Favorite

The moral case for tax fairness 

click to enlarge Jesus Christ and the Tribute Money image via Shutterstock

The Arkansas legislature is considering two dramatically different views of tax reduction. One approach benefits the wealthiest Arkansans who already pay the lowest effective tax rates in the state. An alternative approach gives the most tax relief to the middle and low-income Arkansas families who already pay the highest effective tax rates in the state. This is not only a policy choice, it's also a moral choice.

As faith leaders we are morally and ethically inspired to oppose growing inequities in our state tax code and in our economy as a whole. That inspiration compels us to remind our lawmakers of the moral and ethical case for fairness in our tax code and to reassert our broader concerns for the well-being of the middle class and the poor.

What do tax policies have to do with faith? Why should people of faith care?

Tax policy often affects the middle and low income working families of Arkansas the most, forcing them to shoulder more of the state's tax burden.

We care because our faith calls us to care. We look to scripture to find a rationale for our actions as people of faith. Our faith tradition affirms that all people were created in God's image with inherent worth and dignity regardless of their economic status.

Throughout the Old Testament we learn about God's unwavering concern for the poor. The lawyers in the Book of Deuteronomy speak of doing justice, justly. The Torah has numerous admonitions about treating those who are poor with righteousness and justice. Then, the Prophets, speaking on behalf of God, called the Hebrew people to repentance when they failed to see the poor in their midst.

Jesus grew up and was nurtured from this moral and ethical foundation. That is what inspired Jesus to challenge his followers throughout the gospels to "care for the least of these." This focus on "the least of these" is what the Christian gospels show Jesus understood as included in the reign of God, the new era of justice promised in the Old Testament. Like the Hebrew prophets, Jesus called for an era of justice when the voiceless would have voice and when harsh policies would no longer exist that oppressed "the least of these." The gospel of Matthew clearly states that when we take care of the poor we are serving God.

As people of faith, we are called to seek justice for "the least of these" and care for what affects the quality of their daily lives. This faith places requirements upon the followers.

Today, six out of every 10 families in Arkansas (60 percent of our population) earn less than $44,000 a year. They pay roughly 12 cents of every dollar they earn in taxes. But Arkansans who earn more than $300,000 (1 percent of our population) pay only 6 cents of every dollar in taxes.  

A system that taxes middle and low income earners TWICE what the highest earners pay is not moral and just.

Yet several proposals being considered by Arkansas legislators would make the existing unfair system even WORSE. HB 1966 cuts taxes on investment profits, vastly benefiting the wealthiest Arkansans. HB 1585 lowers the Arkansas income tax in a manner that would give the top 5 percent of wage earners half the tax reduction. Both bills passed the House Revenue and Tax Committee last week and now move to the House floor. How can these legislative proposals be considered moral and just?

In contrast, two other proposals introduced this session would make our tax system fairer and more just. HB 1240 would provide an earned income tax credit to the working poor. And HB 1926 is an income tax reduction weighted heavily in favor of middle and low income families.

We believe that Arkansas needs a fair and responsible tax system. Those who earn the most should pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than those who are just barely scraping by. We need a system where all Arkansans pay their fair share.

 As people of faith, we cannot morally stand silent while the inequities in the Arkansas tax code are made more egregious for the middle and lower income people of Arkansas. Our faith calls us to speak out for tax legislation that makes our system more just, fair and moral.

Rev. Stephen Copley is Chair of the Arkansas Interfaith Alliance. Rev. Pat Bodenhamer is the United Methodist Pastor in Diamond City. Rev. Wendell Griffen is Pastor at New Millennium Church, Little Rock. Rev. Howard Gordon is Pastor Emeritus of First Presbyterian Church, Little Rock, and is a member of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel Board.

Favorite

Tags:

Comments (9)

Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-9 of 9

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas condones child abuse?

    If Harrises and Duggars go unpunished, yes.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • Must address racial inequities

    We mourn for the families of the dead at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As we grieve it's time to rekindle a conversation about race in America and press for the changes that the Emanuel congregation championed for centuries — changes that also made it a target.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Racism is systemic

    In a speech on Sunday at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Gov. Asa Hutchinson played directly into the narrative of respectability politics, where white people tell people of color how they should respond to a situation and condemn responses from others in the community experiencing anger, rage and other expressions of grief.
    • Jun 25, 2015

Most Shared

  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • No prison for mentally ill

    Recent research has shown that Arkansas is unique for its fast-growing prison population. The state also ranks among the lowest in the U.S. for access to mental health care. That's why Governor Hutchinson's 2017 budget allotment for the establishment of three crisis stabilization centers should be applauded.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Still wearing white

    On election night, after a long afternoon of poll-watching, I rushed home to change into my white pantsuit with the rhinestone "HRC" on the back and headed out to my local election party.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • What will a Trump administration mean for Arkansas's children and families?

    Trump doesn't have the political/policy track record that most candidates have when they become president, so the best we can do is make educated guesses based on his campaign promises and the priorities the Republican-controlled Congress will likely push with the new administration.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Worth it

    • And loyal, to a fault.

    • on December 6, 2016
  • Re: Worth it

    • Alas, Gene's memory ain't what it used to be. He wrote a column some time…

    • on December 5, 2016
  • Re: Forget identity politics

    • Hillarys 'Stronger Together' nonsense failed because she failed to make it a reality. As Gene…

    • on December 5, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation