Is God a Flat Taxer or Fair Taxer?

The word “fair” seems to be used a lot these day to determine what tax and stimulus policies are appropriate. Depending on where you are coming from, you would be right and we would argue until we were blue in the face.

It led me wonder if there was a Biblical answer to this seemingly impasse that could shed some light on our current national discourse. Sure enough, there was!
The answer comes from the Old Testament when God was establishing the laws for the nation of Israel. The only form of taxation at the time was the tithe. It was 10% of what your efforts produced. So whether you were rich or poor, God asked for 10% of everything you earned. A part of the tithe was used by the priests and those who served in the temples for their livelihood.

By the end of the Old Testament, where people became selfish with their income God challenges the Israelites to bring the whole tithe, not just a part, so they could see how richly He was willing to bless them.

So God chose to apply a flax tax across the board to pay for the function of the governing bodies.

Could it be that God’s idea of fairness is different than our liberal minded friends?

But what about the temple sacrifices?

“‘If he cannot afford a lamb, he is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the LORD as a penalty for his sin—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.”

(Leviticus 5:7 NIV)

Besides the tithe, there were also some required sacrifices that a person had to make in the form of animal sacrifices. Even in this ancient economy, God understood that a very poor person could not afford a lamb so they were allowed to bring two doves instead.

So in this case, it sounds like God is progressively taxing the people but that is not the case. God is simply recognizing that for a poor person to bring a lamb it would represent a substantially larger contribution as a percentage than a rich person. So this approach flattens the sacrificial requirements.

By the time we get to the New Testament where God is no longer focused on just the nation of Israel but in building a worldwide kingdom, God asks us to give out of our abundance, according to our means, and with cheerfulness. There is no mention of 10% – in fact, the word “tithe” does not even directly appear in the New Testament.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

I’m not sure why the shift but it may be related to the fact that secular governments were established to provide many of the services, such as the legal system, that ancient theocracies used to provide.

In a obscure story in ancient Israel, God had the Israelites counted in a census. As a person was counted, they had to give a half of a shekel as an offering to God. They were specifically instructed that the rich and the poor had to pay the same amount because it was an offering for their life as an Israelite. The concept behind this is whether you are rich or poor, your life is worth the same to God. If you believe in progressive taxation, this would be considered regressive.

But the amount was low enough that it should not have been a burden to anyone.

Under God’s economy, if you made more, you paid more but you paid at the same rate. There is no idea in the Bible of punishing the rich or taking from them simply because they had more.

This is God’s idea of fairness and why he taxed accordingly.

Energizing the Economy

 

Everyone is talking, or at least thinking these days of what we can go to turn our economy around and restore fiscal sanity. There are lots of ideas out there but I believe that there is one simple idea that could have immediate impact on our economy – and that is to allow us to harvest our own rich energy sources.

In the Bible, God instructed Israel to be a nation that lends rather than a nation that borrows. This makes everyone wealthier, increases our freedom, and allows us more margin to help those in need.

If we took the same approach to to energy, we would realize that we have become far poorer as a nation because we have essentially farmed out our energy to foreign countries while we pursued green alternatives.

The US Chamber of Commerce has estimated that if the EPA and our federal government approved the 365 pending energy projects that it has stalled on, we could create over 1 million jobs and more than $1 trillion in gross national product. That will certainly pay a lot of bills and free up a lot of gov’t assistance funds.

But we have decided to go down the green road which unfortunately, after watching world governments spend trillions, are left with the result that NONE of the green alternative sources have any potential to significantly replace our current carbon sources.

None!

And why is this? Without going into long explanations let me offer a few short points:

1. Green alternatives have a low energy density – i.e. it costs 5x-6x more per megawatt. They are just not an efficient means to draw energy.

2. Green alternatives raises the cost to everyone. No one wants to buy energy at 5x the price so you have to force it by legislation. Fund it with taxpayer dollars. And then taxpayers pay again when their utility bills skyrocket. This is a huge drag on any economy that tries to pursue this in a large scale.

3. Green alternatives are not reliable. You can’t guarantee the sun will shine, the wind will blow or the rains will come to water your crops. And even once you produce electricity, you can only send it over a short range. This can cause huge disruptions in energy which injects uncertainty into your economy.

4. Green alternatives can’t be stored (except for biofuels which have a short shelf life). Thus you need a backup which can’t be another unreliable green source. And the backup needs to be able to 100% supply your energy needs. So you’re back to carbon based energy. And even when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, you can’t turn off your carbon energy source. They have to keep running anyways.

5. Green alternatives cannot scale. There isn’t enough wind, sun, or agricultural land to fulfill our current energy needs. Even the most optimistic goals only point to 25% replacement and that goal is nowhere near attainable today.

Spain, the harbinger of the green promise to come, is finding that the green dream is a fantasy. Their largest wind generator manufacturer wants to exit the business. And the gov’t has run out of stimulus money to keep the projects going. And the net effect has been to shed a ton of jobs. Germany is in the same boat, so is the UK. Except that their economies still have enough in them to continue down this path even though there is no payoff in sight.

On this side of the ocean, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman that wanted to lead the American transition to green energy now wants to exit the business because he can’t make any money. The projections were far too rosy and returns far too poor for even the rich among us to stomach.

