Author Topic: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?  (Read 70008 times)

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #765 on: November 22, 2011, 03:44:58 PM »
So what is the answer? 

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #766 on: November 22, 2011, 04:59:34 PM »
Bunk.  It is not inherent in a income tax that what is yours is rightfully mine, or what is mine is rightfully yours.  What income tax is about is a return to the society out of your earnings for the benefits you receive from the society, including the conditions that permit and support your ability to earn an income, which would be much more difficult in an environment of anarchy, it would also be more costly if we had to pay piecemeal for every bit of infrastructure we use in our everyday life.  Income tax is about cost sharing and burden sharing.  Money paid in tax by me does not go directly to you, or vice versa, rather it is a payment to the commonwealth of all.
 
Inherent in an income tax is the idea that some of what is yours is rightfully mine. That is why it can be said with a straight face that those who pay nearly all of it aren't paying their fair share, while those who pay none are getting ripped off somehow.

Income tax, or any other tax, should be for covering the cost of government services that we all agree we need.  If we needed no government services, there would be no need for income tax.  Over the years, the citizens of the United States have agreed that we need quite a lot in the way of government services.  The arguments over who gets taxed, and how huch, have to do with many complicated factors, but it comes down to who pays what share of the bill.  One of the complicating factors is that tax policy is not neutral.  It causes ripples throughout the economy, the society, etc...  So tax policy has to take into account those ripples.  At this time in history, Republicans, Democrats, third parties and independents are arguing about how to distribute the cost of government so that effects of that taxation are most positive and equitable. 

If taxation is seen primarily or exclusively as a means of REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH, then it is wrong.  Neither party that I am aware of actually advocates that.  Nor does any party actually advocate the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.  Both are charicatures that do little to promote a sane conversation on the levels and mechanisms of taxatation and spending.
But precisely what doesn't happen is that we decide how much we need and then figure out who should pay what share of it. Instead, the government doesn't know how much we need but simply declares that if you earn anything, it turns out we need some of it. It is a bottomless pot we're trying to ante into. If there is anyone who is rich, it turns out the government has new needs that need to be met with his money. And yes, one party does indeed advocate for the redistribution of wealth. Every article about the "problem" of income inequality is precisely an argument for redistribution. If it were simply a matter of paying into the communal pot for the goods and services required by government, income inequality would be irrelevant; it would only matter whether the government had enough to pay its bills. For example, if I go in with my friends on a fancy dinner, it might make perfect sense for those of us with greater means to pay than others. But if when the check came a bunch of people said, "Sure, the bill is paid and Bob paid more than half of it while some of us didn't pay any, but Bob still has tons of money left in is wallet, so it isn't fair," that would be an example of the logic of income taxes in action. Anyone who says the government should do something about the fact that CEO's make so much more than factory workers is arguing for the redistribution of wealth.

Sales taxes and property taxes (as well as import/export tariffs in some cases) are good ways for the government to collect the money it needs to provide the goods and services of government. Income taxes are simply the means for government to indulge in social engineering. 

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #767 on: November 22, 2011, 05:02:05 PM »
Let's say you and I both inherit adjoining forty acre parcels of woods.

What gives you or your ancestors the right to own the land? Could we not say that you've been entrusted with God's property to use it to the best of your abilities for the common good -- which would include paying taxes that pave roads, provide police protection, education institutions, etc. etc.?
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #768 on: November 22, 2011, 05:22:49 PM »
Let's say you and I both inherit adjoining forty acre parcels of woods.

What gives you or your ancestors the right to own the land? Could we not say that you've been entrusted with God's property to use it to the best of your abilities for the common good -- which would include paying taxes that pave roads, provide police protection, education institutions, etc. etc.?
Brian, the right to own property is a human right. It comes from God. The same God who prohibits stealing. Of course the land is God's, just like my elbow is God's, but thatis according to the first table of the Law. According the second table, you must recognize my right to own property according to the 7th every bit as much as you must recognize my right life according the the 5th. But even according to your red herring my point remains. It was entrusted TO ME to use to the best of MY abilities, which calls for charitable action, not coerced sharing as though it were entrusted to everyone else to use according the best abilities of the voting majority. If it makes you happy, say that instead of inheriting parcels of land we both have naturally beautiful singing voices. One of us puts on concerts and makes money, the other sings in the shower for nobody; why does the first person owe more to the common good than the second?

mariemeyer

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #769 on: November 22, 2011, 05:43:24 PM »
"Income taxes are simply the means for government to indulge in social engineering."

 ???

Marie Meyer 


jpetty

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #770 on: November 22, 2011, 06:39:58 PM »
"Income taxes are simply the means for government to indulge in social engineering."

 ???

