Inequity between the Rich and the Poor

Byron asked, in commenting to me on my previous post on Faith and Politics, "What does being "pro-rich" mean? What's wrong with it?"

Here's what I mean:

It means that oppressive income inequity is a Christian issue. In the United States, we are in danger of entering another "Gilded Age" like at the turn of the previous century, where we had anti-democratic concentrations of wealth and power. We are experiencing an increasing disparity between the ultra rich and the rest of the nation.

There is certainly nothing wrong with wealth made by working hard, working smarter, being entrepreneurial so that you can sell products in a robust capitalistic economy. But the rich no longer primarily get rich by these means; they get rich through investments that are tax-sheltered and by hoarding their wealth by not sharing in the tax burden. They get rich by getting the government to pass laws so that they can increase wealth, do business without risk (by government bail-outs) and through tax subsidies for corporations so that the taxpayers carry the burden of the risk of their doing business. Government is not meant to be in bed with the rich for their benefit. This is anti-democratic.

Republicans pass tax laws that are clearly for the purpose of making the rich richer and that do not help the middle class and the poor. In 2006, the average tax cut for households in the top 1% of American income helped the rich increase their income by 5% (those with incomes of more than $1 million - the top 2/10 of the top 1% of Americans - felt a boost of 5.7%). That’s much better than the 2.5% increase for the middle fifth of households, and scandalously greater than the 0.3% gain for the poorest fifth of households.

Also, tax cuts have been designed to protect the dynasties of wealth in this country through eliminating estate taxes enabling the transfer from one generation to the next huge wealth without any taxes being charged. The Republicans labeled these “death taxes” making it sound as if everyone who makes money through Daddy being rich should be able to get that money free and clear as if it was not income. Warren Buffet, however, just testified to congress that the use of the phrase "death tax" is "intellectually dishonest" and "clever, Orwellian and dead wrong." He testified that “dynastic wealth, the enemy of meritocracy, is on the rise. Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward plutocracy."

Roth IRAs is another example. They were originally created to help regular Americans with retirement. In May, Roths were made available to the very rich. Now, Roths are being used not as retirement accounts for the middle class but as tax shelters for the very rich.

While the the Republicans and President Bush have worked hard to help the rich with these tax laws, they have cut $39 billion over the next five years from domestic programs like Medicaid and food stamps, and $99.3 billion from 2006 to 2015.

Evangelical Christians, instead of trumpeting the Republican part line, need to ask some hard questions about these facts.

There are going to certainly be some who favor a trickle-down economic theory. And that’s fine. It is part of the debate.

But it seems that the Christian needs to first know the facts and then assess these from a Christian vantage-point that takes serious the Bible’s injunctions about how societies and governments often do their best to favor the rich and oppress the poor.

"He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." (Pr 14:31) "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty." (Pr 22:16) "A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops." (Pr 28:3).

"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless." (Isaiah 10:1-2)

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.'" (Zechariah 7:9-10).

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." (Jesus in Luke 4:18)

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Anonymous said...

How appropriate that you are blogging about this on Martin Luther King Day.

King, we should recall, said that civil rights laws were empty without human rights – including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

King declared, "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

In his last months, King was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign, assembling a multiracial army of the poor that would have engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience until Congress would enact a poor people’s bill of rights.


Byron Harvey said...

Seems to me you make a good point or three and several not-so-good, Bob. On your main point, I just disagree: I don't give a flying rip how rich the rich are, and I don't see "inequality" as being an issue. The issue is whether those on the bottom rungs of society have a fair playing field by which to climb out of poverty. To the degree that that does not exist, then yes, Houston, we have a problem. I'm not against anybody being rich, even filthy rich. I just don't care---unless their wealth is gained at the real expense of the poor.

Of course taxation should be "fair", but even there, what is "fair"? The rich should most definitely pay their share of taxes---and the numbers I've seen suggest that they do, Bob. Perhaps you can find numbers that suggest otherwise, but from everything I've read, the wealthiest Americans pay well beyond their percentage (that's not phrased well!) in taxes, with like the top 1% paying 35% of the taxes in America, and of course the bottom rungs paying nothing by way of income tax.

The problem, as I see it, is that all of us, rich and poor alike, pay all kinds of "hidden" taxes, and thus the problem is that we all are overtaxed, and if we drastically reduced the size of government, we'd spur the economy and help everybody.

As to the help-the-poor programs you trumpet, I continue to urge that concerned people read Marvin Olasky's excellent The Tragedy of American Compassion, which documents the fact that so many of our welfare programs end up hurting the very people they are designed to help. We've already had the whole minimum-wage discussion; I've pointed out how the vast majority of economists believe that the minimum wage harms the poor. No need to argue that any more, but I believe it to be logical and true.

Bottom line: I think that the more government messes with the market, and the more it tries to help people, the more it ends up hurting, either by creating dependency and counter-productive situations, or by stifling the things that enable people to earn and get ahead. Remember that it's the "ultra-rich" like Bill Gates who do more for poor people than government programs ever will (that's basic economics).

I don't want the rich to gain unfair advantages, Bob, and if/where that's truly happening, to the degree it's happening, I'm in your corner, I really am. But stifling the engine of the economy hurts the poor the most in the long run. And I believe that the more government stays out of meddling in the economy, allowing the free market to operate, the more everyone---from the top of the ladder to the bottom---will prosper.

Oh, and finally, we should all thank the Lord that, though there is such a thing as poverty in America, we are really speaking in relative terms. It's worth noting the words of the Heritage Foundation:

According to the government's own data, the typical person defined as "poor" by the Census has cable or satellite TV, air conditioning, a microwave, a DVD player or VCR, and two color TVs. Three quarters of these "poor" own a car and nearly a third have two or more cars.

By his own testimony, the typical "poor" person consistently has enough food to feed his family and enough money to meet all essential expenses such as mortgage, rent, utilities and important medical care. When asked, he reports that his family was able to obtain medical care whenever needed during the past year.

Government data show that 43 percent of all "poor" Americans actually own their own homes - typically, a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage and a porch or patio.

The whole article is here:


Emergent Dayton said...

I have a quick question for you because I am curious about your approach to this argument...how do you think most rich people became rich?

Byron Harvey said...

Not sure I have an answer to that. I'm sure that there are a number of ways, from the illegal to the shady to downright hard work to those who inherited wealth. I have no doubt that the answer is a mix of those. What percentages go where, I haven't a guess, although I'd imagine that most of those with money made it at least relatively honestly, or at least their ancestors did. You got a guess or some numbers?

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, Kurt, for pointing that out. It hadn't occurred to me when I wrote this post. You're absolutely right!

traveller said...

A lot of interesting things can be done with statistics. For example, if one is in the poorest 20% the reason the increase is only 0.3% is that as a group they are paying very low or no taxes already. There is no real room to change their tax situation.

Even though the wealthiest make a great deal of money on an individual basis the reality is that even if the wealthiest were taxed 100% there would not be enough revenue generated to pay for the government expenditures. It is necessary to tax the middle class because, even though individually they do not make as much money, in the aggregate they represent far more money than the rich. This is very counterintuitive.

For me, as a follower of Jesus, I do wish for a tax system that is fair and equitable but the more important question is what am I, and other followers of Jesus, doing outside the government? How much of my income is going to actually help others and in a way that establishes a relationship with them so they can meet Jesus? And, a really hard question or two: Am I willing to give substantial sums if it is not tax deductible but actually helps someone? Would the money we give to the institutional church be better given to individuals in need instead of to an institution that does not very often wisely use the money?

Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

Bob Robinson said...

I DO give a "flying rip" about economic inequity in society, because I believe God gives a "whole lotta rip" about it in Scripture.

But this is not the same as saying that the rich cannot be rich by honest means (as I said in the post: "There is certainly nothing wrong with wealth made by working hard, working smarter, being entrepreneurial so that you can sell products in a robust capitalistic economy") and that those who are rich should be forced to give up their riches by the government.

What we have, though, is what Warren Buffet is calling a "plutocracy," where the wealthy class controls a government. We have "dynastic wealth, the enemy of meritocracy." These are very dangerous things for a democracy.

You say "I don't want the rich to gain unfair advantages, Bob, and if/where that's truly happening, to the degree it's happening, I'm in your corner, I really am."

There is NO DOUBT that it is TRULY happening -there's no "IF" about it. This is the injustice of it all.

Byron Harvey said...

