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John Simkin

Morality and Income Tax

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In the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel was clamoring for a king, "like the other nations", the prophet, Samuel told Israel that the king would "take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants."

The clear implication in this passage is that the king's taking this, among other things, was not good and a tenth was in view, not 40%+. I use this as part of my thinking on, "What constitutes a tyrannical government?".

For the government to take the same amount as the church is considered tyrannical.

It seems to me that you should quote from the Old Testament to justify low taxation of the rich. I would have thought the teachings of Jesus would be more relevant to deal with this situation. For example, this is what Jesus has to say about wealth (Matthew 19:16 - 19:24)

(19.16) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

(19.17) And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

(19.18) He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

(19.19) Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

(19.20) The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

(19.21) Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.

(19.22) But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

(19.23) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

(19:24) And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus did not say anything about restricting tax to 10%. In fact, he constantly urged the rich to give their wealth to the poor. Jesus was of course an advocate of equality. In fact, some have argued that Jesus was the world’s first socialist.

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I think we can talk a lot about taxes but government will listen to rich not to poor people. I do not understand your system capitalist one we are only moving towards it but I see that it is very wild by the nature. We got a period of wild capitalism now some people got all people's property oil gas natural resourses and have milliards of money but do not pay taxes because of corruption and millions are living in a poverty like in the region of Abramovich but he is a hero in UK and buying footbal teams and property from kings but people in his region slowly dying with gas oil and food. Berezovky Gusinkis and others made thier money in Russia but moved to Israel or UK (despite Berzovsky is under Intrepol investigation but laughing at all world society because he has milliards of money to behave himself like that).

So we are talking they are working and making their business as they like to do. I only surprised that you have built capitalism 500 years ago but still have the same problems and I guess that we will get the same through some years. Now I can understand people who were building socialism to be equal but poor but it was a nice story with sad end...

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I think we can talk a lot about taxes but government will listen to rich not to poor people. I do not understand your system capitalist one we are only moving towards it but I see that it is very wild by the nature. We got a period of wild capitalism now some people got all people's property oil gas natural resourses and have milliards of money but do not pay taxes because of corruption and millions are living in a poverty like in the region of Abramovich but he is a hero in UK and buying footbal teams and property from kings but people in his region slowly dying with gas oil and food. Berezovky Gusinkis and others made thier money in Russia but moved to Israel or UK (despite Berzovsky is under Intrepol investigation but laughing at all world society because he has milliards of money to behave himself like that).

So we are talking they are working and making their business as they like to do. I only surprised that you have built capitalism 500 years ago but still have the same problems and I guess that we will get the same through some years. Now I can understand people who were building socialism to be equal but poor but it was a nice story with sad end...

It is interesting to examine the increase of inequality in Russia since the fall of communism. It is now the home of some of the richest men in the world. In fact, 23 men now own 60% of the Russian economy. Their combined wealth amounts to £44.6bn. In the UK the most famous of these is Roman Abramovich. He now lives in the UK and is officially our richest man (22nd richest in the world) and is estimated to be worth £7.5bn.

How did Abramovich get his money? Well he refuses to say. However, two journalists, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, have been investigating his business career. They have an interesting story to tell.

Abramovich was only 20 years old when Gorbachev decided to legalise private business in 1987. Abramovich, via his contacts in the Communist Party, was able to set up an oil trading company. He then bought cheap Russian oil for a few roubles a barrel and sold it abroad for a healthy profit. This enabled to build up his capital and put himself in a good position to exploit the situation when Russia fully embraced the concept of capitalism.

On 20th August, 1992, Boris Yeltsin announced that Russian industry was to be privatised. He explained that Russia was to become a stakeholding society (a word that Tony Blair prefers to privatisation). Each citizen was to be issued with a voucher worth 10,000 roubles (at the time the average monthly wage in Russia). These vouchers could then be exchanged for shares in the companies that employed them. By taking a stake in the company that employed them, Russians were going to be working for themselves. According to Yeltsin there would be “millions of owners rather than a handful of millionaires”. He added: “everyone will have equal opportunities in this new undertaking and the rest will depend on ourselves… The privatisation voucher is a ticket for each of us to a free economy.” Yeltsin also explained that the state would retain a third of the shares in these companies.