I think it’s time for America to do what America does best. Let the free market decide. The supply and demand of the free market will drive innovation and  keep costs down. It will create jobs as it takes risks to find new sources and new means to produce abundant energy at a low price with minimal ecological impact.

There isn’t an oil company on earth that would love to drop oil and be able to provide green energy at a competitive rate. They would rake in the coals (pun intended) and put their competitors out of business.

But the present reality is that carbon based energy is required now and the foreseeable future for our world to function.

 

 

What have you done for me lately? Really.

During Obama’s first term, you would think that with blacks voting 90%+ for Democrats and enjoying Democrat majorities in the House, Senate, and White House, that his first timer should have been marked  by policies that finally gives the black community something to celebrate about.

But none of the policies Obama enacted are going to provide any real and lasting change to the black community that breaks the cycle of poverty. In fact, some of the budget busting policies may hurt the black community.

The one thing that our Democratically-controlled federal government can do that may start the long term change for black people is to change one key policy of our educational system. When a person is educated, they can take advantage of opportunities to better themselves and their families and to break the generational cycle getting the short stick in life.

Dr. Ben Carson, the retired foremost pediatric neurosurgeon in the world has said so himself. He has first hand witnessed how education can change a poor young black boy heading for trouble into someone who has made an incredible contribution to our world.

However, too many of our black children remain in under-performing schools because the Democrats owe far too much to two of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington – the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

These groups stands in opposition to one of the great opportunities of our time – to have the choice to remove our children from underperforming, unsafe schools and to have them go to another performing public or private school.

If I am forced to pay taxes to send my children to school, then I at least should have some say in where I have my children educated – as long as it meets my state’s education standards. I should not be forced to fund a public school system that spends more year-after-year per student yet continually produces worse results. All in the name of supporting the idea of public education. An idea that fails too many children in black communities. 

By forcing our kids to attend these academically poor schools, we deny them the opportunity to make something of themselves which perpetuates the same fate as their parents.

Detractors of school choice policies say that doing so could see good students leaving a public school which brings it down even further. But that’s the problem with that type of approach – no one in those schools gets ahead if they can’t all get ahead. This dooms the whole school rather than giving an opportunity to some. I would rather see 30% of the kids have a chance rather than zero.

The other argument is that all we need to do is throw more money at these schools and everything will be better. Our spending policies have proven that public schools don’t perform better if we throw more money at it. D.C. area schools are already spending around $17,000 per student per year, the highest in the nation, and it is arguably the worst school system in the country. You can’t save underperforming schools merely by throwing money at them.

The public school I send my children too is a great school. But if I lived in an area where the schools were poor, classroom disciple is teetering on mutiny, and students aren’t learning key fundamentals – I would want that choice to send them to a school where not only can they dream big, they can actually see a path to their dream.

There are other pro-union policies for teachers that also keep these schools down. For instance, if you have a group of apathetic teachers that are passing time and collecting paychecks, you cannot fire them because of tenure. If you’re going to cut teachers, you have to start with the ones who have been there the shortest, not the ones who have the worst record. 

Looking at things like school choice is the type of real thinking that I have been hoping to see from Obama. We can argue about States vs. Federal rights in terms of education but the Department of Education is not going to be gutted during Obama’s administration – his own party would fight this tooth and nail.

Ironically, it’s often the conservatives (particularly among the Republicans) that support this type of federal measure and would love to see it passed. Unfortunately, it’s far too easy for many of us to simply blame all the Republicans and conservatives for our troubles rather than see that many of them are truly color-blind and want to help everyone in a way that is sustainable in the real world.

Because until we get our kids educated, the opportunity for the American dream for many of these black children remains a teasing nightmare. 

 

Leaving the plantation

I am a black guy. In my roots, there are people that go back to Africa and Europe. There were some slaves in my past as well but I haven’t bothered to find out. I wasn’t born in this country or Africa but I’m a visible minority, nonetheless. 

You would think that I would be liberal in my politics and worldview but I’m not and I’ll explain why.

While I was growing up, my parents taught me that racism was real. There are people who prefer those who share the same culture or color of skin and shun those who differ. So I was taught to be wary of those situations where racism can occur.

But I was also taught that if I worked hard and applied myself that I would experience a lot of success even though there may be some racial bumps along the way. In my entire lifetime, I was never taught to expect that the ancestors of the ancestors who treated my ancestors poorly would be expected to pay for the sins of a people long dead and gone.

My father taught me that the best way to silence racism was to treat everyone with respect and by my work ethic and responsible decisions, I would demonstrate my value and worth as a human being. And shame those who mind can only see one color.

And he taught me not to look to the government to solve my problems or to give me an advantage. That only leads to dependency and a poor self-image, e.g. “I can only get ahead when someone forces the system.” Today I have a healthy self-image because I know I didn’t get an artificial leg up through government programs that treated me differently.

Yes, there is some real structural racism that should be dealt with at the government level. But much of what is called racism today is an insult to what many of the early civil rights leaders had to fight for – the ability to vote, to go to the same school, use the same bathrooms – to be treated just like everyone else.

Today’s civil rights leaders seem more interested in extorting money and obtaining special preferences that treats the black community uniquely. The exact antithesis of what the original civil rights leaders fought for.