Chapter and verse, Bob, chapter and verse. The ones you quote do talk about "oppressing the poor" and "unjust laws", and we're absolutely agreed as to that. But where in Scripture does it suggest that it makes any difference, particularly as long as the poor are cared for properly, how much money the rich guy has? As long as I have what I need, or at least have the means to acquire what I need, and as long as everyone else does as well, I could care less whether Bill Gates has 10 trillion dollars, particularly since I benefit greatly from Mr. Gates' existence (and the existence of a whole lot of other rich guys). Where in the Bible does it suggest that this "inequity" makes any difference so long as the poor are not being unjustly treated, or does the very existence of so much money in the hands of some rich folk somehow constitute the deprivation of justice to the poor? And if so, what if all the poor were suddenly to be able to move into the middle class, with the rich moving upward at the same time by the same percentage. Would there still be this problem?

Gimme Bible, not Warren Buffett (and didn't he leave most of his money to Jimmy in his will?).

That's a (feeble) joke, folks.

I fear that what's happening, and Pretty John Edwards is a prime example of this, is that envy is being glorified as a good, rather than the evil it is. I'm just sayin'...

By the way, traveller is onto something as well, although giving money to people isn't nearly as significant as actually helping them, because a lack of money is a symptom of poverty, not the cause of it. At our church, located as we are in quite the mixed neighborhood, we just began Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, and are willing to offer rebated tuition-free scholarships to those who are willing to attend all the sessions and then undergo a one-hour counseling session with a financial counselor. This is one thing we're doing to help alleviate poverty in our community, and this is far, far more valuable than giving money to those who are poor in our community; it is teaching them skills so that they will get out of the debt they're in and handle money wisely.

And jeepers, we didn't even try to get a government grant to do it! ;)

Michael Kruse said...

Bob, I echo many of Byron's concerns and won't repeat them. (BTW, 31% of all federal taxes are paid by the top 1%. 40% pay no federal taxes at all. See here.) I would add that "hoarding" is a misnomer. The rich do not take their wealth and put in hole in the backyard. The put it at risk in the market creating greater wealth for themselves and others. We can debate whether they should control so much but it is not hoarding.

Also many wealthy people are people have taken great risks to start and run businesses. The estate taxes make it very difficult to pass on businesses from one generation to the next. These people, not the big coporate CEOs, are the bulk of the business people in the Republican party.

The bulk of large coporation CEOs are Democrat, not Republican. Regulation is a cost to businesses but to large corporations it is a great competitive advantage. Regulation becomes a way to place hurdles in front of would be competitors that large Corps can more easily afford. Regulation cements the ties between politicians and large corporate elites, corupting both, as they both work to pursue mutual interest.

Finally, I'm curious about what scripture passages you see as teaching equalization of wealth. I'm unaware of any. I wrote a post a couple of months ago about what I called the biblcial redistribution fallacy. There is a difference between saying the poor should be cared for and saying incomes/wealth should be equalized.

Emergent Dayton said...

Byron, you said you did not have an answer to my question but your entire post insinuates that most, if not ALL rich people are crooks, liars and have come into wealth by stealing from the poor.

So, if you "don't know" how rich people became rich, how can you write something like this? Is there anything that you wrote above that conforms to even basic journalistic fact-checking?

Bob Robinson said...

Again, and I repeat, "There is certainly nothing wrong with wealth made by working hard, working smarter, being entrepreneurial so that you can sell products in a robust capitalistic economy"

The chapters and verses are right there guys. Why do you think these verses are saying what they are saying? Why do you think that the biggest sin in Israel was the rich oppressing the poor? Over and over again, the prophets are saying this was the case.

Again, and again, I'll say it: There is NOTHING wrong with being rich, and there is NOTHING wrong with being filthy rich. What is wrong is when the rich have their hands in government so that the government will make them richer at the expense of the rest of society We are coming at this issue from different angles. You are saying that inequity, in and of itself is not sinful. I agree with that.

But I am going deeper than that: I am saying that when we watch the trend that shows a marked increase in inequity, and then trace the source of this inequity to political maneuvering, we have injustice.

There is no "envy" involved here, either. I am very well off (and so is, by the way, John Edwards). I am very concerned about justice, not about "getting mine."

A government that is a plutocracy is not just to the poor. Period.

Why are we debating this?

Byron Harvey said...