Yeltsin also announced the deregulation of prices. As a result the rouble fell on the foreign exchange market from 230 per dollar in 1992 to more than 3,500 by December, 1994. This wiped out most people’s savings in Russia. The impact on the health of the population was dramatic. Life expectancy for men fell from 65 in 1987 to 59 in 1993. The number of suicides rose by 53% and more than one third of the population slipped below the poverty line.

People in Russia were now desperate for money and began selling their possessions. Abramovich and his mates now made their move. In 1994 stalls started appearing in towns all over Russia. They offered to pay cash for people’s vouchers. The agents employed on the stalls told them they were now worth only a few kopeks. Desperate for money to feed their families, the people sold their vouchers. A recent survey showed that most Russians sold their vouchers during this period.

By 1996 the majority of people in Russia were worse off under capitalism than under communism. Yeltsin was in serious trouble and was expected to be beaten by the communists in the forthcoming elections. His only hope was to mount a propaganda campaign against the communists. He needed money to do this and so he struck a deal with Abramovich and his mates. In return for financial backing he would introduce a “loans for shares” scheme. Yeltsin told the Russian people that this was a temporary measure and once the economy had stabilised, the state would repay the loans and the state would reclaim its shares.

Abramovich was not the only one to take advantage of this situation. Vladimir Potanin, the deputy prime minister, purchased Norilsk Nickel for £78 million (now worth £2 billion). Another member of parliament, the 32 year old Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who helped draft the “loans for shares” legislation, was given the job of policing the system. He now owns 40 former Soviet enterprises and is estimated to be worth £8.4 billion.

During this period Abramovich obtained large chunks of Sibneft (oil), Aeroflot (national airline), RusAl (aluminium), GAZ (cars), Orsk-Khalilovsky (metal), Avtobank (insurance), Kraznoyarsk (hydroelectric), Ust Ilinsky (paper), etc.

The value of these companies have increased enormously since they were sold off for cut-down prices (sound familiar). The workers for these companies have not done so well as they are now earning less in real terms than they were in 1987.

So far Abramovich has spent around £300 million on Chelsea. He also lives in England (a 450 acre estate in Sussex) although he is governor of Chukotka. Abramovich is aware that every time he returns to Russia he is in danger of being taken into custody. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest man in Russia was recently arrested. Others have also escaped to the west and are busy trying to get their money out as well as it will only be a matter of time before their companies are renationalised. It could be argued that Abramovich's buying of Chelsea is an example of what the Mafia call money-laundering.

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In the Old Testament, when the nation of Israel was clamoring for a king, "like the other nations", the prophet, Samuel told Israel that the king would "take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants."

The clear implication in this passage is that the king's taking this, among other things, was not good and a tenth was in view, not 40%+. I use this as part of my thinking on, "What constitutes a tyrannical government?".

For the government to take the same amount as the church is considered tyrannical.

It seems to me that you should quote from the Old Testament to justify low taxation of the rich. I would have thought the teachings of Jesus would be more relevant to deal with this situation. For example, this is what Jesus has to say about wealth (Matthew 19:16 - 19:24)

(19.16) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

(19.17) And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

(19.18) He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

(19.19) Honour thy father and [thy] mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

(19.20) The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

(19.21) Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me.

(19.22) But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

(19.23) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

(19:24) And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus did not say anything about restricting tax to 10%. In fact, he constantly urged the rich to give their wealth to the poor. Jesus was of course an advocate of equality. In fact, some have argued that Jesus was the world’s first socialist.

I understand the 'eye of the needle' was a camel shaped hole in a city wall that allowed a camel with a set load to pass through toll gates, Thus an early means of calculating tax. Unload the camel until it fits through. Then you can move onto market to sell goods and make your money. A 'rich man' then would be a grossly overloaded camel.

Christ also said some other important things.

"My kingdom is not of this earth."

"Let the dead bury the dead."

