Yesterday I was talking to a friend about taxes. He’s a health-care provider as well, but unlike me, he is a committed progressive. As a conservative, I guess by implication I’m a ‘regressive,’ or a static, or something like that. At any rate, he’s a great guy and except for an occasional raising of our voices, we can actually talk about politics.
The subject of the presidential election came up, and I explained why I was really worried about the fact that, if we have a Democratic president, that president, he or she, will surely raise taxes. I explained that I was really unhappy with that idea, and that I like the current tax cuts.
He made a good point. We have a huge deficit. We have to at least cut spending, if not raise taxes. I’m for option A. Let’s cut federal spending dramatically! I’m dead against option B.
I started thinking about it all, and I asked him how he felt about the idea that, for instance, if we had a socialized health-care system, his taxes would pay for the same people he now sees in the ER, for free, and who use their money to buy trucks, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, cell-phones, dogs and all the rest. I explained that his tax money will only help make that behavior easier, along with ER visits that are just as cheap as now. (Granted we may make more if all patients have a form of insurance, but rest assured kids, the taxes will more than take that gain back.) He said, honestly, ‘I know, and it drives me crazy. But if it will help society, I’m for it. We’re paying for it all already!’
Good point. We are paying for it already. We’re paying with the unknown cost of EMTALA, with high medical costs to cover the uninsured, with ridiculous malpractice premiums and all the rest.
On the other hand, I’m a little more self-centered. If I’m going to be out a bunch of money, I’d sooner be out that money this way, where I keep money that would go to taxes and use it for myself and my family, for my causes, my church, my beliefs, rather than have the government take huge amounts and give me back the benefits they think I deserve. Maybe it’s just a control thing. We ‘regressives’ are like that.
During the conversation, it occurred to me: to progressives, taxes are a kind of tithe. Now by way of background, in the Christian church, we believe in the scriptural guideline of giving a ‘tithe’ or 10% of our income to the work of the body of Christ, the church. Not everyone does, and not everyone believes it’s important, but many people do. We do it voluntarily, in order to advance the causes we believe are important, like charity, missions, evangelism, youth-ministries, pastor salaries, church upkeep, etc.
But the progressive movement has been compared, in many ways, to a religion. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way here, but there’s some truth. There are certain doctrines and sacraments that progressives hold; things like abortion rights, gay rights, affirmative action, open-borders, the inviolability of public schools, global-warming, etc. These are doctrinally very important. It’s hard to buck any of these issues and still be invited to the progressive meetings. To deny these things is to become, like me, a ‘regressive.’
There are also sacraments; recycling, anti-war protests, angry blogs, a wistful nostalgia about communism (or at least the idea of it), shouting down opponents online and sometimes in person, calling ‘regressives’ stupid, youthful drug use and sexual experimentation, overwhelming guilt at the idea of success and prosperity, and of course, taxes.
To a progressive, taxes are a kind of weapon you level against people who make what you think is too much money, or against companies that commit the sin of producing lots of good, safe, consumer goods, chemicals, drugs, fuel, etc, and getting rich from it. Taxes are the sacrament you engage in to pay for your own guilt. Taxes are the way you punish the ‘rich’ for the sin of prosperity. Taxes are the way you teach people not to engage in habits or lifestyles you disagree with, taxes are the way you will one day, presumably, teach people not to have too many children or drive cars that are too big.
I respect my progressive friends, and I have more than one ‘token’ friend who is a progressive. I’m sure he could make a similar list for ‘regressives’ like me. We have our core doctrines and sacraments. We can be selfish, self-centered, war-like, intolerant, angry, and environmentally irresponsible. We demonize people based on things we shouldn’t, like politics, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. (It’s OK to disagree with an idea or even a lifestyle, but we owe individuals our love and respect).
However, as a Christian ‘regressive,’ my sins and thus my guilt are atoned for by Christ. I don’ feel guilty about my blessings. I want to help the world, but to do it in the way I believe I should…through my church, rather than through compulsory taxation for federal aid programs that go above and beyond help and become enablers of terrible lifestyles and generations of poverty.
The problem with raising taxes to ‘make the world better’ is that it stops becoming a tax to help government engage in its limited functions (an idea abandoned ages ago, incidentally). It becomes, in essence, a tithe. But it far exceeds 10%, it isn’t voluntary, and it takes from the productive, the hard working, the bold and the aggressive.
Tell you what. If progressives will give 10% to my church, I’ll try not to complain about taxes going up for social programs and punitive measures against industry. How would that work out?
Sorry. I don’t usually write about politics, but I couldn’t help it.
Let the angry tirades begin…