My post insinuates what? OK, if that's how you read it, let me be quite clear, then. In saying I didn't know, allowing for the likelihood that some got it illegally, I likely didn't make myself clear enough, because if that's the read you got out of it, then I clearly, clearly misspoke; mea culpa. I don't believe that at all.

Bob Robinson said...

Emergent Dayton,
Byron didn't write the original post. I did.

Michael Kruse said...

The issues in these verses (and others like them) are these:

* The poor do not receive justice in the gates (i.e., the local courts more or less)
* Judges and others take bribes
* False scales and measures are used
* People bare false witness against the helpless
* Physical intimidation and cronyism is at work
* Property rights are not respected

The rich are getting wealthy because of this exploitation. The rich have been getting wealthy because they engage in these practices. The implication is that if these injustices were not practiced, the wealth of the rich would not be an issue. Therefore, the issue is the injustice being done to the poor not the societal distribution of income. The idea that there is some just margin of difference between the top and bottom of society (and therefore unjust differences) is foreign concept to the Bible. I know of no passage that addresses this. That is my point.

I’m in agreement with you that injustices bailouts and corporate subsidies exist. These we name and go after for the sake of justice. But I disagree with you that injustice is the driving factor in the widening between the top and the bottom. My take is that the lion’s share of the cause is technological innovation which in the beginning benefits the owners of capital (including yours and my 401K) but tends to swing the other way in a cyclical manner. There are also demographic factors involved as well.

For simplicity, let’s assume that everyone in society makes $20,000 a year in their twenties, $30,000 in their thirties, $40,000 in their forties and $50,000 in their fifties. If the population is equally distributed across theses age groups there is going to be an inequitable distribution of income. Is this unjust? What would be unjust is for the older more experienced person not to be able to make the income commensurate with his/her contribution.

Now look at what has happened over recent decades. The Baby Boom population has been moving through society and the median age has been getting older and older. That increases the number of wealthy (read older) people in the distribution based on demographics alone.

The issue is not the wealth of the top versus the bottom. The question is what are someone’s prospects at 25 years old verses what they were for 25 year old ten, twenty, or thirty years earlier. Studies that follow actual households over many years (instead of comparing median income of quintiles decades apart) continue to show improvement for Americans at all age levels. The starting level may not have moved up much but the rate of growth, once on the economic ladder, has continued to improve.

Distance between top and bottom quintiles of wealth is a somewhat arbitrary stat affected by a number of issues. Injustice can never be entirely eliminated from an economic system. But I don’t buy the claim that the primary cause of the expanding difference between wealth quintiles is driven by injustice, thus precipitating a need for government imposed redistribution of income.

There are problems. A plutocracy seems a bit of an overstatement to me.

Byron Harvey said...


For the record, I really didn't mean to suggest that it was you who was envious, but rather that we have plenty of politicians, Pretty John being the worst, who play up class envy card every chance they get.

Bob Robinson said...

Again, the point about talking about inequity between the rich and the poor is not that the inequity in and of itself is the evil, but how we have gotten to this point and where we are going. I do not think that "plutocracy" is inappropriate to say, in that it wakes us up to the fact that if things keep going the way they are (with the rich running government and passing laws to keep themselves rich) then we are in deep trouble as a democracy, and we are in deep trouble as a just society.

The issue, I agree, is not societal distribution of income. I am NOT advocating redistribution of income. This is not that answer to the problem I am pointing to. Because the inequity is a symptom of the real problem.

I am saying, "Look how we are entering another Guilded Age where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

"This would be okay if this was happening because the rich are making risky business decisions and reaping the benefits of these risky decisions. But instead, the risk has increasingly been foisted onto the public, so the rich get all the reward but none of the risk.

"This would also be okay if it were primarily from hard work and entrepreneurial ingenuity. But instead, it has increasingly been through investments that are tax-sheltered and through inheritance.

"This would be okay if the rich were paying what they paid in taxes 20 years ago. But instead, in spite of the fact that the majority of taxes have been and will always be paid by the rich as a segment of the population simply because they make to most money, a very wealthy person used to pay 30 cents out of each dollar of their income to the federal government. Clinton reduced that down to 22. Bush has lowered it to 17."

Byron Harvey said...


Your clarification is helpful, because at one point it was hard not to read you saying that inequity itself was a problem, and that's amplified by the fact that there are plenty of people who are saying that very thing; witness the first comment posted, referring to MLK's (unfortunate) words.

