, even so, a rationalization; once again, you don't punish X because Y does Z.

    >>>Did that jurisdiction with the fire department operating out of a hotel really cut everything else it could to get money for a fire station, and still come up short, or did it go straight to demanding a tax increase?

    And so, we may as well compromise life-saving fire services until we root out every cent of misspent money, and every selfish citizen is satisfied that this has been done? That seems very mature and responsible.

    >>>Unfortunately, there is no real solution.

    So ignore the problem and keep the status quo? That's a wonderful idea. Then the "taxed enough already" crowd can keep making payments on their yachts in good conscience, eh?

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  3. And it still remains, even so, a rationalization; once again, you don't punish X because Y does Z."

    This sentiment, expressed several times, has a convers: shall we be such poor stewards that we simply swallow yet another tax increase without requiring our servants in the government to account for how they've spent what we previously entrusted them with? Shall we reward malfeasance with yet more power and money to spend?

    I hardly think I said ignore the problem. Rather, the solution (to the extent we can call it that) is to get the money and power out of Washington D.C. and Tallahassee, and back down to the local level where people can actually keep track of what's going on.

    No yacht payment here, I'm too busy trying to stay afloat in my high-tax state.

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    1. >>> shall we be such poor stewards that we simply swallow yet another tax increase without requiring our servants in the government to account for how they've spent what we previously entrusted them with?

      No such thing has been said or implied here. I have said, however, that those who claim bad stewardship need to argue and prove it, not merely use it as an excuse to selfishly hoard "MY MONEY"!

      >>I hardly think I said ignore the problem. Rather, the solution (to the extent we can call it that) is to get the money and power out of Washington D.C. and Tallahassee, and back down to the local level where people can actually keep track of what's going on.

      Then it's odd you didn't say that in the first place. But a competent person can track such matters at any level, especially with today's tools.

      >>>No yacht payment here, I'm too busy trying to stay afloat in my high-tax state

      Ah well. You get what you pay for. Florida is a low, low, tax state, and we have crappy roads, prisons on the verge of riot, children dying at the hands of abusive parents, etc etc all because our "taxed enough already" crowd is too busy by the pool applying suntan to care. I won't presume to ask which "high tax state" you occupy, as that might violate privacy, but I certainly know not to simply take such complaints at face value...as I hear the same from some of the "taxed enough" crowd even here.

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    2. And for the record, I'll reiterate what I said above:

      "In a perfect world, citizens would band together to voluntarily fund communal services like fire and rescue, without any taxation. Or, wealthy members of the community would step up and pay for those fire fees on behalf of local congregations."

      I'd like to see taxes truly become an anachronism. But that won't even begin to happen until the church, at least, wakes up to its responsibilities.

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  4. "I'd like to see taxes truly become an anachronism. But that won't even begin to happen until the church, at least, wakes up to its responsibilities."

    That's something of a chicken-and-egg issue. Certainlyvthe progressives of the early 20th century claimed to be stepping in where the Church had abandoned its obligations, and I'm sure many at the time took the opposite view, justifying the reduction in their charitable giving on the grounds that the government had increased their taxes and arrogated to itself the role of helping the poor.

    "Then it's odd you didn't say that in the first place."

    I believe I did: "Since there are no angels available to run for city council, the best we can do is minimize the power of government as much as possible to reduce the attraction for those who crave power, and devolve that power as much as possible so that other, still sinful, people (like me) can keep watch to try to minimize the abuse of power. The most local, and most accountable, spending will occur at the individual level (looking at me here, what did I give to charity this year?)"

    "I have said, however, that those who claim bad stewardship need to argue and prove it..."

    In a neighboring city, the City Council gave a group of rich men $250 million to help build a new downtown sports arena to replace the existing arena on the periphery. At about the same time, they asked the people to approve a quarter-percent increase in the sales tax rate "for police and fire protection". Maybe this neighboring city is unusually corrupt, or maybe it's my entire state, but I'm disinclined to accept anyone's claim that the government needs more money without first doing a thorough review for both waste/fraud/abuse and bad policy decisions on spending. This quarter-billion dollars toward the arena might be administered by angels (zero waste/fraud/abuse) and still be terrible policy.