The realm where the salvation that christ is concerned about is not material, its spiritual. It is possible for a wealthy person to 'get' christ and experience salvation. As a result of this the wealthy person becomes more generous. On the other hand, a wealthy person through craving salvation may give everything away and not ever get it. What I mean is, salvation is not for sale. Its basically about belief. Is there a god? If there is , this god is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Much more than any man or woman could ever hope to be. That part of you that retains an ego that puts your actions above or on par with those of god are likely to be those that keep you away from god.

A common misunderstanding by many christians is their belief that they must serve god. God is god irrespective of us believing he is. He is complete, our adulation is misplaced. He is not more or smiles more by us telling him he is ok. To believe so puts one on par with god. The fact is that gods feels the same about all, he offers salvation equally to all. He is not prejudiced. He's a god of freedom. On earth we are free to take up that offer if we wish. He'll instantly give to anyone who asks for it. Christ came to earth to show how to find god. As I said, not by serving god, but by serving Man.

God does not need servants, suffering humanity does. God so loves man that he sent his only son to die on the cross so that those who believe will find salvation.

It is easy to make this god a god of earth and believe that through deliberate acts one gets a tick in the big book. Not so, its through surrendering wholly to god, and in spite of ones own nature accepting all the consequences. ie walking the talk, irrespective of whatever laws may be enacted by man, that gods will is done.

While taxing wealthy more than poor (I'd go so far as to say someone who has 64 billion dollars should be taxed 90 not 40 % and a vast majority of the population on earth pay a very small tax) is good, it's not what christ is about. I think some atheists are capable of a more meaningful earthly morality than some christians. So I guess this is an argument for accepting a separation between church(religion) and state while encouraging a union between heart and god.

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It seems to me that you should quote from the Old Testament to justify low taxation of the rich. I would have thought the teachings of Jesus would be more relevant to deal with this situation. For example, this is what Jesus has to say about wealth (Matthew 19:16 - 19:24)

(19.16) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

...

(19:24) And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Jesus did not say anything about restricting tax to 10%. In fact, he constantly urged the rich to give their wealth to the poor. Jesus was of course an advocate of equality. In fact, some have argued that Jesus was the world’s first socialist.

I understand the 'eye of the needle' was a camel shaped hole in a city wall that allowed a camel with a set load to pass through toll gates, Thus an early means of calculating tax. Unload the camel until it fits through. Then you can move onto market to sell goods and make your money. A 'rich man' then would be a grossly overloaded camel.

I've heard this as well, but as with many things to do with the seemingly more radical parts of the Bible, I think that many Christians try to change what Jesus actually said to what they want it to mean. Man's - and especially a rich man's - love of money can prevent him from identifying how he needs to change. To focus on what is important in life it is important to cut away the chaff. As the passage that John quoted continues:

Mark 10:23-27

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"

27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

The situation regarding the rich young man was that, as many Jews had done all their life, he had obeyed the Law. However, this was not enough. His heart needed to be changed, which required radical action. Jesus cut right to the heart of the matter by identifying the man's love of material wealth. This was what was stopping him from entering into a saving relationship with God, but this can be different for everyone.

At the end of the day, as the saying goes, you can't take it with you. Without turning this thread into an overtly evangelistic one, Jesus - as John Simkin has mentioned - advocated radical action to do with the poor. This, however, was as much for the giver's sake as the receiver's! :)

:plane Doug

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In my opinion, the morality of taxation, at whatever percentage of income, is dependent upon the morality of the government's expenses. Is a tax rate of 40%, used to burn women and children with napalm, more moral than a tax rate of 60% used to provide better sanitation, security, healthcare, roads, communications, and educational opportunities?

Here in America, my income is somewhat below the median. While I might not have all that I wish, I believe that, by and large, I have what I need. Whether it is noble or whether it is robbery to require the rich to part with a higher percentage of their excess than I, I fear I'm not qualified to judge.

