By Aaron Williams–
Why do so many evangelical Americans believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s economic and social values are aligned with the teachings of Jesus Christ? Certainly some of the blame can be attributed to Ryan’s claim that his “Path to Prosperity” budget proposal is based on his own Catholic social teaching and beliefs as he stated in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network a few months back. Yet words are wind. Despite whatever good intentions Ryan may have towards the poor and underprivileged in our country, he and Mitt Romney’s budget proposals outline a course of action that would bring greater inequality to an already unequal economic system.
There seems to be a common misconception about President Barack Obama’s stance on increased taxation shared by evangelical Christians and the religiously fueled Tea Party. Both groups seem to be of the opinion that President Obama wants to raise taxes on middle-class families should he be reelected to office and that is somehow morally wrong. This claim is erroneous, regardless of how many times conservative pundits repeat it. President Obama supports increased taxes only on those Americans who earn more than $250,000 a year. Currently, top earners in the U.S. are subject to a federal, marginal tax rate of 35 percent. Keep in mind that the U.S. tax bracket ends at households making $388, 350 a year and does not discriminate any further among annual income earners. This means that regardless of whether an individual makes $500,000, one million or one billion per year, they are only subject to a federal, marginal tax rate of just 35 percent.
So where does this tax rate stack up against other civilized countries? The United Kingdom and Japan tax its top earners at a marginal rate of up to 50 percent. Germany clocks in a bit lower at 45 percent. America’s seemingly infallible ally Israel taxes its top earners at a rate of 46 percent. Then there is France, who taxes the most privileged in its society at a rate of 75 percent. Pause for a moment to realize just how utterly ridiculous the claims are that President Obama is an overtaxing socialist.
This brings us back to Romney and Ryan. The Republican ticket asserts that America can drop its unemployment rate and stimulate the economy by giving its most privileged a tax cut greater even than the one legislated by George W. Bush in 2000. Romney and Ryan have assured the American people that they will find the money for their proposed $5 trillion in tax cuts by “eliminating loop holes in the tax code.” The bill for such a cut gets passed to American middle class families and at the cost of crucial social programs like Medicare, Social Security and education funding. Let’s not forget that Romney and Ryan have also promised to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, revoking healthcare for up to 25 million Americans and putting their lives back in the hands of for-profit insurance companies.
What is so perplexing about Romney and Ryan’s economic and social stances is that they stand in stark contrast to the Christian teachings that the evangelical wing of the republican party is constantly touting. The Bible is convenient enough to quote when it comes to matters of same-sex marriage for many Christians, but what about matters of tax policy? Was it not Jesus in Mark 12:17 who told the Pharisees to give to Caesar that which was Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? In fact, there are several things about the life and teachings of Christ that are more than a bit inconvenient for Republican candidates who make Christianity a part of their party platform. As it turns out, Jesus Christ spent very little time rubbing shoulders with the political and social elite of his day. In fact, he spent the majority of his time around the sick, the poor and the underprivileged and was constantly dropping inconvenient quotes like Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, 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.”
A society’s tax policy can often reflect its values. Which is the greater moral evil? Slashing entitlements and education spending in order to give more tax breaks to the people who are already the most well off or raising marginal tax rates on the richest one percent of Americans to fund education, infrastructure and innovation so that our country can begin to shrink its deficit?
Lest fundamentalist politicians, like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, forget, the parable of the sheep and the goats told by Christ in Matthew 25 can serve as a final example. In it Jesus speaks of judgment day and in verses 35 to 36 says this: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” In verse 40 he explains, “…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
I must have missed the part where Jesus berates the poor for not working hard enough. This November when those who believe that America is a Christian nation head to the polls, they should be mindful of the words of one Stephen T. Colbert when he said, “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”