    My state has some of the highest taxes in the country overall and still has crappy roads, indifferent public education, prison overcrowding and Federal judicial oversight, children abused to death by their parents, massive and increasing energy bills, and a horrendous cost of living. Yes, you get what you pay for, but the elected officials and government employees get what they pay for too, and they have more direct control over that tax money.

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  5. >>>That's something of a chicken-and-egg issue.

    If it is, then the obvious answer is to kill and eat both and start over. Either way we are a long way from the spirit of community that permeated early Christianity, not least because we have replaced their social orientation of collectivism with rugged individualism.
    >>>I believe I did:

    No, not really. The "local level" in the later comment indicates government entities like city councils, not persons giving to charity.

    >>>In a neighboring city, the City Council gave a group of rich men $250
    million to help build a new downtown sports arena to replace the existing

    No need to hide the city name. I live in Orlando. There was nothing corrupt about that deal; the dynamics of the area, with its dependence on tourism, make that arguably a good investment. Good or bad, however, it's no comparison to Leesburg, which, aside from a bikers' festival or two, doesn't reel in tourist dollars.

    >>>My state has some of the highest taxes in the country overall and still

    I can't evaluate the claim without knowing which state it is. Either way, it still does not have any bearing on the particular case of Leesburg. Nor does it justify the illogical proposition that you take ought to away from X because Y did Z. Chop the logic to as long as you wish; it will serve as a suitable distraction from those in need who are suffering while the navel-gazing proceeds in full earnest.

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  6. California, and Sacramento.

    It occurs to me that one problem you have in Florida is the snowbirds fleeing New York for a low-tax state. Its a fair debate whether New York or California has the higher tax/regulatory burden/cost of living, but neither is doing much worthwhile with all the taxes they collect.

    "Chop the logic to as long as you wish; it will serve as a suitable distraction from those in need who are suffering while the navel-gazing proceeds in full earnest."

    This statement, and several others earlier in the discussion, seems awfully close to the ad hominem you wouldn't tolerate for a moment in any other forum. It certainly isn't appropriate or helpful to assume someone wants to simply ignore the needy, as opposed, for example, to having serious reservations about how programs for helping the needy are administered. That, btw, is one reason we can come together to work for a Church that will take its charity obligation seriously: while I agree that the Church has the obligation, I also believe that the effective nationalization of charity has produced a program that exacerbates the problems of poverty rather than improving the situation. Even more reason then, from my perspective, to do that work at the lowest, and most accountable, level.

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    1. I have received contradictory accounts about the situation in CA. An investigative trip is out of the question for the present.

      >>>It occurs to me that one problem you have in Florida is the snowbirds fleeing New York for a low-tax state.

      Yes. They suck up the services here and then fight to pay nothing to have them.

      >>>This statement, and several others earlier in the discussion, seems awfully close to the ad hominem you wouldn't tolerate for a moment in any other forum

      I see you don't know me very well. In any event, this was no ad hominem, but actual observation of what I have seen and heard in person. Not from you, but from real people here in Florida, including the monster of a governor that Christians here have elected and re-elected. I debated a collection of his supporters incognito some time ago. I have seldom seen such a sore lack of critical thinking in one place. I have also seldom seen such abject ignorance of the basic workings of government. Not even one of them I asked knew, for example, that the legislature has the main power over the state's funds.

      >>> also believe that the effective nationalization of charity has produced a program that exacerbates the problems of poverty rather than improving the situation.

      I'm inclined to see ignorance and apathy at the root of such problems as opposed to any specific process. There is nothing that can be humanly done that the ignorant and apathetic cannot destroy.

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    2. I thought I had replied last Friday but I guess that got eaten along the way.

      Don't know you very well? Perhaps the four years of e-block subscription and several more years of devouring the main website (to the point that the YouTube channel is more a "guilty pleasure" than anything else) have taught me nothing at all. ;)

      What do you want to know about California? I've only been here for 11 years and grew up in another left coast state (Oregon) but I'd be happy to answer any questions I can.