Marie Meyer

Not it isn't.  Income taxes are how we fund wars, build highways, inspect food, regulate transportation, protect consumers, etc., etc., and etc.  Income taxes do a very lot of things, the least of which is so-called "social engineering."

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #771 on: November 22, 2011, 07:25:29 PM »
jpetty...

Hope you realize that I was quoting Peter Speckhard.

The   ???  was to express my confusion at what he wrote. My reaction was, "What's this all about?"

I happen to agree with your comment..."Income taxes do a very lot of things, the least of which is so-called 'social engineering.'"


Marie Meyer

Dan Fienen

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #772 on: November 22, 2011, 08:04:42 PM »
Income taxes can do many things, one of which is social engineering.  Whether that is a major part of how the income tax is used, depends on those crafting the tax code.  Income tax brings in revenue.  Some form of taxation is inevitable if you are to have government.  In ancient Israel, as I recall from reading, taxation under the early kings consisted of tribes or regions being required to provide a certain amount of supplies and a certain amount of labor - so many workers for a certain period of time.  Perhaps some of our posters would prefer that taxation be put on that basis.  Each state would be required to provide so much food and raw materials to the federal government and so many workers (maintained, equiped, fed and housed at the states or their own expense) for government projects.  Soldiers for the army were either supplied by the tribes or recruited (drafted) as needed.

Early America relied primarily on tarrifs and excise taxes.  One of the first tax protest movements in America was the "Wiskey Rebellion" put down by George Washington. 

Since taxation of some sort is necessary (no government without it - try to live under true anarchy) it is inevitable that some will try to influence how the tax is collected to ease burdens on things considered more important and to structure it such to promote activities deemed useful to society (or at least to those writing the tax code).  One example could be that it has long been thought a good thing to promote home ownership and one way to help that is to provide a tax break for mortgage interest.  Some states want to encourage use of their state lottery and so don't tax instate winners' prizes.

All of these  could be considered forms of social engineering - encouraging behavior considered socially beneficial and discouraging some others.  It has been suggested that taxes on cigarettes be greatly increased to discourage smoking.  It has also been suggested that marijuana be legalized and heavily taxed to discourage illeagal drug trafficking and increase revenue.

Can there be taxing with absolutely no social impact?  I doubt it.  Even an absolutely flat rate tax with absolutely no deductions for anything would have a social impact.  Shifting from a tax on income to sales tax on consumption, with no exceptions, would have another impact.  Would they be good?  Would trying to figure out how to derive revenue for government in ways that benefit society the most (or at least damage it the least)  wouldn't that be in a way doing social engineering with taxation?

The big problem, as I see it, is that some of the methods being used and methods being proposed have as side effects impacting society in ways that I don't like.  That then becomes improper social engineering.  Those things that assist in what I like is just good tax policy.  It reminds me of farmers who dislike all the expensive Federal give away programs and want them all cut - but make sure the next farm bill that gives out Federal money to farmers stays healthy.  Not all farmers think that way.

In general - let's eliminate all the pork in the Federal and State budgets and let's eliminate all the Federal and State programs that just take money out of some peoples' pockets and give it to those who did not work for it - except of course those programs that benefit me, my area, and people like me.

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Steve Britsch

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #773 on: November 22, 2011, 09:18:52 PM »
As someone who prepares income taxes for a living I can only say that a great deal of social engineering takes place within the IRS code.  Whether it is good or bad can be debated, but make no mistake there is a ton of social engineering going on.  To say otherwise is merely putting ones head in the sand or you just don't know the code very well.

"Income taxes are simply the means for government to indulge in social engineering."

 ???

Marie Meyer

Not it isn't.  Income taxes are how we fund wars, build highways, inspect food, regulate transportation, protect consumers, etc., etc., and etc.  Income taxes do a very lot of things, the least of which is so-called "social engineering."

Robert Johnson

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #774 on: November 23, 2011, 02:01:05 AM »
Income tax, or any other tax, should be for covering the cost of government services that we all agree we need.  If we needed no government services, there would be no need for income tax.  Over the years, the citizens of the United States have agreed that we need quite a lot in the way of government services.

It would be more accurate to say that politicians buying votes have vastly increased government "services".

Robert Johnson

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #775 on: November 23, 2011, 02:05:36 AM »
So what is the answer?  How do we fix this mess? 