My incentive to work hard in my young adult years had much to do with acquisition. As a single man, I desired a nice automobile. In my early married years, it was the desire to provide for my family at such a level that my children no longer qualified for subsidized school lunches and textbooks. Now that my children are grown and on their own, my incentive is to be able to help my children acquire the same things that I acquired, but at an earlier age [i bought my first house at age 40], and to secure a retirement that will ensure I have a sound roof over my head, suitable but not ostentatious clothing, and that I not be relegated to "dumpster-diving" in order to meet my nutritional needs. If at all possible, I would desire to leave behind, upon my passing, enough of an estate for my survivors that they should not be in a state of need, but not so large that they lose sight of the value of determination and an honest day's work.

What, then, IS a moral tax rate? Depends upon what one decides is a moral government spending rate. If the government is spending at a much greater rate than it is taxing, is it moral to saddle our children, and our childern's children, with the debts of our excesses? Is it moral to cut tax rates and let our children inherit a nation in physical ruin, with crumbling roads and bridges and water and sewer systems and other decaying infrastructure? Is it moral to raise tax rates to justify uncontrolled governmental spending?

WHO is moral enough among us to determine the point of perfect balance?

The answer is: not I.

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There is some very intelligent discussion going on here.

John Simkin rightly notes that Jesus was a strong advocate of assisting the poor. It is not simply in the New Testament, however. That theme also runs throughout Proverbs. Interestingly, another theme in Proverbs is the importance of acquiring wisdom. God clearly loves knowledge and education.

I do not think that Jesus was a socialist, however. I have concerns about the morality of a majority of voters voting for politicians who support confiscatory tax policies even when for the stated purpose of helping the poor (when often those programs backfire anyway). Am I meeting my moral obligation to obey God's commandments by voting to use my neighbor's money to do so?

Not that I am against every social welfare program. And I think it difficult to characterize any government program (or tax rate) as moral or immoral.

What God was emphasizing was sacrificing your own money to assist the less fortunate. I think it means more to God when a person reaches into his or her own pocket and makes a sacrificial gift than it does when the person votes for a Socialist.

Proverbs also emphasizes the importance of hard work. I do not think God is a Protestant or a Catholic but I am sure He endorses the "Protestant work ethic". And history teaches us that socialist policies that discourage entrepeunership do not help the poor in any event. I also think that most poor people would prefer a job that provides them with self-respect rather than a government hand-out.

I noted earlier that in my teens I was againt the progressive income tax on the issue of fairness, but I no longer hold that view. I do not think a tax rate higher than 40% is in itself immoral but I am concerned about the fairness of a tax system that is truly confiscatory to the extreme.

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John Dolva wrote:

"The realm where the salvation that christ is concerned about is not material, its spiritual. It is possible for a wealthy person to 'get' christ and experience salvation. As a result of this the wealthy person becomes more generous. On the other hand, a wealthy person through craving salvation may give everything away and not ever get it. What I mean is, salvation is not for sale. Its basically about belief. Is there a god? If there is , this god is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Much more than any man or woman could ever hope to be. That part of you that retains an ego that puts your actions above or on par with those of god are likely to be those that keep you away from god.

A common misunderstanding by many christians is their belief that they must serve god. God is god irrespective of us believing he is. He is complete, our adulation is misplaced. He is not more or smiles more by us telling him he is ok. To believe so puts one on par with god. The fact is that gods feels the same about all, he offers salvation equally to all. He is not prejudiced. He's a god of freedom. On earth we are free to take up that offer if we wish. He'll instantly give to anyone who asks for it. Christ came to earth to show how to find god. As I said, not by serving god, but by serving Man.

God does not need servants, suffering humanity does. God so loves man that he sent his only son to die on the cross so that those who believe will find salvation.

It is easy to make this god a god of earth and believe that through deliberate acts one gets a tick in the big book. Not so, its through surrendering wholly to god, and in spite of ones own nature accepting all the consequences. ie walking the talk, irrespective of whatever laws may be enacted by man, that gods will is done.

While taxing wealthy more than poor (I'd go so far as to say someone who has 64 billion dollars should be taxed 90 not 40 % and a vast majority of the population on earth pay a very small tax) is good, it's not what christ is about. I think some atheists are capable of a more meaningful earthly morality than some christians. So I guess this is an argument for accepting a separation between church(religion) and state."