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    3. If you know TektonTV, I wonder how you can not know of my high tolerance for ad hominem. :)

      11 years, well, I have a longtime (10 years plus) reader who has lived there for more than 30. I believe he was even there when Brown was up last time as governor. So, maybe tell me the three worst abuses of funds you've seen on a state project in the last ten years. Then tell me the three BEST uses of state funds you have seen there.

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    4. To clarify on your question, is this specifically directed at state-level projects to turn budgetary allocations (duly enacted by the legislature and signed into law by the governor) into tangible results, or will you entertain those legislative and executive policy enactments in and of themselves? If the former, then it'll take some research, particularly for "good" projects as stuff that comes in on time and on budget tends not to attract media attention.

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    5. The former is all I have ever had in mind here.

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    6. Which is a shame, because I've been talking about the later. As Kevin Williamson pointed out in National Review, you'll never balance the Federal budget just rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse. You have to address the dumb policies as well.

      Nevertheless, I have a few responses. One example of waste is the recent San Fransisco Bay Bridge project. It was barely complete when it became apparent that a lot of substandard parts were used, including improperly manufactured bolts that were never tested to ensure they met the specifications.

      Another is the investigation of the 2007 Moonlight Fire. State fire investigators concealed evidence from the defendant (Sierra Pacific Industries). The fallout has reached the point that the state case has been refuted and the company is now busilly demonstrating that the Federal prosecutors also engaged in fraud on the court.

      An apparently good project is a recent major freeway resurfacing project in Sacramento, which was completed 8 days ahead of schedule earning the company a bonus. However, cracks have recently appeared on the surface concrete, so it remains to be seen if this will continue to be a "good" project.

      All of which pale in comparison with the idiocy and wastefulness of pretending to be able to tackle global warming at the state level (AB32 and the resulting cap-and-trade program, or the $60-100 billion dollar high speed rail project that just broke ground in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley in an attempt to get something in place that the legislature will feel compelled to complete because its nowhere near either intended terminus.

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    7. Maybe I wasn't clear. What I am looking for would be, eg, an example of how something like said Bridge was (or was not) necessary in and of itself. Not whether said projects were eg, rife with mismanagement. In other words, was said Bridge (or whatever) a project that, ideally, would have served a greater good than not, and would have been worth taxpayer expense as a project?

      The opposite example I would give is something like West Virginia's "Road to Nowhere". Robert Byrd was a poster boy for unnecessary projects. That is what I am asking for, but for CA state projects only.

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    8. That's much more like what I had in mind. I think the high speed rail project I mentioned is going to be high on anyone's list. Its estimated to cost between 60 and 100 billion dollars at completion, of which the state currently has about 6 billion authorized in bonds to get it started. Its supposed to run from San Diego though LA, up through the San Joaquin Valley, and then over to San Francisco. Its advertised as "high speed" because there are a few spots on the route where its expected to hit 220 mph, but the average will be much lower and it will make the trip in about 2.5 hours, which is about twice the duration of a flight. The ridership projections are sheer fantasy, and for the sake of this project Fresno is going to see businesses along the Hwy 99 corrider moved or demolished a couple hundred feet west of the freeway. As I mentioned, the first section runs right through the middle of nowhere, so the state money will cover a few score miles of track and then the High Speed Rail Authority will be stuck with its hand out for the Feds and private enterprise (good luck with that) to cough up the rest of the funding.

      I'll have to think some more about some "good" projects. Even things like the California Aquaduct, bringing water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta to farmers in the San Joaquin Valley and to the thirsty citizens of LA has some drawbacks. In particular, it appears the farmers have been using the bulk of that water and paying for less than it cost to provide it, so there's quite a bit of waste and little incentive to use the water efficiently.

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    9. Is the rail project actually complete? If it isn't, I can't see how a judgment can be made as to its utility yet. Projections can indeed be fantasy -- in either direction. We have rail projects here (eg Sunrail) that are still in an evaluation stage. Projections fell short for some stations so far, but were exceeded at others. And as Interstate 4 is ripped apart for a 6 year project, it's likely it will get more riders.