Thomas Jefferson believed that revolutions were necessary to purge the inevitable corruptions that accrued in any government. The older I get the more it looks like he was right.

prsally

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #776 on: November 23, 2011, 05:58:18 AM »
Yesterday drove by the Occupy Lancaster (PA) tents and some protesters encamped in a square downtown. I did not really see any problem with what they were doing and in fact in a democracy am glad to see that some folks have the desire to express their views and not wallow in the kind of apathy that is all to apparent in our society today. The sum total of the movement in terms of number of protesters etc. across the country is not great but like the Tea Party they are reminding people that more grass roots protests are still possible. In my mind both he Occupy and Tea Party movements tend to be quite simplistic and overly demagogic.
In terms of the tax structure several things come to mind:
1) The situation of being in a huge deficit and in a recession at the same time is awful and requires the kind of economic finesse that our cumbersome (though brilliant) political structure is quite inept at.
2) Government fiscal responsibility includes a system of revenue collection that taxes at rates that provide for revenue but does not stunt real growth, that ensures high rates of compliance, that mitigates to some degree the inequalities in society so that the poor and other minorities are not at risk of not surviving and have opportunity to prosper, that ensures the main responsibility of government defense of its people. Our constitution was not written by wide eyed optimists but by realists who knew democracy could be messy and thus created a balance of powers while giving a weight towards the House which is the most democratically elected body every two years. The real battle for how the government will spend and earn revenue should be in the elections to the House in less than a year's time, last time a message was sent for fiscal restraint but the word apparently is not being received too well.
it seems to me that the best way to get the budget in balance is simply keep government growth to three percent or less a year, cut waste significantly but over time, collect the $300-$500 billion that is not being collected that should be, and reduce the trade deficit through more aggressive negociation, this will balance the budget in three to five years.

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #777 on: November 23, 2011, 10:07:38 AM »
As someone who prepares income taxes for a living I can only say that a great deal of social engineering takes place within the IRS code.  Whether it is good or bad can be debated, but make no mistake there is a ton of social engineering going on.  To say otherwise is merely putting ones head in the sand or you just don't know the code very well.

"Income taxes are simply the means for government to indulge in social engineering."

 ???

Marie Meyer

Not it isn't.  Income taxes are how we fund wars, build highways, inspect food, regulate transportation, protect consumers, etc., etc., and etc.  Income taxes do a very lot of things, the least of which is so-called "social engineering."

Thank you for inserting your expertise.  For anyone who doesn't think there is social engineering in the tax code please think of the phrase tossed around by the OWS folk about "the rich should pay their fair share."  Determining that fair share is nothing short of social engineering.  This is not critque of the rightness or wrongness of such engineering but facts are facts.

Does the money get used to fund public projects and needs?  Yes, that is a use of the fund separate from the tax code which is the source of the fund.

So are we seeing any Lutheran clergy involved with the OWS?  Should they?   In Minneapolis last week, the first person arrested in a sit down protest on a local bridge was Rev. Paul Slack of New Creation Church (unaffiliated with any denomination as far as I could tell), who co-chaired the protest committee. 

Brian J. Bergs
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jpetty

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #778 on: November 23, 2011, 12:03:51 PM »
jpetty...

Hope you realize that I was quoting Peter Speckhard.

The   ???  was to express my confusion at what he wrote. My reaction was, "What's this all about?"

I happen to agree with your comment..."Income taxes do a very lot of things, the least of which is so-called 'social engineering.'"


Marie Meyer

My fault.  I missed your ??? face.  The reason I commented was because I thought this was an uncharacteristic position for you.  Turns out, not so.

As for social engineering, sure, anything you do could be said to be social engineering of one kind or another.  I never said there wasn't any "social engineering" in the tax code. 

What, exactly, constitutes "social engineering"?  The home mortgage deduction?  The sales tax?

TravisW

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Re: Clergy and the "Occupy Movement"?
« Reply #779 on: November 23, 2011, 12:41:43 PM »
jpetty...

Hope you realize that I was quoting Peter Speckhard.

The   ???  was to express my confusion at what he wrote. My reaction was, "What's this all about?"

I happen to agree with your comment..."Income taxes do a very lot of things, the least of which is so-called 'social engineering.'"


Marie Meyer

My fault.  I missed your ??? face.  The reason I commented was because I thought this was an uncharacteristic position for you.  Turns out, not so.

As for social engineering, sure, anything you do could be said to be social engineering of one kind or another.  I never said there wasn't any "social engineering" in the tax code. 

What, exactly, constitutes "social engineering"?  The home mortgage deduction?  The sales tax?

Social engineering is done via all sorts of taxes, fees, and regulations.  Think about the following:
Cigarette tax
It's demographically regressive tax in order to dissuade people from cigarette smoking.
Income Tax deductions 
Claiming children, mortgage, filing jointly, etc.  All of these are in there for social, not fiscal reasons.
Vehicle license 
When I started driving, vehicle license in North Dakota was based on gross vehicle weight (theory being that heavier vehicles are tougher on roads).  I was dismayed when I moved to the MN side of the river and found that it was based on vehicle value.  ND eventually followed suit.