An excellent, excellent post, John. I agree with just about all of your points. I agree with you that salvation is not about doing good works but about accepting the sacrifice of Jesus. I further agree that the essence of God-worship is surrendering one's life wholly to God, and that if one does so then one will necessarily perform the virtuous acts that God wants. I also agree with you that one can have morals apart from a belief in God and an atheist or agnostic may live a life which is more pleasing to God than a Christian or a devout Jew. I believe (and I suspect you do as well) that the fact that even an atheist recognizes morality (including concepts such as helping the poor) demonstrates the existence of God.

I agree mostly with the separation of church and state, as intended by the Founders. The pilgrims came to this country, of course, seeking religious freedom. I reject concepts such as "the Church of England". I believe God wants people to have the freedom to worship Him (including the freedom to reject Him.)

The one part of your post with which I respectfully strongly disagree is this: "God is god irrespective of us believing he is. He is complete, our adulation is misplaced. He is not more or smiles more by us telling him he is ok. " I believe God created man (in His own image, as the Bible teaches) because He wanted companionship and worship. Don't have a Bible with me but there are verses that states that God loves songs of praise. And that is also why God gave man free will, including the will to reject Him. Of course, the concept of the existence of evil and the concept of free will are some of the more difficult to understand. How could evil exist unless God created it, and how could a righteous God create evil? It may be as simple as, if God is, then what is not God must be by defintion evil. How can selflessness exist without also gthe existence of selfishness?

To repeat, I thought your post was excellent, as were the posts of many others. I think it is good that we think about these issues and I think we grow by discussing them with others.

Given some of our friction, I want to go on record thanking John (and Andy) for providing a Forum for a discussion of such issues.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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John Simkin rightly notes that Jesus was a strong advocate of assisting the poor. It is not simply in the New Testament, however. That theme also runs throughout Proverbs. Interestingly, another theme in Proverbs is the importance of acquiring wisdom. God clearly loves knowledge and education.

I do not think that Jesus was a socialist, however. I have concerns about the morality of a majority of voters voting for politicians who support confiscatory tax policies even when for the stated purpose of helping the poor (when often those programs backfire anyway). Am I meeting my moral obligation to obey God's commandments by voting to use my neighbor's money to do so?

Not that I am against every social welfare program. And I think it difficult to characterize any government program (or tax rate) as moral or immoral.

What God was emphasizing was sacrificing your own money to assist the less fortunate. I think it means more to God when a person reaches into his or her own pocket and makes a sacrificial gift than it does when the person votes for a Socialist.

Proverbs also emphasizes the importance of hard work. I do not think God is a Protestant or a Catholic but I am sure He endorses the "Protestant work ethic". And history teaches us that socialist policies that discourage entrepeunership do not help the poor in any event. I also think that most poor people would prefer a job that provides them with self-respect rather than a government hand-out.

In my opinion, the morality of taxation, at whatever percentage of income, is dependent upon the morality of the government's expenses. Is a tax rate of 40%, used to burn women and children with napalm, more moral than a tax rate of 60% used to provide better sanitation, security, healthcare, roads, communications, and educational opportunities?

Here in America, my income is somewhat below the median. While I might not have all that I wish, I believe that, by and large, I have what I need. Whether it is noble or whether it is robbery to require the rich to part with a higher percentage of their excess than I, I fear I'm not qualified to judge.

My incentive to work hard in my young adult years had much to do with acquisition. As a single man, I desired a nice automobile. In my early married years, it was the desire to provide for my family at such a level that my children no longer qualified for subsidized school lunches and textbooks. Now that my children are grown and on their own, my incentive is to be able to help my children acquire the same things that I acquired, but at an earlier age [i bought my first house at age 40], and to secure a retirement that will ensure I have a sound roof over my head, suitable but not ostentatious clothing, and that I not be relegated to "dumpster-diving" in order to meet my nutritional needs. If at all possible, I would desire to leave behind, upon my passing, enough of an estate for my survivors that they should not be in a state of need, but not so large that they lose sight of the value of determination and an honest day's work.