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    10. No, they've barely started construction. Apparently, the company that won the bid for the first billion-dollar portion was founded in part, and still heavily invested in by, Senator Feinstein's husband. (Shocking, I know). While a judgement on actual utility is impossible yet, nothing in the available data suggests the project will be anything other than a hole in which to pour taxpayer money. People can fly from LA to SF or vice versa in half the time. It's passenger rail, so it won't do a thing about the trucks that contribute a big chunk of the San Joaquin Valley's air pollution problem. And even though the project is supposed to be a public-private partnership, it hasn't collected dollar one from the private sector, which can read the tea leaves as well as anybody.

      Sunrail, in contrast, apparently used a lot of existing track, which is still used for freight at night. The High Speed Rail project is all new construction and won't share with anything. While it's possible that a miracle will happen to make it viable (say, track costing 1 million a mile rather than the current 35 million, or aviation ceasing to function), I think it was grossly irresponsible for the legislature and governor to approve the project.

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    11. I suppose we'll wait and see. :)

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  7. It is common to claim that the government had to step in to providing welfare because the church isn't doing their job. But the problem is the opposite: the growth of government crowded out many of the private charities that once flourished in the USA. After all, how can voluntary giving compete with forced taxation?

    Before Hoover and FDR dramatically expanded government and hike tax rates, one in three men in the USA belonged to mutual aid societies. These provided many welfare services, and because of the close contact, were more likely to see that it went to deserving cases rather than to slackers who would not work when they could.

    But don't take my word for it; check out Faith-based charity and crowd-out During the great depression, Journal of Public Economics 91:1043–1069, 2007, by Daniel M. Hungerman and by none other than the Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber:

    Churches in the U.S. were a crucial provider of social services through the early part of the twentieth century, but their role shrank dramatically with the expansion in government spending under the New Deal. … With both instruments we find that higher government spending leads to lower church charitable activity. Crowd-out was small as a share of total New Deal spending (3%), but large as a share of church spending: our estimates suggest that benevolent church spending fell by 30% in response to the New Deal, and that government relief spending can explain virtually all of the decline in charitable church activity observed between 1933 and 1939.

    This may well have led to the attitude you decry: "Nevertheless, they say, we pay enough taxes and don’t need to pay more." Indeed, some friends who lived in Sweden for a year, with its large taxes and welfare, found individual Swedes to be mostly very uncharitable. Whereas Americans still tend to be quite generous by world standards, and indeed charitable giving went up during Reagan's presidency. But having been so jaded by government waste, and paying half their incomes in taxes in some cases, they still haven't reverted to their pre-New-Deal ways charitable ways. It's ironic: Washington et al. revolted against King George III because he imposed a 2.5% tax!

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    1. I'm sorry, but that doesn't work. The church still didn't do its job -- because it GAVE UP instead of staying on the job.

      My point isn't changed simply because the government moved in. It is reliant on the point that the church moved OUT -- which you likewise concede.

      "How can voluntary giving compete with forced taxation?" I dunno. It seems to me the guy with the million dollar mansion, multiple yachts, and thousands of three piece suits in his closet isn't having any problems in that competition. Ya think?

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    2. To that I shall add one more point.

      As I implied, government moving in is not a valid reason for the churches moving out. If the churches did move out because they thought, "Oh, the government will take care of that now" -- then their reasoning would be no more acceptable.

      Is that what happened in the 30s? I don't know. The correspondence of findings in Bergler's study on the juvenilization of the American church -- which also started in the 1930s -- tempts me to wonder whether churches took the advance in government spending as an excuse to fund their misguided programs to attract youth.