But after you do so well there, you lament the fact that "a very wealthy person used to pay 30 cents out of each dollar of their income to the federal government. Clinton reduced that down to 22. Bush has lowered it to 17."

Bob, that's good news, because everybody should pay less in taxes. Absent some data that suggests the the poor are paying more in taxes, it's hard not to read your words as some kind of class envy-type statement. Explain why, as a naked statement, it's a bad thing that the rich are paying less on the dollar in taxes; you've got to give it in context to make your case.

To you...

Bob Robinson said...

"Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the LORD, she does not draw near to her God. Her officials are roaring lions, her rulers are evening wolves, who leave nothing for the morning. Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law. The LORD within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. I have cut off nations; their strongholds are demolished. I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through. Their cities are destroyed; no one will be left--no one at all. I said to the city, `Surely you will fear me and accept correction!' Then her dwelling would not be cut off, nor all my punishments come upon her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did." (Zeph 3:1-7)

Expositor's Bible Commentary:
v 1 - After the series of judgments against various surrounding nations predicted in chapter 2, the prophet returned to focus on Jerusalem (cf. v. 2) and Judah. The guilty city harbored oppressors (those who disregarded the rights of the poor, the orphans, and the widows), rebels (those who refused submission to God's will), and defiled people (those who were polluted by sinful practices).

v 2 - The continuing indictment of Jerusalem contains three specific charges: (1) she obeyed no one--not even the Lord; (2) she did not trust in the Lord; and (3) she did not draw near to her God, who was the one who could provide direction and guidance for her. The text describes the Lord as "her God."

v 3-4 - Four classes of leaders represent the total leadership of the whole people.
1. "Officials" (sarim) possibly represented the royal leaders who should have been characterized by justice and equity rather than greed and avarice.
2. "Rulers" (soperim) also represented those in places of leadership, probably civil magistrates, who should have set an example for the rest of the people; instead, they are tagged "evening wolves who leave nothing for the morning," a label suggesting predatory and ravenous beasts.
3. "Her prophets" (nabs eyha) are described as arrogant and treacherous. They are called "treacherous" (unfaithful) because they were unfaithful to the one they claimed to represent.
4. "Her priests" (kohaneyha) represents the other religious leaders; they were profaning the sanctuary and violating the law. Their ordained function was to interpret the law and officiate at the sanctuary with reverence; they had done just the opposite.

v 5 - In contrast to her misleading leaders "within her" (beqirbah, lit., "in her midst"; so v. 3 Heb., untr. in NIV), the Lord in Israel's midst was a righteous standard against which the people were measured. His holy and righteous presence demanded judgment for sin and corruption. He is never implicated with iniquity--"he does no wrong." Moreover, he continuously--"morning by morning"--manifested his justice and righteousness before the people (contrast the evening wolves of v. 3) in his treatment of both Israel and the surrounding nations. Despite all this the people were so calloused that they recognized no wickedness or felt no shame for what they had done.

v 6 - As an object lesson, God reminded his people--vividly expressed in the first person--what he did to other nations: They were "cut off" and their strongholds demolished; their streets were left deserted and their cities destroyed.

v 7- In view of the judgments mentioned in v. 6, the Lord spoke imploringly to his people, "Surely you will fear me and accept correction!" The Lord declared that judgment and punishment could have been averted and avoided. But trapped in the grip of sin, the people "were still eager to act corruptly."

Bob Robinson said...

The above Bible passage is in response to Michael. I believe that one cannot read the OT Prophets without seeing corruption in the ruling leaders of the nation. This is what enables the oppression of the poor. Where we see this in our nation, as Christians, we must call it out.

Bob Robinson said...

Taxes are a good thing, my dear libertarian friend.

Byron Harvey said...

A good thing? In what parallel universe, my...whatever...friend? :)

Some taxes are a necessary thing, and so in that sense, "good", but they are a necessary evil, IMHO. And we should have far less of them, and if we did, everybody would benefit.

And by the way, have you ever read Olasky's book, since I've been encouraging that for a long time?

RonMcK said...

Wow Bob, that was a bit of a rant.

In your first post you seemed to be targeting the rich. They are not without fault, but surely the greater responsiblility lies with the politicians who forsake justice and act in the interest of the rich. Zepahiah's words were directed against the rulers and officials, not against the rich.