I believe the subject of taxation is a moral issue. Taxation is the main tool that a government can use to redistribute wealth. That raises issues of what our views should be towards those that are less fortunate than ourselves. Of course, we are free to give to charity. However, history shows us this is a very ineffective way to redistribute wealth. The rich are notoriously mean when it comes to giving to charity and research shows that they give far less in percentage terms than those with middle and low incomes. Therefore, if we believe in redistribution, our government has to do it for us.

Some countries have a good record for redistributing wealth. These are usually ones that accept the label of being “socialistic”. Others are very poor at this. The country with the worst record for this is the United States. The presidency of George Bush has increased this problem.

Before he took office America had the highest percentage of people living in poverty in the developed world. As a result of the changes he has made to the tax system, 12.7% now live in poverty. In other words, an increase of over 5.4 million people. However, only 8% of white people live below the poverty line in America. This is mainly a problem for racial minorities. This is reflected in the percentages for particular areas. For example, Detroit has 33.6% of its population living below the poverty line.

The recent Hurricane Katrina showed the world how the poor are treated in America. Bush admitted in a televised address to the nation that the hurricane had mainly affected the poor living in these areas. He added that this “deep, persistent poverty” had its “roots in a history of racial discrimination”. Bush promised a war on poverty but few people believe him. After all, he is currently promising extension of tax cuts on investment income and repealing the estate tax, two measures that will both benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. He is also proposing tens of billions of dollars of cuts to services like food stamps, federal student loans and Medicaid (the health insurance scheme for low-income Americans). All these measures will result in more problems for those living in poverty.

George Bush, who became a born-again Christian at 40, is one of the most overtly religious leaders to ever occupy the White House, a fact which brings him much support in middle America. Recently he told a journalist that “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

If Bush really was a follower of Jesus Christ, he would be advocating policies that would help American people for getting out of poverty. Instead of that he has a record of helping his rich friends with tax cuts and increased military spending.

Mark and Tim, could you add a piece on the background to the development of your political philosophy. This will help those students taking part in this project.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=5051

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hi Tim, yes I see what you mean. What I meant was something like this : God is happy about joyful worship. A happy loving mind is open and ready for a lot of cleansing. Misery and pain is the other side of the coin and often just below the surface. To let down the defenses in genuine awe and joy at gods power allows him to do good work, worshipping him helps him to help us. Of course he is happy for this opportunity, he loves us. However, he doesn't have an ego like we humans all do.

John S : "I believe the subject of taxation is a moral issue. Taxation is the main tool that a government can use to redistribute wealth. That raises issues of what our views should be towards those that are less fortunate than ourselves. Of course, we are free to give to charity. However, history shows us this is a very ineffective way to redistribute wealth. The rich are notoriously mean when it comes to giving to charity and research shows that they give far less in percentage terms than those with middle and low incomes. Therefore, if we believe in redistribution, our government has to do it for us."

I agree that the subject of taxation is a moral issue, that doesn't necessarily make it a spiritual issue. Atheists are equally capable of making good and bad moral descicions around topics such as taxation.

What I'm saying is that while morality can with difficulty, in the world we live in, be discussed without discussing religion, it is important to note that religion is not necessarily something that god is into. So to equate god with tax through a discussion of religion can be flawed. Thats all. At the same time sometimes believers ARE organised together in a church that does reflect the body of god.

OK, Bush states he believes in christ. I think his performance indicates an opportunism, correctly noted by John and other atheists. I am really worried for him by claiming some sort of hotline to god. If I was American (and not just for that reason) I wouldn't vote for him. But I would try to pray for him.

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Is it morally right to pay more than 40% of income to taxes?

Well, I count among those that we do not have enough information. An effective society can be created with higher and lower tax rates.

I society that has a 40% upper income tax rate needs to have a government that is closely watched by its citizens to make sure that this large source of power and wealth is being used morally.

I do not feel that it is immoral to vote in taxes.

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I agree with those on here who believe that people should pay tax relative to what they earn and probably more than 40% and that those countries which pay higher taxes such as Scandinavia seem to supply better community services. The trouble does seem to be, certainly here, that the rich have such numerous ways of avoiding tax while the ordinary worker escapes nothing and gets little in return. Our top CEOs earn hundreds of thousands a day while an unskilled worker earns less than $10 an hour. I'm not a communist, but there is something wrong with that.