      The larger question can also be raised as at

      http://www.nber.org/papers/w16372

      "When the government gives a grant to a private charitable organization, do the donors to that organization give less? If they do, is it because the grants crowd out donors who feel they gave through taxes (classic crowd out), or is it because the grant crowds out the fund-raising of the charities who, after getting the grant, reduce efforts of fund-raising (fund-raising crowd out)? ...Using a panel of more than 8,000 charities, we find that crowding out is significant, at about 72 percent. We find this crowding out is due primarily to reduced fund-raising. Depending on which types of organizations are included in the analysis, crowding out attributable to classic crowd-out ranges from 30% to a slight crowd-in effect, while fund-raising crowd out ranges from 70% to over 100% of all crowd out."

      That sounds a lot like people leaving the job -- which I don't consider to be a responsible way of living, nor one that Christ would approve of. I think he'd tell the Pharisees to keep up with their level of tithes and offerings and not cut them just because Rome delivered a few loaves of bread and a couple of circus rings.

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    3. There are a couple of economic issues that bear greater scrutiny. First is this statement (and several others like it in various comments):

      "It seems to me the guy with the million dollar mansion, multiple yachts, and thousands of three piece suits in his closet isn't having any problems in that competition."

      This comment is the kind of thing I hear from leading Democrats, who have made a systematic violation of the tenth commandment the centerpiece of their political platform for the century and a half since they were forced to abandon slavery. From them (and bear in mind that the Democrats have absolute control of every button, lever, and thingamajigger of power in California at the state level) it is pure class-warfare demagoguery. While it may be a sincerely-held belief that the rich should pay punitive tax rates because they will still be rich after paying their taxes, there's a huge practical and philosophical difference between the person who earns a large income and pays most of it in taxes to the government (at gunpoint, bear in mind), and the same person earning the same income and giving the same amount to the Church to meet the needs of the needy.

      The second issue I wanted to touch on is the passing reference to "trickle-down economics" in the original post. This suggests an unfortunate lack of familiarity with conservative arguments, since, as Thomas So well has pointed out, the only people talking about trickle-down economics as an actual thing are Democrats railing against it.

      What conservatives generally believe, and what has been demonstrated by Coolidge, Kennedy, and Reagan, is that punitively high tax rates on income tend to make people structure their income and assets to reduce their tax liabilities. People negotiate for lower salaries and more stock options, for example, because those options allow them to control the timing of that part of their income, and capital gains is taxed at a lower rate than regular salary income. Their assets are in municipal bonds to take advantage of the tax exemption even though the return is comparatively poor. Their salary income will be diverted into tax-exempt savings accounts (401(k), 529, etc) to shield some of it from taxes. Then, when those punitive tax rates are lowered (remember the top rate when Kennedy took office was 90%), assets are brought out of those poorly-yielding but tax-sheltered investments, to be put to work investing in businesses to expand and produce more and, as a side effect,create more jobs. People are more willing to work more and earn more salary income. The net effect on the economy tends to be hugely positive, while the net effect on revenues (particularly at the Federal level) is, at worst, not nearly as negative as projected, or, at best, substantially positive. Federal revenue nearly doubled during Reagan's two terms in office despite the noticeable rate cuts.

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    4. >>>This comment is the kind of thing I hear from leading Democrats, who have made a systematic violation of the tenth commandment

      My point has nothing to do with any of that. My point is that said uber-wealthy person has enough resources that neither voluntary giving nor forced taxation is going to cause them any real misery. My whole point here has been about personal greed and refusal to look out for the common good, which is entirely contrary to the essence of the Gospel. That doesn't mean I support any notions of government being the means to enforce that mandate, as some think it should be. I'd rather it not be, as I have said here repeatedly.

      All this talk of "punitively high tax rates on income tend to make people structure their income and assets to reduce their tax liabilities" etc is also beside the point, save that it serves as an explanation for how some people do their best to preserve what they wish to selfishly keep instead of sharing of their excess for the greater good. Nor does it have anything to do with "conservatism". I don't care about that at all.

      There were no 401(k)s in Jesus' day, and the sages of that period advised the wealthy to use their wealth to help others, knowing that the transience of their holdings made it likely that they too might someday be poor again. Were these sages "liberals"?