You describe the American system as a plutocracy. I think that fascism is a better description. The technical meaning of fascism is collusion between political leaders, the military and big business. That is what you have in a big way in America.

By the way. How do you justify a progressive income tax from scripture?

PS Your word verification is asking me to type in "bzp bzp". BZP is the basic chemical in many party pills. They have been banned here. I hope there is not a connection with you being stirred so stirred up at the moment :-)

Bob Robinson said...

I think I'll change the name of the blog from "Vanguard Church" to "bzp bzp."

Bob Robinson said...

Thanks, traveller, for commenting.

You said {but the more important question is what am I, and other followers of Jesus, doing outside the government? How much of my income is going to actually help others and in a way that establishes a relationship with them so they can meet Jesus?}

I agree, traveller, that this is an important question, but I don't think it is "more important." I think that Christians need to eliminate a dualistic view of their mission in this world. This means we must seek God's kingdom not only in our personal lives but also in the society around us.

{...And, a really hard question or two: Am I willing to give substantial sums if it is not tax deductible but actually helps someone? Would the money we give to the institutional church be better given to individuals in need instead of to an institution that does not very often wisely use the money?}

These are hard questions, and really good ones. It is a good thing, I think, for the government to encourage charitable giving by offering tax breaks for it. But if that is a Christian's motive for giving then there is something desperately wrong. I determined a few years ago to give to where I see need (to individuals as well as institutions), with no worry about how it will affect my tax return.

byron harvey said...

Now you're on to something, Bob; government offering incentives to give to private charities, where an individual can choose according to his wishes, and hold the charity accountable, is one good way government can help the poor. This warms the cockles of the heart of conservatives who not only believe the government has little business doling out welfare, but who believe the government to be spectacularly inefficient in doing so.

As Olasky points out, it used to be that a person receiving assistance (from private entities) was screened as to worthiness; i.e., is this person just a lazy bum? Lazy bums had the choice of reforming or starving. Most chose the former, and for them, there was plenty of help, and that help was personalized, not a mere check in the mail. The government makes few such distinctions, and is impersonal in its approach as well. If the government would dump these counterproductive programs, start limiting itself to its legitimate functions, and thus lower taxes dramatically, not only would the economy be spurred, but the poor could be helped in better ways, although admittedly this would take a period of years, I'm sure, since it'd be harder to break some folks' dependency on the drug of government than to shake most any other addiction.

But I can dream, can't I?

By the way, I HATE Blogger. The silly sign-in system wouldn't let me auto sign-in, as I've been doing for months, and I never can remember what username and password I have for this stupid site (not you, Bob, but Blogger).

Carol said...

I'd like to see some justification (from scripture) for the government middle-man approach to helping the poor. Or even taxing the rich a higher percentage of their income than the poor. I just don't see Jesus or his disciples demanding that Rome reform their government and tax system to eliminate injustice and provide for the poor! On the contrary! Christians went about doing good and being salt and light.

Alvin Schmidt wrote a fascinating book called "Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization" In it he explains the history and dangers of going from Christian charity to the welfare state. Although the roots of virtually every major charitable endeavor since the time of Christ has its roots in Christianity, he says that by the 16th century Christian charity "shifted from poor man as brother to poor man as citizen." Welfare recipients eventually became unaware of the Christian roots of the charities.

He says that the current welfare state corresponds more to the pagan 'liberalitis' of Rome than Christian 'caritas.' The former is given with the objective of reciprocity, the later out of genuine love.

Problems with Liberalitis to take care of the poor:
1. Operates on basis of coercion via taxation (clear violation of scripture)
2. Encourages loss of individual responsibility - even rewards it.
3. Panders to voters who are welfare recipients - some stay in office by giving handouts.
4. State welfare not offered in Jesus' name.

Let's face it. The rich, and even the middle class, will give away (to charity) more of their income than the lower class will ever pay in taxes in their lifetime (considering that most don't pay any taxes at all). I just watched a documentary about the Rockefellers and it was staggering to see how much money that family gave away. Certainly, it was gained ruthlessly & perhaps unethically - and eventually the courts intervened and they were punished. But it was interesting to see that by the time of Nelson's VP hearings in the 70's their family fortune was estimated to be upwards of $60 billion. When they opened up their family financial records the public was shocked to find that it was 'only' $1.5 billion. My point is that some of the richest families in the history of our country have also been the most generous.