A Fair Tax Is Better for the Soul

Rev. Michael P. Orsi
By Rev. Michael P. Orsi | June 14, 2011 | 4:01 AM EDT

Recently, a number of Catholic religious leaders protested against the Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-Ohio), a fellow Catholic, as the commencement speaker at the Catholic University of America.

Their gripe his proposed budget cuts would reward the wealthy while cutting programs for the most vulnerable (a relative term). They signed a letter pointing out that Boehner was at variance with church teaching. The implication being that anyone who does not favor an entitlements-based liberal economic agenda is not following the Gospel.           

The fact of the matter is that Jesus never put forward any public policy proposal other than “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Consistent with this we can presume Jesus paid his taxes to the state and we know for certain that he paid the Temple tax with the coin that he had Peter retrieve from the mouth of a fish.           

Jesus’ call is for personal salvation. Individual charity is an essential part of his teaching. In the Gospels, concern for the poor is not only demanded but those who do not care for them are threatened with damnation. Recall the story of Lazarus and the rich man or the story of the separation of the sheep from the goats.           

To give freely from one’s own purse is part and parcel of the Gospel’s call for compassion and self-denial for the good of others. Its mandate benefits both the receiver and more so, the giver. Government entitlements do not have this capacity.

Firstly, it is because government handouts do not allow the recipients to grow in responsibility for themselves or the national franchise. And secondly, it is because their funding is involuntarily procured and indirectly allocated.           

Currently, forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. Yet, we can presume that many of these people are voters who are claiming a say or a share in the distribution of their fellow citizens’ wealth. This group not only includes the non-contributing poor but those who have taken advantage of tax loopholes.

Can anyone legitimately believe that they are being Christian by voting to spend or by a slight of hand take other people’s money?           

As one of its precepts, Catholic social teaching has a concern for the common good. This demands that everyone should contribute to society according to his or her means. A solution for this is to institute a FAIR Tax or a national sales tax that would do away with the Federal Income Tax on personal and corporate income.

It would force more people to live within their means. It will inculcate the virtue of frugality which is sorely needed in a society with a 14.3 trillion dollar national debt. And, most importantly, it will give everyone some skin in the allocation of revenues being disbursed.

It was not until the Sixteenth Amendment was passed, in 1913, that a Federal Income Tax could be levied on individuals. The Founders envisioned that the monies for running the government would be raised by imposts on foreign goods, on some domestic products, e.g. whiskey and assessments on the states. A consumption tax would, therefore, be more in tune with the original intent of the Constitution.           

The FAIR Tax will not end the need for some government aid to those who fall below the poverty line. However, it will greatly curtail personal excess by rich and poor alike as well as the free spending of other people’s money.

It would also cut down on tax cheats, tax shelters, and charitable deductions for eccentric causes, all of which add up to billions of dollars in lost revenue. It may even give more people a chance to fulfill the Gospel mandate of personal charity and thereby save their souls, something government programs can never accomplish.