      "People are more willing to work more and earn more salary income." Indeed! Well, Captain, explain this to me if you will: I've devoted my life to ministry for the past 15 years. What do you suggest I do about the fact that when I approach some wealthy people for support, the best thing I get is a contemptuous sneer -- even though they admit I'm doing valuable work? I can "work more" and have worked more, but for some reason, that doesn't seem to matter to them at all.

      Are you seriously going to argue against my ultimate point here, that selfishness and greed is a real problem, even in the Christian church today in American that is supposed to be a model?

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    5. Oh yes, Captain...one more thing.

      You read the E-Block, you say, so you know how I said my wife could have been killed because of the tax cuts in this state.

      I'm sure you're as glad as I am that she made it out of that situation safely. But hey if she hadn't....I could have taken comfort in the fact that at least some guy with lots of spare cash didn't have to go to the trouble of structuring his income and assets to reduce his tax liabilities...right? :)

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    6. My subscription began in June 2011 and I don't recall having ever seen that. I'm sorry to hear that and yes, I am glad she survived.

      No, I am not going to argue that greed isn't a problem, both in the Church and in society in general. In fact, greed and list for power have been a major feature of my arguments above.

      And by the way, I'm not defending that kind of conspicuous consumption you've been using in some of your examples. The point is that those investments redound to the bbenefit of people other than the original investor. Would the villagers have been better off if Jean Valjean liquidated his stolen silver and distributed the money evenly among them, or if he invests that money in a factory that employs them? Which option really serves the greater good?

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    7. The story was in the March 2015 issue in the article on taxation. I'll sum it up for those who do not have a sub.

      My wife worked inside the prison compound. Over the past 4 years the state's Tea Party-aligned governor, Rick Scott, slashed budgets for all state agencies so he could provide tax cuts and pay down long term bond debt early. In the prison sector, this meant that prisons cut staff, including security, as well as services, to the point that (as the former head of the agency under Scott admitted publicly) we are in danger of having riots.

      >>>Would the villagers have been better off if Jean Valjean liquidated his stolen silver and distributed the money evenly among them, or if he invests that money in a factory that employs them? Which option really serves the greater good?

      That would require a specific analysis of what's going on in the village. But you have only 2 options, 1) distribute the money or 2) invest the money in jobs. You forgot option 3, which I'll illustrate with a live example.

      I have a side job doing government surveys of agricultural businesses. There was a local foliage nursery that had million dollar sales and employed 100 or so workers. It was a thriving business and could have grown more jobs.

      Instead, the owner decided that it was time to use the business as his personal piggy bank. He wove himself a golden parachute out of the assets, then ran the business into the ground so he could liquidate the assets for cash.

      Every one of those 100 people were thrown out of work at the height of the last recession, when jobs were most scarce. Most were low-skill agricultural workers with families. Some were skilled workers, but of middle age, who would take months to find jobs.

      Mr. Owner did just fine with his parachute. He's set for 20+ years. But many of his workers ended up needing unemployment and other government assistance....which cost taxpayers here even more money. At least until Scott also decided to cut things like unemployment benefits.

      So yeah, option 3 -- pocket the silver, or maybe use it to buy yourself a lot of conspicuous consumption.

      I'm not saying government should be the one to fix this, though I do sympathize with those who say it should, thanks to the terror Scott has put my family through. The wealthy-selfish like Mr. Owner will always find some way to game the system, even if it means moving to tax-free Timbuktu. But at the very least, we need to recognize that there's a problem and address it.

      So what would Thomas Sowell say about that?

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    8. I'm sorry, somehow I missed (or had forgotten about) that aspect of the story. And you're absolutely right to blame Governor Scott for cutting prison operations like that (not that you need my affirmation). Public safety is one of the indisputably legitimate government functions. I imagine you could name a dozen other things the state of Florida should have cut rather than public safety, which actually gets back to my earlier point about how some vital government functions, such as police, fire, and corrections, have to come late to the budget trough because other programs have louder and more energetic lobbyists.

      Your third option is obvious and has no defenders in this discussion, other than the fact that it's legal. Shaming, while legal, doesn't feel very satisfying, probably because we're such shameless people. But really, the only answer for bad speech and abuse of freedom may be good speech.

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