Here in Australia we are currently having imposed upon us the most draconian right-wing industrial relations reforms in our history (might be worth a look at for your students) where minimum wages will be reduced to match the US, workers' right are being taken away, collective bargaining is being replaced with individual contracts and unions are being systematically weakened. No surprise that our PM is proud to be a "friend" of GWB. But, this is not the Australia we have known or that many of us want - the Federal govt was elected without this being publicly in their manifesto and the states are fighting it as hard as they can. Big business here is God and the ordinary worker is simply fodder for those profits.

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it morally right for top wage owners to pay more than a 40% rate of income-tax?"

It's nothing to do with morals. If the people in a state want the government to supply top rate services then you have to tax. The Scandinavian countries seem to do it quite well. Of course some smart guys will leave and go and live in the US so they aren't taxed;-)

It has to do with justice and equality, what kind of society do we want? That's the question. or do we still think high top wages are the result of hard work? Some people say if there is a minimun wage, why don't we fix a maximum wage? For christians let me remember you : "it is more difficult for a rich to go to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle"

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it morally right for top wage owners to pay more than a 40% rate of income-tax?"

It is morally wrong for human beings to go without the basic necessities to live. We should therefore rectify this situation on a global basis by taking money from those who can afford to give and redistributing to those that need it. However, I am talking in the context of the capitalist system. Capitalism thrives on inequality and misfortune. Yes we should tax the hell out of the rich in this country - they have made their money from the work of others. Unfortunately, if we did this the capitalists would argue correctly that they would move to another country and pay lower tax there. Therefore capitalism forces governments to set lower rates of taxation. It forces governments to create the cheapest labour conditions. This competition is becoming more intense as multinational corporations become bigger and more powerful - they have the ability to manipulate government policy and by threatening to close a few factories can gain financial benefits from a particular government. There is no incentive for an individual government to raise taxation to help those in other countries - again it would weaken its country's economic competitiveness.

The people are bought out by the capitalists with material goods - for some reason we believe that having a bigger television set or a shiny new car actually makes us happy. We dont challenge the system as long as we believe that we are happy or we can see that someone is less happy than us to remind us of how 'lucky' we are.

Competition is not part of man's natural condition as someone else stated on this thread. Man is naturally sociable but is corrupted by the capitalist system.

All forms of representative democracy are a sham - designed to give the elite and the wealthy a false legitimacy.

Capitalism is constantly evolving and is now much more sophisticated at pulling the wool over peoples eyes. What will be really interesting is how resilient it is in the face of the global problems we are now beginning to face. Capitalism's voracious appetite could bring about its own downfall. We are entering a period where governments behind the scenes are for the first time waking up to the fact that natural resources are finite. Oil in particular is the driving force behind capitalism's current incarnation. Long before it runs out there will be unimaginable conseqences for the world - which will hit the most advanced countries (with highest labour costs) hardest. Chinese economic hegemony will be the event which leads to this global collapse. What will probably happen though is that the world returns to a more primitive form of capitalism.

What can we do about this? Probably nothing. What can anybody do? Probably nothing. Our government will be forced to cut taxes & put more pressure on reducing labour costs as it tries to compete with China and India. Public services will deteriorate as a result. This is only just beginning to happen now. Within twenty years we will be looking back at today as a period of prosperity never to be experienced again.

Debating what the tax rate should be is another distraction from the real problem - the global capitalist system and the fact that governments dont have power, the people definately do not; it is the capitalists and corporations.

Believe it or not I am actually a very optimistic person although you probably wouldn't believe it from that rant!

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In Antibes, where I was just on holiday, there is a marina full of yachts of all shapes and sizes, including one which looked a little the worse for wear and had the name "Ca Suffit" up to the million dollar variety which looks like it comes from a James Bond movie.

Within five minutes walk of the marina there are people begging in doorways. On the last day I was putting out the rubbish and an old woman told me she left any food left-overs in a bag on top of the bin "for the unfortunates".

But it isn't "misfortune." The poor are begging in doorways *because* the rich are living the life of Riley at their expense.

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