A Tithing Cut for the Rich

We hear the mantra “tax cuts for the rich” over and over again. The Bush tax cuts, we are repetitively told, favored the wealthy. And Republicans, because they passed “tax cuts for the rich,” are for the 1% while Democrats, who opposed those “tax cuts for the rich,” are for the 99%. Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal tax advocacy group, illustrates the argument this way:

Now comes the Romney-Ryan team and their proposal for tax cuts. Mitt Romney characterizes his tax plan as follows: Make permanent, across-the-board 20 percent cut in marginal rates. In other words, he proposes a 20% tax cut for everyone who pays federal income taxes.

Everyone. Across the board.

President Obama and his fellow Democrats, sure as the sun came up this morning, calls Romney’s proposal “a tax cut for the rich.” The President says “the bulk of this tax cut would go to the very top…a lot of it going to the wealthiest 1% of all households.” The way the President puts it, it sounds really unfair. But is it? That depends on your point of reference, and your point of reference depends on the moral compass that guides you.

The matter is easily understood with a little demonstration.

Is Romney actually proposing a tax cut that unfairly favors the wealthy?

To keep this simple, I will answer the question and make my point by using the principle of the tithe to illustrate. The Lord’s tithe is a very simple 10% of an earner’s income. The tithe is the same percentage for everyone, no matter how much or how little they earn.

We will compare two tithe payers: Steve, who earned $3,000,000 last year, and Bill, who earned $30,000. Steve paid $300,000, while Bill paid $3,000 in tithes. Of course, Steve earned 100 times more than Bill and, consequently, paid 100 times more in tithes.

Now, let’s imagine what would happen if the Lord let it be known that he was calling for an across the board reduction of 20% in the tithe. In other words, he was reducing the tithe from 10% to 8% for all tithe payers. That would reduce Steve’s tithe from $300,000 to $240,000, a tithing cut of $60,000. Bill would see his tithe reduced from $3,000 to $2,400, a tithing cut of $600.

There are two ways you can look at this tithing cut. You can either say “it is fair and equitable to both Steve and Bill because they were treated equally, the tithing percentage was reduced by an equal amount for each of them,” or you can say “this is a tithing cut which favors the rich because Steve saw a $60,000 cut while Bill only saw a $600 cut.”

This is the essence of the charge that the Romney tax cut proposal, like the Bush tax cuts, is a tax cut for the rich. The Romney proposal is to cut marginal federal income tax rates by 20% across the board for everyone who pays federal incomes taxes. This proposal would treat everyone equally. But the dollar amounts would differ depending on a person’s taxable income.

The moral linchpin upon which this debate turns is this: which should we institutionalize in our laws in America? Equality of treatment of all people? Or equality of outcomes?

Equality of treatment of all people is the American ideal, and is morally right. Equality of outcomes, imposed by compulsory rather than by voluntary means, is tyranny, and is morally repugnant.

“Tax cuts for the rich” has an unseemly appeal for some Americans. But it is the mantra of cunning demagogues who are determined to bury the traditional American ideal of equality under the law by imposing equality of outcomes under the law. Whether or not America continues to be the shining city on a hill will depend on how many of us recognize the demagoguery and reject it at the polls.


About John C. Greene

I am a rapidly aging businessman in Connecticut and author of Walking in Darkness at Noonday; married since 1975 to Kyong Sook; three children, long time empty-nester. I have been a convert member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for over half my life. While a member of a rock band in LA in the mid-1970s I became fascinated with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's story of solitary bravery in the face of political imprisonment, his exile from his homeland, and his book "Gulag Archipelago." The book had a profound impact on me as it made me realize that there is a vast difference between the land Solzhenitsyn was born to and the land where I was so fortunate to have been born. That was the beginning of my interest in liberty, correct principles of government, and the peculiarly LDS doctrine we call the agency of man.
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9 Responses to A Tithing Cut for the Rich

  1. Jonathan James says:

    This is not only a confused and misapplied argument, it is designed to obfuscate . . . and it does. It doesn’t recognize the facts of percentages of income used in just making a living, for instance, which aren’t much different for the wealthiest and the poorest. It also doesn’t mention in any form the costs to society imposed by those who take out but don’t put back, like “investors” whose investments are in funds, etc., that contribute nothing to society, but take interest out of it. Long story, and I’m too tired tonight to go into it, but one day.

    • Not only is this article not “designed to obfuscate,” it is manifestly intended to strip away the obfuscation of that favorite battle cry of the class warriors, “tax cuts for the rich.” And the obfuscation is this: when conservatives propose a tax cut that would treat everyone equally under the law (i.e., an across the board income tax cut), liberals use the intentionally inflammatory tactic of ignoring the equality of the proposal and pointing to the difference in outcomes. I find that tactic despicable. If a wealthy person benefits more in dollars saved from an across the board income tax cut than a lower income person, then it can only be because the wealthy person was paying more in income taxes in the first place. Liberals never acknowledge that because “tax cuts for the rich” is intended to appeal to base emotions like envy, resentment, and covetousness, not to reason. Your objections to the things I failed to recognize make my point: liberals don’t believe in equality under the law. They believe in equality of outcomes enforced by law.

      Hope you got some rest. 🙂

  2. Ryan Lewis says:

    This is spot on. When the gross dollar amount of taxes paid by “the rich” is compared to the amount paid by the “non-rich”, liberals cry foul because it is not based on percentages; however, they sure like to ignore percentages and reference gross dollar amounts when talking about tax cuts. The fact of the matter is that a flat tax RATE is a progressive TAX, and we are already beyond progressive. We actually have the most progressive tax structure of similar sized nations.

    • But the greater point is (in my opinion) that there are two polar opposite positions on taxes. One is equality under the law, the other is equality of outcomes enforced by the law. Generally speaking, conservatives stand for the former, and liberals for the latter. I hold that the former is the moral position, and the latter is the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. That’s why I despise the “tax cuts for the rich” tactic and all that it implies.

      Thanks for the positive response. I’m glad to know I’m not the only extremist in the stake.

  3. Zachary Lytle says:

    Once again! You twist scripture to support your politics. This is vile and exactly what the scriptures tell us not to do! Ron Farnsworth’s response to you on facebook was perfect and more than charitable. I’ll give you one more verse to twist: D&C 49:20.

    • I have D&C 49:20 highlighted and underlined in my scriptures. I would add to that D&C 78:4-6. But I consider these scriptures in the light of D&C 104:16. These things must be done in the Lord’s own way. And the Lord’s own way does not employ compulsory means. And this is why I reject liberalism. Everything liberals do they do by force of government. Liberalism destroys agency. I try to defend agency and equality under the law and you call me vile.

  4. paul finnegan says:

    John,  I don’t know how you put up with the blind @&%!#*  that post some of the dumbest comments you could ever hope to see.  It would drive me crazy.


  5. zachary Lytle says:

    One more thing, a bit off-topic… How is it you don’t consider you book priestcraft?

  6. zachary Lytle says:

    Oh, and don’t be so sensitive. I didn’t call you vile, I called what you were doing vile.

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